A pleasant creek-bottom fire road cruise warms you up for a tough climb to a ridgeline jeep trail. From there, it's all smiles on a fast, loose, whoop-filled descent.
This route is open to all motorized uses, and is popular with ATVs on weekends and holidays. It is also a very popular area for big-game hunters, so expect to share the area with others during hunting season.
This is one of the best rides close-in to Garden Valley, and can be ridden from mid-April through the next snow season (usually late November). The soils are very sandy and well-drained, so mud is virtually never an issue.
From Garden Valley, turn right on Alder Creek Rd. and cross the South Fork bridge. Take the first left on South Fork Road, then after about 0.5 miles turn right at a brown FS 690 sign. It's right next to a driveway to an upscale home's outbuilding, but it is PUBLIC access. Just a few yards up the hill is a flat area sometimes used as a campsite. Park here.
The ride starts with a steep climb almost immediately. Fear not, it's only about 0.25 miles long so even if you have to push up this portion, you'll enjoy the next 2+ miles of mellow fire road along Wash Creek. Note the sign indicating the Wash Creek mining claim - there may even be some active placer mining activity going on along the creek. Stay on Wash Creek Road (FS 690)
, ignoring any faint trails climbing steeply to your right. You'll also pass the point where FS 610 connects from the right. This is where the loop returns, but continue straight - it's much easier (and more fun) to ride the loop clockwise.
About 2.5 miles from your car, you'll reach a major fork; stay right following the "Wash Creek" sign. After roughly another 0.5 miles, the road forks again. Turn right here and start climbing a steeper grade toward the ridge. The next couple of miles will test your legs and lungs, but once you reach the ridge, you'll see why it was worth it.
At the ridgeline, turn right on FS 610. This road is much more primitive, and follows the ridgeline between Wash Creek and Alder Creek northward toward the South Fork. There are lots of steep drops with some short, steep climbs in between. Some deep ruts and whoops (water bars) keep things interesting along with some blind corners that you don't want to hit too fast!
There are several excellent viewpoints along the ridge looking north across Garden Valley. They also serve as great reminders of how far you have climbed!
Eventually, the road reaches a small saddle where FS 610A leaves to the left. This road ends quickly, so stay right and begin the winding descent back to Wash Creek Road (FS 690)
. Again, watch for some sharp hairpins, and please don't cut switchbacks. Once you reach the bottom, turn left and re-trace your route down FS 690 back to your car.