Long known as a mountain biking mecca, the biking opportunities in and around the Wood River Valley are breaking new ground and scaling new heights. You name it—from connecting trails throughout the valley, to the BCRD flow trails and pump park out Quigley Canyon, or gravity mountain biking trails at Soldier Mountain and the World Class bike park in Boise, Idaho’s beginner to expert trails and parks are entering new terrain.
Behind the scenes, a lot goes into breaking new trail. John Kurtz, the Outdoor Recreation Planner for the Shoshone Field office of the BLM, is intimately involved in broad travel and recreation access in the Wood River Valley and sees this firsthand. “We’ve been working on trying to address the increased trail demand along with the trade-offs of this increased demand, which includes increased impact on the natural resources such as big game, namely deer and elk,” said Kurtz. “We’ve been working on various components since 2006 to come up with different locations for expanded trails that, to the best of ability, minimize the impacts on all of our natural resources.”
The BLM put out the Wood River Recreation and Public Access Environmental Assessment (EA) in July 2020, which included four different alternatives, ranging from no expansion of trails to the building of 120 miles of new trails throughout the valley. The proposal’s preferred alternative included approximately 80 miles of new trails that would be mostly open for mountain biking; however, a few would be non-mechanized trails (not open to biking), with many under consideration for different classes of e-bikes. E-bikes, or electric bikes, have a range of electric assist defined by class (Class 1 e-bikes have no throttle and a top-assisted speed of 20 miles per hour, while Class 2 and Class 3 varieties have throttles and/or different top-assist speeds). E-bikes are considered highly contentious due to the blurring of lines between non-motorized and motorized land use.
The majority of Wood River Recreation and Public Access proposal includes trail expansion in the southern Wood River Valley. Trails would be added throughout five different trail areas including:
- A trail system between Quigley and Slaughterhouse canyons,
- Additional trails extending out Croy Creek,
- New trails in the Red Devil Hangman Gulch area,
- Trails in Lee’s Gulch area west of Hailey,
- Trails in the Townsend Gulch area.
Many of these trails would be “connector trails” that would connect different existing trail systems. The BLM is hoping to reach a decision by mid-October of 2020, move through any appeals in the subsequent period, and begin construction of new trails nexty summer or fall.
While those trails lie on the horizon, new BCRD flow trails, jumps, and a pump park out Quigley Canyon on the East side of Hailey are already in the works and others are nearing completion. The new Quigley Loop trail opened early summer 2020 and explores 4.2 miles around the canyon valley with approximately 600 feet of elevation gain overall. Many of the new trails, such as the Quigley Loop, are meant to expand beginner and intermediate options for newer mountain bikers.
The new $400,000 Quigley pump park and BCRD flow trails are planned to be World Class and are set to open Spring 2021. A pump park has rolling jumps, banked turns, and other features in which riders use the momentum generated by moving up and down, or “pumping” on a bike. The new paved features out Quigley will be open for riding more often in wet and snowmelt conditions than the previous all-dirt park.
Head a little further south and then towards Fairfield and you’ll get to Soldier Mountain’s four new gravity trails, which opened this summer and include beginner to intermediate rides. You can purchase a day lift pass and ride the trails all day. Unfortunately, the trails are now closed due to the Philips Fire, but will re-open next spring.
Meanwhile, Boise opened a state of the art bike park at the end of 2019, which has already attracted countless locals and national visitors. The park is deemed a “mountain bike skills park” and is noted for beginner, intermediate, and advanced features in which riders can easily practice over and over again to hone in and progress their skills—and of course, have fun. The $2 million construction of the Boise Bike Park was supported by a large donation from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation.
The existing and new trails and bike parks throughout the Wood River Valley and the vicinity are largely supported and maintained by grants, donations, and volunteers, many working through advocacy groups and maintenance organizations such as Big Wood Backcountry Trails (BWBT), organized in 1996 by Chris Leman, Wood River Trails Association, BCRD, and Idaho Conservation Corps.
Justin Blackstead, the Ketchum Ranger District’s (KRD) Trail Crew supervisor noted that the simple upkeep and maintenance of our existing trail system is no small feat. Many may not realize that the six person KRD Trail Crew maintains the vast majority of trails around Ketchum, which includes over 400 miles of trail to log out, brush, clean, drain, and rebuild tread.
There are a lot of moving parts behind breaking new ground in this mountain bike mecca, but one thing is certain, fall is the perfect time to hit your flow on the trails and catch air in the parks.
A quick guide to the trail rating systems…
Rating trails is notably a convoluted undertaking, as grade, texture, width, and various other trail features are taken into account and somehow put together into one rating system. Reading descriptions of trails is helpful to support given trail ratings, which are illustrated similar to ratings for ski runs: green circle (beginner), blue square (intermediate), and black diamond (advanced). Simply based on grade, a beginner trail usually includes gentle grade (0-3%), an intermediate trail typically includes moderate grade (3-5%), and an advanced trail includes steeper grade (5-15%). However, some trails include sandy or rocky terrain, and perceived difficulty may be affected by what you’re used to riding.
What to know before you go…
For trails in the Wood River Valley, check out BCRD Summer TraiLink. This website is updated daily through the end of September and includes information on trail closures and trail reports for the Galena, Harriman, Front Range, Adams Gulch, Bald Mountain, SV White Clouds, Greenhorn, Deer Creek, Croy Creek, Hailey, Wood River Trails, and Sawtooth areas. It also includes trail descriptions, including mileage and elevation gains and losses.
It’s recommended to always bring a flat tire and basic maintenance kit, water, and appropriate layering for the season on your rides.