The weather is warming up, and many people from the Treasure Valley are heading to Cascade or McCall to stay cool, maybe take a swim and hang out at the cabin or go camping.
In the spirit of enjoying the green and forested setting in Valley County, I’m recommending five fabulous kid- and family-friendly bike rides, starting with the easiest trails, to consider when you’re in the neighborhood. These trails are fine for adults, too, especially those who like a relatively low-key experience.
I’ll start with the easiest trails and work up from there. All of the trails except the Strand are featured in my guide, “Mountain Biking in McCall.”
▪ The Strand in Cascade (kid-friendly rating, five stars out of five): The Strand runs parallel to the North Fork of the Payette River from the south Idaho 55 bridge trailhead in Cascade to a point just short of Water’s Edge RV Park. It’s 2.2 miles one way, 4.4 miles out and back. This ride is cool and entertaining because it runs next to Kelly’s Whitewater Park, where you can see kayakers and surfers play in the waves.
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▪ Crown Point Trail in Cascade (kid-friendly rating, five stars): This trail runs alongside Lake Cascade from the Crown Point camping area 3 miles to the north trailhead at Vista Point Road. It’s an out-and-back ride on a mostly flat surface with pine trees bordering the trail on both sides. Expect really nice lake views off to the west, plus West Mountain towers above. Pack a lunch: There are some sweet beaches adjacent to the trail, where you could hang out or go swimming. Getting there: Take Lake Way from Idaho 55 to a point where it ends by the campground. There’s a small parking area by the trailhead for Crown Point Trail.
▪ North Valley Trail (kid-friendly rating, four stars): The North Valley Trail is a little more challenging than Crown Point Trail because it has some single-track sections, which might be difficult for young riders. But it’s a great trail for a low-key ride in a scenic setting. Start next to the City of McCall offices on Park Street in downtown McCall, and ride the paved pathway south to where the path ends by the McCall Smokejumper Base on Mission Street. Go left (south) on Mission, pick up the paved pathway in River Ranch, keep riding south, and then follow signs to the North Valley Trail. It’s 10 miles out and back.
▪ Bear Basin (kid-friendly rating, four stars): For kids 8 and up, the Bear Basin trails are a perfect place to take the family for a low-key ride. The trail map shows green, blue and black trails by difficulty, which is helpful for those riding the area for the first time. Here’s a route I recommend: Start on Baby Bear, drop into the shadows on Sleepy Hollow, then climb Blue Ridge to Upper Drain, a challenging switchback trail with big bermed corners. Even people who have never ridden banked corners do amazingly well when they try it for the first time. If it’s too scary for some folks, walk. Upper Drain runs into Grand Traverse (not signed), the first single-track trail you come to. Go left and return to Baby Bear junction. Try different routes and have fun in Bear Basin!
▪ Jug Mountain Ranch (kid-friendly rating, four stars): Jug Mountain Ranch continues to add more trails and knock it out of the park in terms of trail design and big fun factor. They’ve got a shuttle service to reach the top of their trail system, or you can climb to Jug Mountain Reservoir and enjoy a super fun gravity ride downhill. The trail everyone is raving about lately is Berm N Ernie. One possible short loop is to ride the South Elk Loop, return to the trailhead area and take Basic Training to Mid-Mountain double-track, then take the lower part of Berm N Ernie back to the start. Or, take South Elk to the South Boundary Road, climb to the reservoir, ride Shoreline around the lake, descend on Vandelay and Harper’s Hollow and finish on North Elk. JMR has a cool overnight shelter at Jug Mountain Reservoir that you can rent. Call 208-634-5072 for more information.
Steve Stuebner is a longtime Idaho outdoors writer. He will write occasional columns for Playing Outdoors.