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Endless miles of connecting trails surround my hometown of Sun Valley, Idaho, and create the gateways to the Pioneer, Boulder, and Smokey Mountains adjacent to the resort community. After mountain biking locally in Sun Valley my entire life, I thought I’d ridden almost all the trails our area had to offer — boy, was I mistaken.
This spring I popped for a 4-stroke 250 enduro bike after a kick in the ass by a few friends who often ride 75+ miles of single track in one afternoon. The mountains and trails don’t stop at Sun Valley — traveling north over historic Galena Summit, the Sawtooth and Whitecloud Ranges jut out from Stanley Basin near the headwaters of the Salmon River. This network of trails will take you wherever you want to go, given you have a good map and the motivation to explore high-alpine basins, fields of wildflowers, crystal clear freshwater lakes, and dramatic views of jagged mountains for 360 degrees.
As an outdoor and action photographer, I was enthralled at my new-found ability on the motorbike to travel great distances into the mountains and carry my camera gear on my back. Locations once too far to imagine schlepping my camera suddenly became accessible with relative ease. I quickly found myself standing atop new mountain ridges, catching the last light of an epic sunset to the west and watching the moon rise to the east. I began to realize I was exploring trails on moto that would have otherwise been impossible to pull off on a mountain bike ride due to loose soil, steep climbs, and remote locations.
Endless miles of connecting trails surround my hometown of Sun Valley, Idaho.
Change of pace
I'm a mountain biker at heart, but must confess I've recently been exploring the world of single-track motorcycle riding and just might be a dual biker for life. As an outdoor and action photographer, I was enthralled at my new-found ability on the motorbike to travel great distances into the mountains and carry my camera gear on my back. Here in the Pioneer Mountains, it appears I could have strapped my snowboard on my back for some late-May couloir hiking.
Our bike season starts each spring in late April / early May, as the wildflowers begin to blanket their color over the hillsides. Biking through a painting is the best way to describe the surreal experience had on a descent winding through meadows and groves of budding aspen trees. Arrowleaf balsamroot, seen here, is the most widespread wildflower we see in the early spring, when the snowmelt slowly opens up our trails in the Sun Valley Area.
A few friends and I take in the view and hydrate before a lengthy descent to the valley floor on a perfectly maintained trail in Adams Gulch. The trailhead is not even a mile out of town. World-class bike rides can be enjoyed on lunch break if you're quick, and weekend rides can last all day on the network of trails open to hikers, bikers, motorcyclists, and horseback riders.
Chad Cleveland holds a few Gs as he sends it down the newly built Flow Trail. Established in a section of burned forest recovering from the 2007 Castle Rock Fire, this trail has been a favorite due to the berms that allow riders to pick up speed and flow the trail without skidding. Sun Valley is making a conscious effort to expand their trail system each year, including more trails accessed off the gondola of Bald Mountain Ski Area and dropping 3,000 vertical feet into town.
The grandeur of this wilderness always elicits a moment of silence as we look around in awe, appreciating scenic Idaho and the fact that we have it as our backyard playground. Broc Shue atop Kinsey Cr. and Deer Cr. divide ridge.
I began to realize I was exploring trails on moto that would have otherwise been undesirable and hard to pull off for a mountain bike ride due to loose soil, steep climbs, and remote locations. I have a newfound respect for the years of trail establishment put in by the motorcycle community that formed what also serves as our hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trail system today.
Longer moto rides than I was capable of pulling off on a mountain bike kept leading me to new places, shocking me that I'd never gotten the chance to see the fields of wild yellow and white lupine just beyond that next ridge. The mountains and trails don't stop at Sun Valley.
I'll always love riding my mountain bike the most because of the peaceful pace and natural connection I feel with the earth while pedaling down a winding trail and riding back to the truck under a sunset like this one in the Smoky Mountains near Baker Lake.
There are times when I just feel like grabbing a little throttle and traveling 38 miles in a few hours' ride, as opposed to 8 miles. Oddly enough, this aspect of moto riding has allowed me to come to better peace with my mountain bike—accepting that I'm only going 8 miles that day and will undoubtedly pedal uphill to get a solid workout. I now feel more content on the pedal bike, knowing I did a long moto ride the day before, felt the throttle propel me uphill, and enjoyed the shock suspension of the moto as I coasted downhill for miles at a time with the engine off. Parker Gulch ridgetop view west to SV Resort.
Pioneer Range view
The network of trails in Idaho will take you wherever you want to go. Pioneer Range view from ridgetop of Driveway Gulch.
Mind Bender Ridge
A motor will help you get to the top quick and easy if you can handle pinballing from side to side, struggling to hold a good line in the loose soil. Broc Shue making it look easy atop Mind Bender Ridge near town.
The dilemma of a river crossing is always present, and it's a chore, to say the least, to not dump the bike in the middle! These trails don't have bridges, and turning around after a 20-mile stretch forces us to test our rookie skills and ford the river. I guess I could wade across with my mountain bike over my head.
In the end, all bikers are different individuals with different tastes in life, both on and off the trail. But one thing is for sure: We all enjoy and appreciate the same great outdoors and strive to explore trails that have been passed down to us by previous generations of like-minded people.