Early this month, a few friends and I decided to take on the Adventure Cycling Association Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route. The route that was created 2 years ago connects as many hot springs together in a loop that follows dirt forest roads and some pavement. The route travels through exposed high desert, steep mountain passes, over hundreds of bridges, into some pretty cool towns and past 40 hot springs. The Adventure Cycling Association created an awesome route, and apparently it is their best selling map at the moment. The Hot Springs Route is comprised of a main loop and a number of singletrack options. This past summer, one of the singletrack parts of the route was designated a Wilderness Area, thus shutting down that option. The route has a few other singletrack variations, but we decided to stick to the main route, in a counter clockwise direction, which was perfect considering our goals – Ride, dip, drink beer, and ride some more. We started on Friday, October 9th out of Ketchum, Idaho. A no brainer as it was the closest on route town from where we were coming from. Brant and Andrew drove the short distance from Jackson Hole, and Mike and I drove 12 hours from Central Colorado. Day 1 – Ketchum to Stanley  DSC07429 It was a unique group of guys, and an even more unique group of rigs. Mike was rocking a Giant XTC carbon hardtail, with 1×10 driver with a 34 tooth. Brant rocked a custom John Cutter 26er built around a Rholoff, he had a ridged fork and used a front rack to hold a dry bag. Andrew was rocking a Kona Honzo SS with a 33×19 and crushed many climbs and I was rocking a Chumba Stella Ti with a Shimano 1×11. DSC07474 After getting a late start, we traveled on the Harriman Trail for the morning, before climbing up towards the first big pass of our trip, Galena pass. On the other side of the pass were stunning views of the Sawtooth Mountains, little did we know the views would only get better as we would head up the Sawtooth Valley towards Stanley. DSC07486 Andrew and I were feeling pretty good on the first day, but not the same could be said for Brant and Mike. Both have done plenty of extended bikepacking trips, but both had been a bit out of shape from either fishing all summer in Alaska like Brant, or driving and traveling for the past month like Mike. We all kept a different pace into Stanley, Brant hitched from the bottom of Galina Pass, Andrew and I came into Stanley together, followed by Mike. After today, most of the road bumps were behind us, especially the physical ones.
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We arrived just outside of Stanley to see Brant studying the map. He ended up cutting off 25 miles of the route, but he knew what he needed to do to take care of himself for the remainder of the trip.
After getting a few items in Stanley, we made our way to the Snake Pit Hot Springs for our first dip of the trip. We decided to camp on the porch of the Stanley Museum as they were closed for the year. We would find out that many things were closed for the year, including campgrounds along the way, this proved to be a great opportunity for private camping and some peace and quite, but it wouldn’t come without cold nights. DSC07531   Day 2 –  Stanley to North Shore Lodge Stanley has an average of 290 mornings in the year with frost, and it was no different on this Saturday morning in early October. The sun would not rise until 8ish every day, so our mornings were slow moving, typically leaving after 9am each morning. DSC07547 We would eventually make our way north and away from the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains and into the Salmon River Mountains. If you ever ride this route, you may notice that you cross hundreds of bridges. Below was the only time we really needed to get wet. in addition to bridges, Idaho has a ridiculous amount of forest roads, If you are looking to make your own route in this state, you will not have a difficult time. DSC07568 Day two may have been the easiest day as far as vertical is concerned. Which was great, considering we wanted to travel 80 plus miles to Warm Lake and the North Shore Lodge, where they sell beer. Deadwood and Warmlake summit were the only things in between us and the lodge, they proved to be pretty darn steep. DSC07578 DSC07579-2 DSC07594 Once we reached the North Lake Lodge, we got some snacks, and planned on riding out to Molly’s Hot Springs. But Brant had a different agenda, he decided to rent us a small cabin after negotiating the price for a good 20 minutes. It proved to be a great decision, as the only rain we would see the entire trip would fall that evening. DSC07612   Day 3 – North Lake Lodge to McCall 
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The night before, Brant went to the lodge kitchen to ask for some breakfast supplies. Between the breakfast items and lodging, our cost at the North Lake lodge was under $20 per person.
We planned on waking up early so we could make time to enjoy a soak in one of the best hot springs on route, Mile 16 Hot Springs. The morning ride was a bit chilly and the roads were a bit damp from some overnight rainfall, but it was well worth the early ride. DSC07637 We certainly could have stuck around Mile 16 Hot Springs for a while, but we knew we had to get after Lick Creek Summit. A 15 mile, 3,000 foot climb that stood in our way before the town of McCall. It was exhausting and the downhill was not your typical downhill, but rather an Idaho downhill, one where you deserve more down, yet you get more up. DSC07668 Eventually we would enter the town of McCall around 3pm. I broke a spoke the day before, and needed a proper Enve tool that I had forgot, so I decided to leave it be until McCall. It turns out everthing happens for a reason. As we entered Gravity Sports, Brant recognized the mechanic on duty. Apparently they had communicated about Rholoff tools, and Brant had been a fan. His name was Aaron Lisco, a cyclist who has done his share of bike traveling. He invited us to stay a his house for the night, we couldn’t say no. DSC07692 His house was a bit out of town, but right off route. We stayed up pretty late listening to some of his stories, and looking at pictures of his travels. It was cool to see a legend like Aaron share his moments but you could tell he was itching to get back out on the bike again.   Day 4 – McCall to Boiling Spring Cabin DSC07721 The morning out of Aaron’s house was pure torture. The sun had yet to rise, and the faster you went the colder you would get. The morning was slow moving, but we would again hit another climb to warm us up, which eventually sent us into Cascade for a late lunch. DSC07778 The views were pretty stunning, but we couldn’t help but notice the smoke in the air. After doing some research, we found out that there was a small fire southwest of Idaho City. Close to our route, but not close enough to shut down any of the forest roads we planned on riding. After Cascade the afternoon was relatively quick, and the goal to get to Boiling Springs was attainable.
Idaho Hot Springs Route
Lake Cascade

The team looking pretty good after the first few days.

We arrived at Boiling Spring Cabin, which is maintained by the Forest Service. The cabin was shut down for the season, so we called it home for the next 12 hours. It was a great location with fire pit, picnic table, and walking distance to a number of different hot springs. DSC07818 DSC07825   Day 5 – Boiling Springs to Idaho City DSC07845 After a chilly morning, we were off to Crouch, a small town south of Cascade. Other than hunters, we did not see a soul while on route. Many campgrounds were closed, and it was pretty late to ride the route, but we couldn’t have asked for a better time to ride it. Many of the days reached into the 70’s with evening temperatures hovering in the mid to low 30’s. DSC07872

Placerville was a small mining town on route.

The closer we got to Idaho City, the closer we could see a distinct smoke plume from the fire. As we entered the town we passed a town meeting at the high school regarding the fire. People were concerned about the fire, but apparently there was little threat for the fire to grow and move closer to the city.
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This was one strange building, a highlight to the end of the day In Idaho City.
Colin, a college buddy of Mike and mine met up with us in Idaho City. We purchased some beers, threw them in Colin’s car and found a place to stay just outside of town off of forest road 304.   Day 6 – Idaho City to Loftus Hot Springs DSC08008 DSC08014 Colin rode with us for about 10 miles into our climb out of Idaho City and then turned around. It was a beastly climb with 3,000 feet of climbing in 15 miles. Today would be the hottest day of the trip, especially once we made it down to Arrowrock Reservoir. We had our sights on Loftis Hot Springs for the night, a spring that Brant said was high quality…was it ever. DSC08071

Bizarro land after being in the woods for a few days.

DSC08104 I highly recommend making good use of a hot spring like Loftis. Multiple dips a day, maybe one in the morning to warm up. Sleeping next to hot springs makes things so much better. DSC08118
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Mike thinking about where to set up his tent after he jumped out of the Loftis HS.
  Day 7 – Loftis Hot Springs to Baumgartner Hot Springs DSC08153 DSC08183 The day started nice and early after our relaxing spa day yesterday, after passing a high concentration of hot springs, we turned onto Phifer Creek Road where we would be in for a rude awakening. A steep and loose climb that would put the hurt on. On the other side, we descended into the historic town of Rocky Bar before we ate an early dinner in Featherville.
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Hunting season.
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We went through many burn areas along the route, which made for a unique perspective.

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“Welcome Insane Cyclists”
After a great pit stop in Featherville, which included fried food, milk shakes, beer, and conversation. We pushed it to Baumgartner Hot Springs for our last night on route. Tomorrow we would need to hike around a road washout that occurred late in the summer. DSC08258

We were excited to get to Baumgartner.

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We purchased two 6 packs at the bar in Featherville…No beers left behind.
DSC08302   Day 8 – Baumgartner Hot Springs – Katchum DSC08309 DSC08345 We pedalled a long and flat section after departing Baumgartner Hot Springs. The last climb of the route was Dollarhide which happend to be the highest point on route at 8,719ft. The climb was not as bad as some others on route, but the descent was one to remember. DSC08415 DSC08433 Overall, we pedaled 530 miles over the course of 8 days. we soaked in as many hot springs as we could, laughed about things many people would not laugh about, cursed at the unexpected Idaho climbs, met some unique locals, endured a few smoke filled days, drank plenty of beer, and had the best weather window one could ask for especially in October. We won on many levels.

Brant and Mike decided to burn their gloves after we finished…THE END!

Stay tuned for more coverage that will help you plan your trip on the Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route.

13 Comments

  1. Great write-up Neil. Glad you enjoyed our state!

  2. Thank you for this pictorial. I’ll definitely want to visit Idaho.

  3. I did the Smoke ‘n’ Fire race this summer. This pictorial story makes me want to go back and ride it more leisurely and stop and soak in the all the hot springs. Great pictures of a great route!

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      I could not have asked for a better route to leisurely ride. Who can say no to hot springs at the end of the day????

  4. Great narrative, and pics, of your adventure in Idaho, Neil and crew! Thanks for visiting and we do have some beastly climbs in our fair state.

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      I was shocked at the climbs. Have you done Lick Creek Road, from East to West? Andrew and I punished ourselves on that one. Ca’t wait to head back next summer. I really dig the town of McCall. Still need to check out Boise.

      • Norb DeKerchove

        Hey Neil. I have done the monstrous Lick Creek Road both ways, although I had a motor between my legs so I cheated! Amazing country and McCall is a fun little town to play in. See you in Boise next year!

  5. Hello from Ghana. Beautiful scenery Andrew. Thanks for the pics and the narrative. Reminded me of my days in Yellowstone and Tetons and into parts of Idaho.

  6. Fabulous photos and story! My only extra wish would be some close shots of each rig. I’m always curious about different bikes and how they’re packed. I already know what naked guys in hot springs look like. Wait. What I meant to say…

    never mind. 🙂

  7. Hey Neil! Can you give me an understanding of the elevation of this route? I want to guide my dad (in smaller sections) through this route, but he’s coming from sea level and has difficulty above 8,000′. Is most of it above 6,000′? Does some of it crest 8,000′? I’m trying to get a feel for it before I splurge on the ACA maps.

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      Hey Amanda, Actually most of the riding is below 8,000 feet. There are a few passes – Dollarhide Galena Summit that go over 8,000. Other wise you are set, and I don’t think it was create much of an issue for him. As far as quality sections. Ketchum to Stanley was really nice with nice hot springs in Stanley. North Shore Lodge to McCall is really nice, mainly because Mile 16 Hot Spring is amazing. But I really enjoyed Idaho City to Featherville, as it had the biggest concentration of HS and it was some really stunning terrain, very diverse.

      I hope this helps, don’t hesitate to ask more questions.

      Neil

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