“An Idaho Trail singletrack mountain segment from the end of Willow Creek Rd to Smiley Creek Lodge.”
— Chris Wandervans
This ride is the the fourth segment of the Idaho Trail. The Idaho Trail is a mountain bike friendly trail that extends from the Nevada border to Canada. It is a long-distance bike-packing or bike-supported trail. Each of the segments have been divided into what can be accomplished by an average rider in one day of riding. Since conditions can vary please plan for possible delays. Where possible the Idaho Trail follows the Idaho Centennial Trail (ICT), since the ICT was intended as a hiking trail there are deviations for Wilderness Areas and for more mountain bike friendly routes.
The fourth segment is the most challenging segment so far and less technically experienced riders will find themselves taking extra time.
Need to Know
There are ample camp spots and water along the route. There are a number of official camp spots at the end of the route around Alturas Lake with water. The route also ends at the Smiley Creek Lodge which has the second resupply stop along the route. The store at Smiley Creek Lodge is not large, but they have a good variety.
There are also rooms for rent and a nice restaurant. The Lodge usually opens around 7 am and closes around 9 pm so keep that in mind. Also all the mountain segments when done as bike-packs should be done with the lightest gear possible that does not bog the bike down in technical sections. So pack light and travel fast.
The fourth segment of the Idaho Trail follows the Idaho Centennial Trail (ICT) until the end of the North Fork of Ross Creek
. The fourth segment begins on the Willow Creek Trail
, the first part is fairly mellow climbing with some short steep ups. The trail then gets steeper and can be loose in some of the recent burn areas. These burn areas can also have many downed trees, depending on how the winter went - be prepared if you hit downed trees!
The later in the season you go on the trail, the more likely it will be open for travel. The first eight miles are rideable by most people, with just a few short, walking sections. After mile 8, the trail gets much steeper and even the best riders will find themselves pushing their bikes. This is to be expected in the Boise Mountains since the last parts of the passes are generally steep and rocky.
None of the creek crossings have bridges, so be prepared to get your feet wet since it is impossible to make it across all of them on rocks or logs. There is a hot spring on Willow Creek, and it is located about a mile up the trail and is not marked. Be sure to do some research beforehand if you want to enjoy this off-trail feature.
At the end of the Willow Creek Trail
, you'll connect to the South Fork of Ross Creek
and finish climbing to the pass. Once at the pass, you'll have some switchback to the Ross Lakes. There are some good fishing in these two lakes. Go by the lakes and drop some more switchbacks as you leave the alpine behind. There will be lots of loose rocks on the trail so keep your speed in check. Once you have left the switchbacks, the trail will mellow out and you'll have a nice cruise down along the creek. It will be fast and flowing so have a blast.
At the end of the South Fork of Ross Creek
, you'll stay straight and go onto the North Fork of Ross Creek
. This trail begins from the end of the South Fork of Ross Creek
trail, with a mellow ride up the valley. There are some recent burns in the area that can result in a number of downed trees. Trail crews do the best they can in the summer months, so the trail has a better chance of being cleared towards the end of July.
After a mellow creekside ride, you'll come to the last mile which will switchback up to a pass. The switchbacks can be loose in sections, but will be rideable by most experienced riders, so make sure to give them a try. Once at the pass, you'll have a steep ride down to Alturas Creek
. Make sure to bear right at the junction since a left turn will take you into the Sawtooth Wilderness where cycling is not permitted. At the junction with Alturas Creek
, you'll also leave the ICT behind.
The Idaho Trail turns onto Alturas Creek
for a nice ripping descent. The first part of the descent will be fast, but it will mellow out and then become a series of rollers. Alturas Creek
trail ends at the Alturas Creek
Road. Then you'll follow the road along Alturas Lake until you come to Hwy 75. Turn right onto Hwy 75 and ride south. There is lot of camping nearby if you are looking for a spot. The segment finishes at the Smiley Creek Lodge.
History & Background
The Idaho Trail was created to provide mountain bikers with a long distance trail option similar to the Idaho Centennial Trail.