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New trail could allow bikers, hikers to circumnavigate Payette Lake from McCall

The Payette Lake Trail will feature lake views with granite outcroppings and forest in the foreground.
The Payette Lake Trail will feature lake views with granite outcroppings and forest in the foreground. Courtesy of CIMBA

The Central Idaho Mountain Bike Association (CIMBA) plans to begin construction this summer on a non-motorized trail that could allow bikers, hikers and runners to circumnavigate Payette Lake from McCall.

The Payette Lake Trail, which will utilize some existing trail and some paved/gravel routes through town, eventually could create a 33-mile route.

The project has been quietly in the works for years. CIMBA began rolling out the plan publicly last month.

“It’s unreal, the amount of feedback,” said Dave Bingaman, the trails coordinator for CIMBA and a member of the board of directors. “The community support beyond the mountain bike association, it’s surprised us a ton.”

The first two phases of construction will incorporate some old logging roads into the route to get it open. The third phase will include refining the trail to create a single-track experience and building more entry and exit points.

Contractors are lined up to build 4 to 7 miles of trail this summer. That will connect the existing Payette Rim Trail to the North Beach area at the north end of the lake and cost about $70,000. Fund raising is ongoing to cover that cost.

The second phase involves building trail along the east shore of the lake from the north end to Ponderosa State Park, which has trails that follow the park’s peninsula.

The ride from Ponderosa back to the start of the Payette Rim Trail will utilize existing bike paths and roads.

The trail is modeled after the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail at Lake Tahoe.

CIMBA will use volunteer labor to clear brush and do finish work on the trail.

“There’s a real good chance we’ll be able to ride it this fall,” Bingaman said. “Certainly it depends on how dry it is when we’re building the trail.”

The route across Idaho Department of Lands property is “complete backcountry” with stunning lake views, granite outcroppings and mostly mild slopes, Bingaman said.

“I’ve spent a lot of time walking through that area looking at that route we’re proposing,” Bingaman said. “Just the phase one route alone is going to be phenomenal. ... It’s going to be an appealing trail to not only bikers but also people on foot.”

The most extended climb will be about 700 feet to reach the shelf where most of the trail will be. From there, most ascents and descents will be about 200 feet of elevation change, Bingaman said. The vision is for intermediate difficulty.

“Once you get up and away from the lake, we’ll construct it so it’s gentle climbing instead of a straight-up-the-hill gruntfest,” he said.

The second and third phases haven’t been approved by the Department of Lands yet. Phase two could be more difficult to route and might involve federal lands, said Scott Corkill, the Payette Lakes area manager for the Department of Lands.

CIMBA is paying about $1,000 a year to lease the land for phase one, Bingaman said. The trail is considered a secondary use behind timber management, Corkill said.

The “best-case scenario” has the trail completed in five years or less, Bingaman said.

“The Tahoe Rim Trail, it’s still evolving but it’s been like a 20-year project,” he said. “I don’t have the patience for that. I want to ride my bike on it while I’m still young enough to do it.”

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