Out the Backdoor: Exploring Idaho singletrack

Josh Jacquot became a Path customer about two decades ago, and has officially ridden and raced for The Path for more than 15 years. Cross-country moves took Josh and his family to Michigan, and most recently, to Idaho. Josh continues to represent The Path from his new hometown outside of Boise, where he's currently spending his free time exploring his new backyard on two wheels. 

josh jacquot's santa cruz

By Josh Jacquot

Do you ever wonder if that guy with the bluetooth speaker in his pack considered your feelings about mixing Rage Against the Machine and singletrack? I used to wonder about that all the time when I’d run across him on the trail. Then I moved to Idaho. That hasn’t happened here. Not saying it won’t, but it hasn’t yet.

It’s not because there aren’t people here. No, they’re here. Nearly 710,000 of them in Boise’s Treasure Valley alone. Still, backed as Boise is against 2.6 million acres of sprawling public land, there’s something unusual here. Probably it’s the proximity to this backcountry of trees, lakes, rivers, and multiple mountain ranges that makes the place special. There are enough people here to build, maintain, and ride hundreds of miles of singletrack in the Boise front range, but rarely enough to make those trails crowded. This ain’t Colorado, son.

idaho country

Shafer Butte, the 7,585-foot peak marking the high point of the local ski area, Bogus Basin, makes itself an easy target for two-wheel peak baggers like myself. It also offers the best views of Idaho’s seemingly never-ending backcountry terrain that stretches between here and the Sawtooth range, almost 60 miles and a thousand horizons away.

I’ve been planning this day since before we moved. In fact, it’s fair to say that we chose our home based on proximity to singletrack that made this objective — top of the mountain and home in a single push — both plausible and possible.

Armed with a water filter I hoped to not need, a credit card, and a mask — in addition to the usual array of tubes, water, calories, and tools — I hit the trail just as the sun crested the horizon. My house is at 2,560 feet in Eagle, just north of Boise, so there was work ahead. Once my tires rolled into the dirt 1.5 miles from home I’d be committed not just to dirt, but almost entirely to singletrack, until I returned to that point. Most of the foothills trails here are built with usability rather directness as their priority. They’re usually on camber, but this time of year the surface is either moon dust or concrete. And there are so many: More than 400 miles of recognized trails if MTB Project is to be believed. Count the fire roads and the singletrack gems that don’t make the official cut, and the volume of ridable terrain is unthinkable. It’ll be years before I see every mile of it.

ribbon of trail in idaho

Accordingly, the foothills are wrapped in ribbons of flowing dirt perfection. Follow the right ones and they lead to alpine glory. There are almost no rocks, but when they do make an appearance it’s nearly always in the form of embedded volcanic boulders that will rip pedals out from under you faster than you can say razor-sharp faceplant.

idaho rocky trail

The only real problem with Shafer Butte as an objective is, well, getting there. Once into the alpine, the terrain is less forgiving, more exposed, and often genuinely steep. Now, to be fair, it’s not as steep on average as the Southern California mountains, but there are plenty of places that made me want a 50-tooth rear cog. The early hours of this ride were spent climbing to treeline -- the milestone where the scrub and grass of the foothills give way to fir, spruce, and pine. I arrived just as fall brought out the reds, oranges, and yellows of the deciduous trees, making the near-vertical segments of Dry Creek trail less painful.

idaho high country


And soon enough, the Bogus Basin chairlifts were in view. As always, there were few people above 7,000 feet at Bogus, which made the pedal to the summit steady, if still hard. And it was hard. Here, nearly four hours in, I was cooked. My legs had lost their pop and my hands, back, and shoulders acknowledged the effort with deep ache. Rounding the last switchback on a trail called The Face, I was minutes from the summit. More importantly, I was 1,400 feet above a tri-tip sandwich and a Gatorade on the lawn at the ski lodge -- the only real stop on the return home.

Bogus makes the perfect mid-epic stop with food, drink, and a sprawling green space for soaking up mountain sunshine. And today it would keep me from needing to filter water from a creek to keep going. From here it was largely a singletrack descent home on trails selected intentionally for their entertainment value -- Pat’s, Eastside, Sweet Connie, and Peggy’s. Connie, in particular, is a Boise icon, combining warp-speed rollers with classic Idaho-creek-trail surprises -- sometimes it’s a cow and sometimes it’s a bobcat. On this day it was neither, but they’re both out there. Sweet Connie is arguably the best six miles of trail in the valley, but I wouldn’t know since I’ve not yet ridden them all.

idaho hairpin turn

There were, of course, about 1,000 vertical feet of climbing to be slogged through in the foothills on the way “down.” But I was energized by the day -- cool fall air coupled with warm fall sun and colors. And by the triumph of pedaling until the problems of my world faded into the pure joy of riding a bicycle in the mountains -- long and hard and with purpose. There’s some fulfillment in checking off a worthy single-day objective, too. In fact, had I crossed paths with that guy packing the bluetooth speaker, I probably wouldn’t have cared.

idaho leaves

See all the details here on Strava.