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.
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