Pushwacking the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route – Gabe Tiller

Pushwacking the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route
Photos and words by Gabe Tiller

Last fall when Adventure Cycling hinted at a new mountain bike route linking up hot springs in central Idaho, some close friends and I immediately began scheming. Here I was fresh from scouting Oregon Outback and knew I wanted something bigger and with more singletrack. Tougher but with more hot springs. Well we got it.

We aimed our trip for the short window between snowmelt and fire season, departing from Trudy’s Famous Pies in Idaho City. In Oregon we’ve got a few mountain ranges, but nothing like Idaho. The mountains are bigger, hot springs hotter, and the pushwhacking more pushy. And more whacky. Meandering counter-clockwise along the route we cruised through the infamous mining town of Atlanta, pioneered a “shortcut” through an alpine basin of the Sawtooth range, climbed up above 10,000′ in the White Clouds, got caught in a freak electrical storm (should have brought a tent!) and descended through the Ants Basin and into Stanley along the fabulous Little Casino trail. After licking our wounds at several of the hot springs within the city limits of Stanley we headed north, getting our asses handed to us by the Secesh range outside of McCall, ran out of food, ate lots of wild berries and mushrooms, and limped into the Burgdorf Hot Springs Resort. Here at our northern apex we devoured a whole chicken gifted to us in the parking lot, flirted with the caretaker, and spent as many lazy hours as we could soaking off days of dirt and scabs.

In order to link all of the singletrack and dirt road segments together into the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route we ended up riding (ahem, and pushing) a lot of rugged, rarely used trails. Forest fires had ruined soil, criss-crossed the trail with downed trees, and left us with no respite from the sun. But then, just as we’d start to crack, the trail would summit on a windswept granite shoulder or glassy alpine lake and then descend through wildflower meadows, technical rock gardens, or even catch some air on a bit of elusive Idaho flow trail.

We rode, walked, pushed, heaved, and cursed our bikes. We soaked at every hot spring we found, until the sun got too unbearably hot and our fresh wounds too painful in the hot mineral water. We got lost, argued, got split up, got hungry, got dirty, stayed dirty, got hurt, got scared, got drunk, and then did it all over again the next day. Can’t wait to go back.

Check out Limberlost for more photos and stories from the trip.


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  • Kyle Kelley


  • Wow. Solid story, great pics. Best stoke in a good while! Thanks for doing this, i got to go out now.

  • Kerry Nordstrom

    I don’t make bucket lists, but I’ll fill that bucket with some hot spring water for sure!

  • Societique


  • Awesome!

  • Ryan King

    Nice work, Gabe. I’m looking forward to getting high in the mountains of Idaho with you guys again soon.

  • Ace Metric Cycles

    Nice! No one ever wants to mention the inevitable arguments. That’s real!

  • Nick Jensen

    You braved the Idaho singletrack and lived! The wife and I tasted it but preferred the main route. Awesome ride!

  • ForrestCambron

    This has been a dream of mine for a long time as a native of Idaho. I spent half of my time growing up in Atlanta and seeing the pictures of them up there gave me goosebumps. It makes me proud as fuck to see my homeland featured on this site and it gives me the proper motivation I need.

  • .,`

    if your from Wisconsin then why are you drinking bud light? cheese curds aside.

  • Michael Schiller

    that 650B+ Rocky Mountain Sherpa looks like a shred machine

    • I was just thinking the same thing!

    • That bike is so, so great. Can’t wait till it comes out.

    • boomforeal

      if you see that bike being ridden around holler out: it was nicked a few weeks ago

      • Sigh, yeah that was a bummer to hear. I knew I should have stolen it when I had the chance!

      • Slc29er

        Is that a Sherpa prototype? Or did you buy the wheels and tires? I’ve been dying to try it on my Element.

        • boomforeal

          i think its a custom rear ended mated to a standard element front triangle, with custom wheels. rmb made several of them – not sure if they are prototypes or a concept project? – and staff (of which lyle is one) have been riding them since the spring

        • Yeah @boomforreal nailed it. This is an in-house rear triangle on an Element front end. The rims and tires are from WTB. I imagine more will be tweaked before this comes to life.

          • Slc29er

            Well if you need someone else to test this I have an element bc edition that would love to go bush whacking and bike packing!

  • Thanks y’alls! I highly recommend this route! You can make it as easy or as hard as you want. So many fun options to explore out there, can’t wait to go back!

  • Scott Emmens

    Hi from NZ, thanks for sharing. My wife and I are planning an Idaho Hot Spings tour next year so this is fuelling the fire. Can someone they’ll me how “Dan” has his camera attached to his shoulder strap? Looks like a fairly secure attachment, is it the same thing in the first slide top left on shoulder strap too?? Thanks, Scott

    • Hi Scott,

      I can’t recommend that doohickey enough. (I’ve got one too for my DSLR) It’s the Peak Designs Capture Camera Clip: https://peakdesignltd.com/capture

      Totally secure, and I can clip and unclip one-handed without looking down while riding. The only problem is that it’s a precarious place for a camera if you go over the bars as much as I do…

  • These dudes are up to some badassness. I recall briefly catching Gabe give a slide show on his first Oregon Outback trip at Velo Cult a couple years ago. So good.

  • Holler_Atcha_Soy

    John, I gotta say … controversial internet fights aside, I’m loving this direction of your site.

  • -Steven

    The floating shirt and ‘dana pick doesn’t even look real. Well done on everything

  • caliente

    I just paging through these photos… makes me want to up and leave!

  • Alexis Burke

    A rugged bike deserves a rugged bike mount. http://bit.ly/1rOHmdl

  • kshahislove

    Looks like not all of those bikes were hardtail – some had no suspension at all, am I seeing that correctly? I’m planning to do this route in the fall! Need all the beta I can get.

    • kshahislove

      Answered my own question – the Krampus isn’t suspended — how did the rider feel though, is suspension the way to go on this trail?