Ahh, shucks. Do we have to leave Idaho? We’ve had such a good time. We’ve met some of the friendliest people on Earth. We’ve ridden through some beautiful landscapes. We even managed to soak in some hot springs, but there were so many we missed.
Although Adventure Cycling dubbed it the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route, I think a more appropriate name would be the Idaho Rivers Mountain Bike Route. Forget the hot springs. It was often too hot to soak in warm water. Instead, we rode along and swam in some of the prettiest, cleanest, refreshingest rivers that a weary cyclist could imagine.
At the end of all of our trips, Carrie and I like to reflect on some of the most memorable moments, whether funny or stressful, rewarding or tedious. It’s a good way to learn from our misadventures and to improve the fun factor of future adventures. And for the gear nerd, it’s a way to look at improving your kit. With this in mind, here’s a random list of highlights and thoughts from our Idaho Hot Springs trip:
- Total miles ridden – 567
- Total riding days – 13
- Average miles ridden per day – 43
- Most miles ridden in one day – 58.6
- Total feet elevation gain – 36,741
- Average feet of elevation gain per day – 2,826
- Most amount of feet climbing in one day – 4,859
- Number of hot springs soaked – 3
- Hottest temperature – 105 degrees (Boise)
- Coldest temperature – 38 degrees (Stanley)
- Favorite hotspring – Tie between the Mountain Village Lodge’s private hot spring in the barn and the Mile 16 hotspring near North Shore Lodge
- Favorite climb – Galena Pass Old Toll Road
- Favorite descent – Dollarhide Pass in the evening
- Hardest climb – Pfiffer Creek Road heading to Featherville
- Favorite campsite – Chaparral Campground east of Featherville. No Mosquitos, a shady site, and easy access to the river. Boiling Hot Springs Campground is a close second even though we didn’t stay there.
- The singletrack sections are not for the faint of heart. Please read some reports on MTBR and Bikepacking.net for an idea of what you’ll be getting yourself into. Unless you’re set up with bikepacking bags and don’t mind tons of hike-a-bike, you’ll probably want to stick to the main route.
- The frequency of campgrounds with exceptionally clean pit toilets on the main route means that carrying provisions for shitting in the woods is unnecessary, unless your bowel movements are unpredictable, in which case, you should eat more fiber.
- There are scads of primitive campsites along the main route that are not shown on the Adventure Cycling map. Many of these primitive sites are in better locations than the official Forest Service sites and they cost nothing.
- Those of you with hay fever should make sure to bring allergy meds. I prefer loratidine, which is the main ingredient in Claritin. One pill lasts all day.
- The people in Idaho are amazingly friendly. They give cyclists a wide berth when passing. They will chat with you in the grocery line. They will go beyond common courtesy and offer help or even a beer. Please reciprocate the kindness so Idahoans don’t get tired of dealing with dirty cyclists taking up their roadways and their campsites.
- Water sources are abundant on the route. We usually carried 1.5L of water each at any given time. Most of the time, you’ll be pulling water from creeks and rivers, so a good filter is important. We used the Platypus Gravity Works system, which is simple to use and maintain, if only rather bulky. I’d like to try the Sawyer Squeeze system or something with a similar filter but more compact.
- The climate is hot and dry. You can get away with few extra clothes since doing laundry is a cinch thanks to the abundant water sources. I used my regular sneakers to walk in the rivers instead of bringing another pair of water-specific shoes. The sneakers would be bone dry by the next morning.
- We didn’t bring our bulky rain pants and booties, which worked out fine. The thunderstorms always gave us warning before letting loose, so we were able to enjoy 100% rain-free riding.
- The North Shore Lodge has a pretty poor selection of provisions, so it might be a good idea to carry enough food through this area as if the lodge didn’t exist. However, their restaurant serves huge portions for fair prices, so you could just get your calories that way.
- A mountain bike is not necessary for the main route, although it would be wise to run the widest tires you can fit in your frame to handle the sometimes sandy and rocky roads and to add comfort over some of the washboards. Bikes like the Fargo and AWOL seem ideally suited for this type of trip.
- Bikepacking bags are also not necessary on the main route. You’d be hating life however to use panniers on the singletrack sections, which feature large amounts of strenuous hike-a-bike.
- A single-wall tent, like the Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo we used, is perfect for the dry conditions in Idaho. There are mosquitos though, so those of you who sleep under tarps will want to bring along some type of netting.