Bikers, hikers are a step closer to a trail looping all the way around Payette Lake

Two years after the Central Idaho Mountain Bike Association (CIMBA) first announced its plans to build a trail orbiting Payette Lake, roughly half of the route is finished.

“The big vision is that you’ll be able to ride all the way around the lake and basically … not be on asphalt as much as possible,” Wayne Ruemmele, president of CIMBA, said in a phone interview.

The route, called the Payette Lake Trail, is a mishmash of existing mountain bike trails, unused logging roads and new trail constructed by CIMBA. The group will celebrate the opening of the first phase of the trail on Saturday, July 13, from 2 to 8 p.m. at Depot Park in McCall.

“The opening is for phase one, which is the west side of the trail,” Ruemmele said. “It connects Bear Basin all the way north to the Brush Creek snowmobile parking lot up on Warren Wagon Road.”

CIMBA trails coordinator Dave Bingaman said the new section of the trail is 6.6 miles, about 5 miles of which is new construction. That portion links to the existing 5.5-mile Payette Rim Trail for a ride that’s around 12 miles.

Though it’s a mixed-use trail, Bingaman and Ruemmele said the route was built to “flow” — something mountain bikers in particular look for.

“There are some new views of the lake and the valley, some great new forested sections that we’re able to ride through,” Ruemmele said. “It’s similar to the existing Payette Rim Trail, but on the other hand, it’s built completely differently with a purpose in mind of being fast and fun and flowing.”

Thus far, CIMBA has spent about $240,000 on the path, Bingaman said. He estimates the remainder of the construction east of the lake will be a bit pricier, in the neighborhood of $375,000 to $400,000.

payette trail
The Payette Lake Trail will go all the way around the lake. The red portion represents phase one construction. Courtesy of CIMBA

CIMBA is still waiting on final route approval from the Idaho Department of Lands.

Ruemmele said the east side of the route poses some unique challenges.

“There are potentially three bridges on the east side that could cost $60,000 apiece, so we’re trying to avoid those bridges,” he said.

Instead, CIMBA is working with the Department of Lands and other partners to develop creek crossings that will be usable even in the spring when water is high. Ruemmele said the goal is to carve out a route that’s sustainable.

The trail, which has been in the works for years, was modeled after the Tahoe Rim Trail at Lake Tahoe, a 165-mile trek.

While several popular mountain biking routes already exist near Payette Lake, Bingaman said he thinks the loop will complement them.

“It’s a really nice addition to what we already have in McCall,” Bingaman said. “It’s unique.”

Certainly it’s not unusual for hikers and bikers to try to make their way around the lake, but Ruemmele said those routes aren’t geared toward the mountain biking crowd.

“A lot of people go for a ride around the lake and they’re on roads,” he said. “What this does is create more of a mountain bike trail, not a road loop.”

Though the trail doesn’t open for a few more days, recreationists are already excited about it, Ruemmele said.

“We’ve definitely kept people off for as long as we can,” he said. “People are champing at the bit to get out there and ride on it. The people who have ridden it so far have said it’s pretty amazing. … It’ll really open up some new terrain that, even though it’s been close to town, nobody’s really been there.”

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