For the past year and a half, Adventure Cycling Association cartographer Casey Greene has been connecting dots. Those dots, specifically, mark some 50 hot springs throughout central Idaho, and Greene connected them using nothing more than a mountain bike.
“The whole concept started about three or four years ago,” Greene explains. “Me and a buddy of mine did a bike-packing trip to eight lookout towers in 10 days across northern Idaho and Montana. I was just so stoked on the lookout towers as destinations, and kind of thought to myself, ‘What else do I like in the Northern Rockies? What else could I piece together? Well, shoot, I love hot springs.’”
ACA rolled out the results of Greene’s research in February: a new map detailing roughly 518 miles of unpaved roads and backcountry singletrack from McCall to Idaho City to Ketchum and back. It’s the first dirt route ACA has put out since the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route a decade ago, and the nonprofit’s first inclusion of technical singletrack options on one of its maps.
The popularity of backcountry touring has increased rapidly in the past 10 years, Greene says. Still, he warns that the four singletrack segments on the new Idaho route—all of which are optional—are not for the faint of heart.
“They’re pretty tough,” Greene says, noting fallen trees as some of the many obstacles he encountered. “There’s a couple hills in there that are almost for sure going to be hike-a-bike for everybody.”
Exploring one potential trail, Greene says, he ran into 12 different river crossings in seven miles. “It got to the point where I couldn’t even find the trail sometimes on the other side of the river.” He opted not to include that particular singletrack on ACA’s map.
Despite the obstacles, Greene says, the rewards were obvious from the get-go. The McCall portion of the route alone offers “probably the two nicest developed hot springs” Greene had ever been to—Gold Fork and Burgdorf—and the soaks were just part of the ride’s appeal.
“The hot springs I think are what will draw people to the route,” Greene says, “but I think they’re just going to be blown away by the scenery of Idaho, the small towns, the fishing, all that stuff.”
For most cyclists, the full Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route will require about two weeks of biking. But ACA’s map includes a cutoff option between Stanley and Crouch that shortens the full route by roughly half. Between those options and the singletrack trails, Greene is confident cyclists will be able to customize their own ideal trip.