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Desert Rat heading to your Mountains!

1013 Views 9 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  rockman
We're getting out of our nasty, socal desert for a camping trip to the Ida/Mont. mountains. This is our first long trip since my wife had cancer surgery on her foot 5 years ago so we hope to make it a good one. That means finding some great trails for me to ride and great scenery for her (she rides the bike paths).

I'll tell you where and when we'll be and would greatly appreciate any info. and/or ride offers that you kindly give. I've only been to the Ketchum/Stanley area about 10 yrs ago. I'm an upper intermediate rider and can handle most rough terrain and dropoffs up to 2 ft. I started mtb'ing about 18 yrs ago and typically do 15-20 mile rides. I ride an "08 Trek ex8 since my 9 yr old Rocky Element broke at Brian Head! I don't climb fast but I will get there! I handle altitude well. There are mountains near me. I have checked out trails online but would like some quality info from you mtbr people. Here's the itinerary.

7/9-7/10 Ketchum/Stanley Camping at Smiley Creek. I rode Fisher loop, little/big basin
on my prior trip, may again but what's better?

7/11-7/12 McCall Ponderosa SP. Loon Lk but clockwise or counter for experienced rider?
What are the Brundage and Tamarack mtb parks like? I don't mind
some lift action! I love Mammoth!

7/14-7/16 CDL/Sandpoint Farragut SP Bernard pk? Canfield? Schweitzer mtb park?

7/19 Hungry Horse MT Couldn't find much online. Rode Whitefish mtb park years ago.
Need some ideas here!

7/20-7/21 Polson MT Haven't checked on this area yet.

I won't ride all of these days to maintain our 28 yrs of marital bliss but that's the range available. If any of you have some group rides going or want to show me the good stuff then pm me before Monday when we leave. I'll be glad to return the favor if any of you journey down to SoCal. Also any restaurant recommendations would be appreciated especially for the 18th in Hungry Horse for our anniversary! Thanks for your time everyone!
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Basin Butte L.O. north of Stanley

If you haven't had a chance to make it up to Basin Butte 10 miles north of Stanley before, it is one of Stanleys high-lights that isn't on the typical tourist itinerary, and I highly recommend it for a new ride:

From lower Valley creek access: Up East fork Valley creek to Basin Butte and down Prospect creek to Valley creek and out...loop.

Drive to mile marker 121/122 out highway 21 (west about 8-9 miles out), turn right to valley creek road (well signed) and park after 1/2 mile above old bridge (good camping in area.) Ride across bridge and north 2-3 miles on abandoned road to old trailhead. Start and end the loop here.

Ride up east fork Valley creek, at summit left onto road for 1/2 mile to junction where you go right up and over the top to L.O., and incredible view from L.O. south up the Salmon river/Sawtooth valley, and then head north across the top on the old, old road and down the north side back to the main road and another 1/4 mile to saddle, where you'll go left down Prospect creek to upper Valley creek and out to a different trailhead (with completely different access from highway.) Pay attention here and immediately go left on atv trail through the woods and back to east fork trailhead.

I would recommend 7.5 minute maps of whole ride to stay oriented and to keep track of trail as you cross the flats to and from the east fork trailhead. Not to mention the sun valley map of Stanleys trail systems for more recent map and trail updates. The 7.5 maps don't have the newer road around the west side of basin butte (where you will go right at the junction and up to the L.O. from south) and 10 more miles to Hyndman lake: more good road riding.

You can ride this ride either way and you won't be disappointed. Other options in the area too. The main road from the valley up Anderson creek (another good campsite with great view of Sawtooths) and into the lookout is a 4 wd road and a beautiful (and boring for some of us) 6-8 mile ride on old mining/forest service road and normally no traffic. In fact, after the fourth, I wouldn't expect to see anyone else all day up in this area.

Up and down Prospect (different access) is just as good a ride and may be your only option, but not a loop. None-the-less it is also a very nice ride, esp. if you push through to the top for the view from the lookout.

You might (should) ask in Stanley at local bike rental about current trail conditions (may still be snow.) Stanley bakery for b-fast, Casino club for dinner: excellent food and $$. 4 or 5 other places not so $$.

Again, the view from the lookout (9,000 ft) is incredible and worth the ride even if you do it all on the road.

Have a good ride whatever you do.
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Thanks for the info. How much singletrack on this route?
Basin Butte via east fork Valley and out Prospect: 3 hours max with stop at the L.O., 2 miles abandoned, high speed, level road to east fork trailhead, approx 5 miles single track up east fork, 1.5 miles on lookout road to L.O., 1+ mile old road across the top and down north side to main mining road (scenic and technical), 1/2 mile on mining road (fast), 4.5-5 miles single track down Prospect to Valley creek, 4+ miles down Valley on atv trail to upper Valley trailhead, and a final mile on atv back to east fork th.

This isn't an epic, but the view is. The ride across the top and Prospect should tickle your fancy, but upper Valley creek atv may prove disappointing (but its fast and trends downhill.) The view from the lookout is exceptional, and thus the ride rates up there.

If you want near epic try Fourth of July to Born lakes via Ants Basin and down Warm Springs crk to The Meadows and up Pigtail crk and out the second half of Fisher creek. Miss the Pigtail turn and 15 miles later you'll come out in Carol Kings back yard (20 miles downstream from Stanley.) This south end of the Whiteclouds has lots of riding that someone more familiar with may point you in the right direction.

Or Big Boulder - Little Boulder: up the east fork of the Salmon, an hour north and east of Stanley. Its a great 22 mile loop that crosses a 9600 foot high ridge. For the loop, most people park in the shade at the turn off of the river road and ride the first four miles (1000ft) to trail head at Livingston mill to start the ride in counter-clockwise direction. Big Boulder crk is a nice hike.

Up Prospect to the 'fore mentioned mining road, north to Hindman lake and you have various options for descents: Basin creek, west fork Yankee fork (big shuttle), or back to Valley creek via a couple different ways (not recommended.)

Most of these rides are pretty remote with few people. Probably recommended to ride with a partner, but definitely not a requirement.

FYI...A portion of Fisher creek burned a few years back.
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I read about that larger Fisher loop on another thread. Sounds good. Thanks again!
How did the trip go? I'll be in Whitefish in 3 weeks and I'm curious to know if you found any gems.
I rode Reid Divide near Whitefish a couple of weeks ago. Pretty long climb on dirt road but huge payoff. The Montana Singletrack book recommends coming down on 801 but I went another mile or two and dropped off the ridgeline on 800 which was a super fast, smooth descent through thick forest to the Tally Lake campground:thumbsup:The campground is pretty nice as well.


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I did most of my riding in Idaho since we were there longer and I lost 1 1/2 days in Kalispell because of 2 heater hoses leaking coolant. I did see Phil Jackson at the Chevy dealer while he was looking at new trucks. The only riding I did in Montana was at the bike park at Whitefish Resort. It wasn't Mammoth but it was fun and had at least 4 or 5 options to get to the bottom. I did Schweitzer in Idaho and was majorly disappointed. Only 2 trails open and one of those shared the last 3 miles with the other! The other Idaho trails were great. I rode Basin/Little Basin, Elk Mountain Loop and Fisher Ck near Stanley; East Fork of Lake Fork (thanks for the info formica!) near McCall and Bernard Peak at Farragut. In between I rode the easy paths in all those places with my wife who may be a real mtbiker soon! Didn't get much info on Montana trails but I think I waited too long to post; to close to the 4th. It was a great trip and we saw some great places and had fun. Let me know if any of you come down to SoCal. I can take you on some great, uncrowded trails here on the north side of the mountains!
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Looks like a great trail! Where were you 4 weeks ago?
Maddog said:
Looks like a great trail! Where were you 4 weeks ago?
Pretty much in the same boat as you.:) Driving, National Park touron, camping, and trying to keep two kids entertained while still getting in a couple of quality rides.

I'd never ridden in Montana but picked out a few places from threads in this forum and the Montana Singletrack book. The only ride I found that didn't live up to the hype was Portal to Porcupine down near Big Sky. Warm Springs Ridge south of Darby on the other hand was truly one of the best downhills I've ever had the pleasure of letting gravity rule.
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