A couple of weekends ago, I went out into the Boise foothills on my mountain bike. The sun is out, and so were other bikers and hikers. It’s getting warmer, and for those who have not engaged in winter sports, cabin fever has set in and the mountains offer a sure cure.

There’s one problem. It is still too wet out there. Trails are muddy, and your bike is going to make an impression. One that someone who is doing trail repair is going to have to fix, or a deep groove everyone will be avoiding for the first half of the season.

So what’s the solution if you want to get some dirt under your tires? You still have some options if you want to get some vertical and get out where it is quiet.

Gravel Roads

Okay, they are not as sexy and fun as the single track, but they are dry, offer some technical riding around the inevitable winter damage, and in our area offer miles of vertical. They still won’t be navigable at higher elevations: the winter we had assures us of that. However, in the Boise area, there are a few options.

8th Street: Take 8th up past the pavement, and even past the gate if you are game to ride that far. You’ll get almost  700’ in vertical in the first two miles, and keep going up from there. You can park anywhere in the North End, including at Camelback, and get a little bit of pavement in before you hit the dirt.

A warning: on the weekends and some evenings, there is some traffic on this road, so be mindful, especially when you are speeding down and reaping the rewards of your climb. Cars may be trying to avoid those same potholes and places where runoff has cut rivlets in the road, so slow down for blind corners.

Shaw Mountain Road: The Military Reserve is a great spot to ride anyway, but the single track, especially in the shade, is just too wet still. There are some graveled trails that are passable, and even pleasurable, but there are some stream crossings that are pretty deep. So ride to the top, a good chunk of vertical with plenty of gravel, and race back down.

Sunny, Low Trails

Some of the trails near Camel’s Back Park, a few up in Polecat, and even Seaman’s Gulch are south facing, get pretty constant sun, and are not really shaded. If you do come to a long muddy section turn around. be prepared to tread lightly. Walk, hike, or bike through these areas, not around them, so trail damage will be lessened.  

A few trails have a lot of gravel, especially down low, and are pretty solid. You just have to watch where you are going. The lower section of Table Rock, the graveled trail that goes around to the south and ends at the parking lot, is in reasonable shape.

With all of these areas, be cautious and use your head. Turn around if things get too messy, and if it has rained within the last few days, plan to stick to the roads and gravel. You can check trail conditions on Facebook, at Boise Foothills Trail Conditions.

Doing so will make it a lot more fun this summer for everyone, and keep the trails in the shape we want them to be in. It won’t be long until it is really warm, and we can ride damn near everywhere.