Tour of Idaho (T1)
Tour participants are expected to ride all of the trails along the current route using only our 2020 route files and maps, to provide beacon links for live tracking and to submit a gps track file within three days of finishing the ride (for more on routes and tracks see below). Each day contains a minimum of two challenge points. All challenge points must be verified with a selfie posted to our Facebook group with the hashtag #tourofIdaho (use this same hashtag on your personal social media as well). This should be done as soon as possible (many CPs are in places where you may upload your photo immediately) but definitely no later than the evening after they were taken unless a data connection is not possible (which can happen in a few places).
Most days have an optional challenge section (not the same as challenge points, which are not optional). Groups must complete a number of challenge sections equal to the number of riders in the group (up to three - the largest group size allowed). Some of the challenge sections are long, some are technically challenging, some are difficult to navigate and some are all of the above. Once you choose to begin a challenge section you must either complete it or turn around and back track to the original route then continue as if you'd not attempted the challenge section. No bailing out in the middle of a challenge section unless along a route designated for that purpose.
The trails that compose the Tour are technically open from July through most of September. The Tour itself runs July 15 through Sept. 20. Most years those planning an early Tour (end of July or earlier) will spend a lot of time sawing trails or log hopping. Soloists are advised to start out no earlier than early August.
Under no circumstances should any Tour rider use a trail that is marked closed. If a trail is closed (for fire, erosion or any other reason) it is not required to complete the Tour. The only expectation is that you rejoin the Tour route as soon as possible and do not use a detour to gain an advantage that would not be possible on the normal route. We grant exceptions to the "ride 'em all" rule for fires. In some seasons large sections of the Tour are unfortunately closed due to fire. In that event it's just not possible to finish. Riding a closed trail, for any reason, is a very likely DNF. Not being able to find a trail, or not being able to properly interpret a trail sign, is not the same as a closed trail.
Any significant deviation from the published Tour route or the practices outlined above is considered a DNF (soloists have a bit more leeway than teams, but not much). Tour participants must join the Facebook group, the Facebook Riders group, consent to beacon tracking (the Garmin/DeLorme InReach SE is highly recommended) and must submit their complete track log for inspection within three days of finishing the route.
As you can see the Tour of Idaho is a whole lot of work for little more than a bunch of folks monitoring your progress on their laptops and smart phones cheering you on. The effort to reward ratio is almost completely upside down. You will suffer greatly for almost no glory and very little tangible reward. Many will fail to finish. Many have ridden what they considered to be "95%" of the route but did not qualify as finishers. The details count. The Tour is as much a journey through one's own soul as anything else and is less a motorcycle ride than a bodacious outdoor adventure that happens to take place on a motorcycle. If you are just looking to check off another motorcycle ride you'd be way better off riding the route on your own terms or doing a BDR - where the odds of success are much higher and Interwebs bragging rights far easier to obtain (no slight intended, both options rock).
But, if after pondering all of this, doing something much bigger than you just for the hell of it still seems like a good idea, read on.
You'll need to check out the Tour of Idaho Facebook group for up to date information about the Tour. The group is open (except during Tour season) so anyone may explore the content without being a member. You should request to become a member only if you are serious about attempting the Tour (you must read the group description before asking to be admitted and there is some additional light screening). You'll also need to join the MotorcycleJazz.com forum before you set off. We'll establish a 2020 riders group there. You must indicate your interest in the 2020 Tour by joining the Tour of Idaho Facebook group and forum no later than June 1st, 2020 in order to be considered for the 2020 Tour. You will also find our FAQ and home page to be useful resources.
Now down to brass tacks. There are three things that you'll need in order to maximize your educational experience here. 1) The patience and perseverance to read for comprehension (years of bitter experience have taught us that many Tour aspirants have minimal aptitude for this). 2) The capacity to fully grasp navigation and all of its nuance. 2a) The skill to read a map and route book. 3) The wherewithal to understand that you have never done anything a whole lot like this before.
The 2020 route maps are available on this page (below) along with a 2020 Route Book (a condensed version of the route description below). The route files for 2020 contain widely-spaced waypoints (no bread crumbs anymore) so map study in advance of arriving at the start of the Tour is advised. The route changes every year and you will need to use this year's data in order to obtain the requisite number of challenge points to succeed. Every year at least one party shows up with a track they got from somewhere other than this site (a previous year's track is typical). If you do that we'll almost certainly figure it out and the odds are high you'll earn nothing more than a DNF.
The ability to use a map, along with your route book and gps to navigate between points, is a large part of completing the Tour. This is deliberate and Tour vets almost uniformly describe navigation as not only one of the biggest challenges of completing the Tour (easily rivaling the riding skill required), but an estimable part of the fun. Our approach allows you to engage the route months before you are physically riding it and provides a rewarding (we are told) navigational challenge above and beyond following a line on an iPhone. Call it old school if you like. Weeks of map study and navigational preparation are advised and our methods are designed to encourage you to do just that. The payoff is that you will have little trouble finding your way while actually riding the Tour if you prepare in advance as we suggest. Take it to the bank.
The best way to prepare for Tour navigation in advance is to reconcile our route waypoints with our maps, the route book and any notes that you make from observing our waypoints on Google Earth. You may then create your own route file from our waypoints to follow if you'd like, but that's actually more work than needed and may actually degrade your ability to navigate when you get here. We recommend that you simply add waypoints to ours as you see fit while studying the route (without overdoing it), upload everything to your GPS, and then use your GPS to navigate from waypoint to waypoint with maps as a backup. The reason for this is that every trail map we've used for the Tour is wrong in some places. It's inevitable. Trails change all of the time and keeping up is a problem for any map maker. Our waypoints are where then need to be and are accurate. If our waypoint looks like it's a quarter of a mile off of the trail on the map you are looking at I can all but guarantee that our waypoint is right and the map is wrong.
Though this may seem excessive for those weaned on the ADVRider practice of following tracks created by others it will pay off on the Tour. Again, if you take the time to do this I can almost guarantee that you will have little difficulty navigating the actual route when you get here.
For all GPS units here are the 2020 gpx files (note: different browsers handle the .gpx extension differently. If the normal left click and save doesn't work try right click and save. If that doesn't work get Firefox or IE): D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, D6, D7, D8, D9, D10. If you have further questions please read this before you email us about GPS files. The waypoints in the files are descriptively named, e.g., 1D = day 1, 1C = day one challenge section, x = one person team, y = two person team, z = 3 person team. So waypoint 3Dxy22 would be the twenty-second waypoint on day three on the route taken by one and two member teams. A bit of map study will almost certainly clear up any confusion.
A bit about GPS units. We recommend using three for the Tour: A Trail Tech Voyager Pro as a primary, a backpacking style GPS (Garmin makes several that are excellent) as a backup and a cell phone running Rever, Stava or something similar as a second backup.
The Voyager Pro, in addition to being an excellent and very accurate GPS every without the external antenna, also provides reams of useful information about your motorcycle. For teams the buddy feature is indispensable. I use a Garmin GPSMAP 64ST, which I find to be excellent, as my first backup - but there are many similar GPS units that will work just fine. I use a smartphone running Earthmate paired with my Garmin/DeLorme InReach SE personal locater beacon as my second backup. Whatever you do, please do not use your cellphone (or worse, some sort of automobile GPS) for your primary navigation. None of this works very well for the Tour and the number of things that can go wrong is more than I can count on my fingers and toes. Get dedicated GPS units and keep your cellphone safely stashed away. You'll be happy that you did. If you feel the need to argue about this the Tour may not be right for you.
Every rider in each team should carry three GPS units. The number of teams that have shown up at the flagpole with one or two GPS units between three people is a subject of much legend. And for the teams involved, much subsequent unhappiness. GPS issues hose as many teams as bike failures and personal fatigue. It's crazy to do as much work as you are going to do on the Tour only to be let down by something as easy to correct as the right GPS for the job.
Make sure that at least one of the GPS units that you use is dedicated to creating a track of your Tour (as opposed to being used primarily for navigation). A GPS "track" file is not the same as a "route" file. A route file consists of a series of discrete, named waypoints that are created in order to plan a route. A track file consists of a a series of unnamed waypoints (typically a few seconds apart) created by a GPS as one travels. Our daily route files typically contain up to a hundred or so waypoints. Your daily track files will contain thousands. Creating a track is something that you should practice in advance and that you should check daily while on the Tour. We might accept a low-resolution beacon track for one day in event of some GPS calamity, but not for 10 days. Most GPS units create tracks almost by default. All you generally have to do is name them.
Now for the 2020 maps. The daily maps at 100K resolution: D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, D6, D7, D8, D9, D10 and a 500K map. The color code on the maps is as follows: red = normal (two person) route, green = one member team route variation, blue = three member team route variation, yellow = challenge section, black = bonus section, purple = circumstantial alternative. Here is the 2020 Route Book. Here are the 2020 Challenge Points.
The longest distance between fuel stops for 2020 will be about 230 miles and you'll have to manage this twice - very workable on most large desert tanks along with a Giant Loop fuel bladder or two.
Finally, some miscellaneous helpful bits. We have an extensive collection of Tour of Idaho videos on our YouTube page. The SNOTEL page provides valuable information about the nature of snow levels on many passes along the Tour. The Idaho Parks and Recreation OHV website have interactive maps with very high resolution views of the trails for the entire Tour. These maps are an invaluable resource for road/trail numbers, opening and closing dates - there's even an Inciweb layer available. For fire information check out the Idaho Inciweb page. The Idaho Digital Atlas contains a wealth of useful information about the Tour route. We also highly recommend the Roadside Geology of Idaho, an indispensable pre-ride winter read.
A trail is much more than a line on a map - it's the sum of of the efforts of all who worked to make it a reality. We owe a great debt of gratitude to several individuals who helped us wrestle this epic off of our laptops and into the great outdoors.
Thanks to our friends at Pocatello Power Sports for keeping us in bikes, tires and accessories.
Note: Nearly all of the small towns along the Tour route have at least one establishment with free WiFi. A WiFi enabled cell phone will generally be the only inexpensive way of checking in with family and friends at the end of each day and uploading challenge point photographs. A really good reason for not using one's cellphone as a primary GPS is that uploading Challenge Point photos becomes problematic if one's phone gets damaged or lost because it's exposed and vulnerable (it's happened many times).
The following description breaks the Tour into ten segments. These are the intervals to which Tour participants must adhere. Based on our experience, competent, well-equipped parties traveling at reasonable speeds will have little trouble knocking off the entire Tour in ten trail days. The advantages of the suggested schedule are that accommodations are not generally a problem and the riding difficulties are distributed so that one day is not radically more difficult than the next. The intervals are as follows: D1 - Utah to Pocatello, D2 - Pocatello to Arco, D3 - Arco to Smoky Creek, D4 - Smoky Creek to Challis, D5 - Challis to Salmon, D6 - Salmon to North Fork, D7 - North Fork to Lowell, D8 - Lowell to Powell Ranger Station, D9 - Powell Ranger Station to Wallace, D10 - Wallace to Sundance Mountain. The average day on the Tour is around 180 miles.
A stopover day in Pocatello (the biggest town along the route) right after the first day on the trail is allowed and recommended. Pocatello is the largest city along the route and the best place to sort out bike or equipment issues that you may have discovered on D1. You can change oil, tires, repack and take care of any maintenance in the biggest (and most well-equipped) town along the route. It also makes it easy to get the pre-dawn start that's a really good idea for D2. Pass on the allowed day off in Pocatello and the historic odds of success go way down.
Please bear in mind that though we have covered every inch of the recommended route and believe our descriptions to be accurate, conditions can change, in some instances very rapidly, due to weather, fire, human activities, closures, etc. A group once got lost and abandoned the Tour because of a new trailhead parking lot. It's very common for people to miss trails or challenge points because they get tracks to follow from sources other than here. But as thorough as we've tried to be, the route description and GPS files provided here are no substitute for the ability to pull out a map and figure things out when you discover that you're not in Kansas any more. Those attempting to substitute a GPS unit for route finding and the ability to read a map will doubtless spend a lot of time lost. Again, navigation is a deliberately important part of the adventure.
The Tour of Idaho is not a casual undertaking. Completing the Tour requires reasonably high degrees of riding skill, outdoor acumen, physical conditioning, navigational ability, mechanical skill, knowledge of emergency first aid and a healthy dollop of good luck. The information on this website is not meant as a substitute for any of the above. A trail that we describe as flat and fast, for instance, may change overnight as the result of a storm. You ride the Tour at your own risk. Any attempt to replace "eyes on the spot" judgment with something you read here (or elsewhere) may well result in calamity. You may want to check out the FAQ for answers to specific questions we've gotten (or wish we had).
Please note that all estimates for time on the trail do not factor in the additional time required for extensive sawing or completing the more difficult challenge sections.
In order to assist in assessing what you are riding into from day to day the "Touracles" (a group of Tour vets) have produced a series of trail ratings for the ATV and single track trails on the Tour. Please note that these are based on nominal conditions and that all it takes is one storm to change things. All ratings assume an unaccompanied rider with no support on a loaded Tour bike riding the trail for the first time. Remoteness, fatigue and technicality are all taken into account. The scale is from 1 (easiest) to 5 (most difficult) and the ratings are normalized to Tour of Idaho trails.
The technical ratings are augmented with a scale borrowed from the MPAA we've pressed into use here to indicate mental stressors such as exposure, creek crossings and anything else that could ruin a Tour for the unlucky or unwary. No suffix indicates a trail that should be no problem for any competent solo rider of intermediate ability on a loaded Tour bike. A suffix of "PG" indicates slightly elevated risk. A suffix of "R" means that one should make doubly sure that their beacon is working. A suffix of "X" means to radio the tower and have them foam a runway.
Finally we have attempted to quantify the quality of each trail. This, of course, is highly subjective and it is what it is. An asterisk (*) indicates a trail of above average quality. Two asterisks (**) indicates a trail of that is virtually overflowing with redeeming social value. Three asterisks indicates a veritable cornucopia of the most noble characteristics to which any trail may aspire.
The Malad City Chamber of Commerce has arranged free parking in Malad, just a few miles north of the Utah border, for Tour of Idaho riders. Here is a kmz file that you may open in Google Earth that shows where the parking is, and here is what it looks like from the street. Just leave a note in the windshield of your rig that you are riding the Tour of Idaho (it might not hurt to check in with the local police either). The recommended accommodation in Malad City is the Hotel Malad, which is just a short jog from the parking area. Hess Lumber and Evans Co-op can take care of your last minute hardware and sporting goods needs.
D1 - Utah to Pocatello (150 - 200 miles)
D2 - Pocatello to Arco (260 miles)
Day two sets out along the world's mellowest motorcycle single track trail just as your coffee is kicking in and the sun is coming up. That last part is important because things get very interesting west of American Falls if you hit the desert sand in the heat of the afternoon on most summer days. Twelve or so hours ought to suffice at any reasonable clip. The longest stretch between fuel stops is 140 miles (between American Falls and Arco).
Begin by heading west out of Pocatello to Gibson Jack Road (70008) and follow it to its end. At the west end of the parking lot find the ATV trail that crosses a creek and heads uphill (7015) for less than half a mile to an intersection. Go left (downhill) a short distance to trail (7018) which narrows to single track and heads southwest up Dry Creek. Follow this trail some 6 miles as it contours the eastern slopes of Gibson and Slate Mountains (video). Aside from some brief side hill moments of concern this trail is one of the best anywhere.
Slate Mountain Trail
You'll eventually descend to Mink Creek Road. Turn left there and proceed northeast for about a mile to a well-marked intersection with East Fork (Scout Mountain) road on the right. Follow this east for about half a mile to a parking area on the left. This marks the beginning of the Lead Draw trail (70331, 7109). Follow this east for for a little over a mile (video) and look for an intersection with trail 7133 on the right. Follow this trail south a little over 2 miles to a picnic area/campground.
Proceed south through the picnic area to the Crestline Cycle Trail (7148). The Crestline Cycle Trail winds up wooded slopes to eventually emerge beneath the rugged and spectacular east face of Scout Mountain (video). After about 4 miles from it's start the Crestline Cycle Trail intersects road 70009. From here one turns right (west) and follows the winding road 2 miles to the top of Scout Mountain (8700'). Your first CP of the day is on top.
The D2 challenge section begins at the aforementioned intersection. Just before the Crestline Cycle Trail intersects road 70009 one encounters trail 7178 (Bell Marsh) on the left (east). This 11-mile loop winds east down Bell Marsh, south then west along trail 7152 eventually reconnecting with road 70009 (you'll have to backtrack just a bit along 70009 to reconnect with the Tour route). Why you should ride it. It's far and away the easiest of 'em all. If you got off to an early start and the weather is overcast or cool go for it. Why you should not. Though short, this loop is time-consuming and soaks up a lot of time while not advancing you an inch (you end up back where you started). It is not recommended unless you've managed a very early start out of Pocatello because you do not want to get to the desert section of D2 much after noon.
From the intersection of Crestline Cycle Trail with the road follow 70009 downhill less than a mile to an intersection with East Fork Trail (7186). Turn right (west) and follow this ATV trail about a mile west then north to Frog Pond. From there, proceed north another mile or so (video) to Race Track Trail (7184), a single track trail that veers sharply to the left (west). Follow this for about 3.5 miles west to South Fork Road (70163).
This initial 20 or so miles of trail on D2 is among the most enjoyable of the entire Tour. But for a few miles of connecting roads and ATV trail it's almost entirely casual single track. The riding is mellow enough that one may enjoy the scenery in a manner that is often not possible elsewhere along the Tour.
Head south (left) on South Fork/Mercer Creek Road for a few miles to an intersection with Garden Creek Road. Continue south another few miles to an intersection with Rattlesnake Creek Road. Turn right and proceed a few miles west to South Bannock Hwy.
Two things about the desert. The first is that most of it is private land owned by a few large holding companies. Some of us have ridden here for 40 years without any problems but the inconsiderate actions of a few are beginning to endanger this. Make sure that you close any gate that you open. Although you are very unlikely to encounter anyone who has a problem with you being there, if you do, find your way to the nearest power line road (all are easements) and just get back to the route as soon as you can. The second thing that's important to now is that perhaps nowhere else along the Tour is it as important to stay on the track as it is out in this desert. The consequences of getting lost in the middle of a hot day (or worse at night) are almost too awful to even consider. It is important that you stay as close to the track as possible to avoid unpleasant encounters with trespass, basalt rock, cactus, nasty whoops, deep holes and other desert treats. On Tour veteran, a professional rider of vast experience, referred to the desert section of the Tour as "a beater." He wasn't making anything up. Personally I love the desert but I also recognize that it has the potential to be grueling and serious if you take it lightly.
Most of the established tracks in the area are overused, whooped-out and nasty. Our track is designed to help you avoid the unpleasantness. In some places you'll be on an established trail but in those places the trail will be OK. You are required to follow our route through the desert as closely as possible and you'll get dinged some CP's if your track shows that you strayed very far from it.
The normally fine, extremely dry basaltic sand in this area is the most difficult that some have ever ridden. Where the trails are whooped it's difficult to keep up the speeds required to stay on top of the sand. If you are very, very lucky, you'll get there after a summer thunderstorm and experience nirvana.
It is incredibly important that you scout the rock chute entrance to Lake Channel, to make sure that you are in the right spot, before taking the plunge - as the surrounding cliffs reach heights of nearly 100'. Most attempts to do this after dark count as failed suicides rather than heroic deeds.
Please note that it is very hot in the desert most of the time during the Tour of Idaho season (July and August anyway). Do not go out into the desert without proper hydration and ventilation. On a hot day the 140 or so miles from American Falls to Arco are very serious (110+ temps). Once you get out of the sand and into the basalt rock (after the first 30 miles) you'll be able to ride fast enough to cool down except for numerous gates that need to be opened and closed. The only real respite from the heat will be the summit of Big Southern Butte many miles to the north. Plan accordingly.
Once into the bowl follow the waypoints half a mile to a climb out of the bowl on the right. Proceed along through a mixture of dunes, rocky roads, sandy roads and sandy trail about 5 miles to an intersection with a trail that heads north. Follow intermittent cow trails north a few miles to the third of three power line roads you'll encounter. Turn right (east) and head back to Lake Channel Road. Once there turn left (north), cross the RR tracks, and immediately turn right, following Quigley road as it paralles the RR tracks. After about a half mile the road takes a sharp left and heads north from the RR tracks.
From here the route skirts the east edge of the Wapi Lava Flow some 35 miles to the Great Rift - an area of lava tubes and deep chasms in the Basalt. Proceed north along Quigley Road some 10 miles north to North Pleasant Valley then along Schultz, Funk Roads and Classen Roads to Water Tank Road. The turnoff north (right) to Classen Road from Funk Road is unmarked but located where Funk Road turns from gravel to dirt. When the fields are planted this may be difficult to find. It is entirely possible to skirt the fields by continuing another half mile west to Winters Road, then turning right (north) and proceeding another half a mile to an east/west road on the south side of a fence line (Water Tank Road). No matter how you get there follow Water Tank Road east to Flat Top Road (0733). Follow this north about 7.5 miles to Gasten Beattie Well. Continue north along 0733 another 3.5 miles to Mosby Well. Continue north another 25+ miles to Big Southern Butte-Springfield Road. Along this section of the route it is very easy to get confused by a myriad of jeep roads and goat trails.
From the intersection with BSB-Springfield Road turn left (west) and proceed a few miles to Frenchman's Cabin. The 6-mile trek to the top of the Butte begins here. On a clear day the view from the top (7560') includes a dozen mountain ranges, 1/3 of the Tour, most of T2 and parts of Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho's Snake River Valley from the Tetons all the way to Boise (video). Your sixth and last D2 challenge point is on top of the butte.
D3 - Arco to Smoky Bar (185 - 200 miles)
Two and three person teams will turn west (left) at 3Dxyz18 and proceed up Sand Canyon several miles to a divide between Bird Canyon (west) and Van Dorn Canyon (east). From the top of the divide, two member teams will head north on Sand Canyon trail to Mike's Trail (4308) and an intersection with the solo route. Three member teams will head west down Van Dorn Canyon (4217). All three variants intersect at 3Dxyz19 on Van Dorn Canyon Road.
Please note that Sands and Van Dorn Canyon trails are seasonal and close before the Tour closes (September 9). After these trails close all teams will follow the solo route through this area. Two and three member teams will be required to do the Bear Creek/Wet Creek bonus loop to make up for the trails lost due to closure.
Shortly after the routes merge turn north (left) at Van Dorn Cutoff Trail (432) and after a brief jog north turn west (left) at Deer Creek Trail (277). Head north along FS527 and then FS235 to Deer Creek Pass, then downhill several miles to an intersection with Pass Creek Road (122). This area is sometimes closed until late in the season due to a huge, active avalanche chute (you'll see it) and an alternative route is shown on the maps if a detour is necessary.
At Pass Creek Road a bonus tail is available. For those so inclined proceed north a few miles to Pass Creek Summit. From there turn west (left) and head up FS539 a mile or so to an intersection with trail 4092 on the south (left). This single track wanders around Warren Mountain some four miles to road 832 which intersects Pass Creek Road after a short distance. Turn south and and head a short distance to waypoint 3Dxyz27.
Others head south down Pass Creek road a few miles to an intersection with Bench Road at waypoint 3Dxyz29. Turn west (right) and proceed several miles to the town of Mackay. Mackay has gas, grub and a hardware store.
From Mackay you'll head out of town to the south via Smelter Ave, west past Anderson Spring toward the entrance to Grande Canyon. At waypoint 3Dxyz34 turn to the south and up Alder Creek Road. About six miles later, at waypoint 3Dxyz36, you'll intersect Mammoth Canyon Road (517) and turn north (right). Head up Mammoth Canyon about a mile to road 40516 on the west (left) which quickly turns into trail 4070 in Stewart Canyon. Those who disdain quad trails as unworthy are in for a surprise. You'll crest 10,000' for the first time on the Tour here on the White Knob Mountain crest at the pass between Stewart Canyon and Corral Canyon.
After the pass you'll descend north then west down Corral Creek a few miles to Burma Road. Take Burma Road south to East Fork Road - the main drag through Copper Basin. Head north then west several miles to trail 4056 that heads up Wildcat Canyon and Wildhorse Lookout (9359') - truly one of the more spectacular spots along the Tour. Again, for those who disdain all quad trails as unworthy, here's part II of your education.
After the descent from Wildhorse LO, turn west (right) and jog down East Fork Road a short distance to Wildhorse Creek on the left. Head south along Wildhorse Creek Road (40136), past the Guard Station to Burnt Aspen Trail (4055) on the west (left). This trail is among the best of the entire Tour. You will enjoy the increasingly spectacular views as you wind your way up to the divide between Burnt Aspen Creek and Little Kane Creek - and they get even better as you wander down the Kane Creek drainage.
At the bottom of Little Kane Creek you'll encounter a road (40134) that winds its way west around Phi Kappa Mountain to Trail Creek Road (NFS 208). From here the route heads west over Trail Creek Summit. From Trail Creek Summit you'll head southwest some 12 miles to Ketchum/Sun Valley Idaho - a.k.a. "Glitter Gulch." Bruce Willis lives here. So do Peter Cetera, Steve Miller, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mark Zuckerberg, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and Tony Robbins. Hemingway had a home here as well and that might've had something to do with why he volunteered for an early ride on the great wheel in the sky on July 2, 1961.
I suggest taking the time to park your fanny on a bench in the vicinity of Whiskey Jacques and just take it all in (you are, after all, on a Tour of Idaho). The immortal words of Sophocles, "Oh, God, here comes the dreadful truth," will never ring more true. More than a few hours here and you will want to jab yourself in the head with a piece of rebar.
Do not let the laid back demeanor of the locals wearing $300 sandals fool you either. Almost everyone staring at you and your bike dislikes you and hates your bike. Honest and no lie. Shall I fan you gently so you don't go into shock?
The pass between Stewart Canyon and Corral Creek. Photo was taken from the Challenge Point.
From Ketchum head west along Warm Springs Road (NFS 227) about 11 miles or so to Warfield-South Fork Trail (7151). Head southwest for a few miles until the trail climbs steeply through a series of switchbacks to an intersection with Red Warrior Trail (7120) on the left. Continue south, then west, then north to Middle Fork-South Fork Trail (7199). Here, just beyond waypoint 3Dxyz69, a short cut is available to soloists. All others will take Middle Fork Warm Springs Trail (7150) to Dollarhide Summit Trail (7995), then a few miles west toward Dollarhide Summit. The exit from the trail is a bit difficult to find but is very close to waypoint 3Dxyz71 off to the right in the middle of a steep uphill section of the trail. Someone usually piles up some logs here to block the trail but you'll most likely be to wheelie over them as the trail appears to continue ahead. It does, but only for another 1/4 of a mile or so.
The D3 challenge section begins near waypoint 3Dxyz69 and continues along trail 7151 (part of the solo route) to Meadow Creek ATV trail (7302) back to Warm Springs Road. A right turn here leads you to the challenging part of the D3 challenge: Placer Creek/East Fork Big Peak Creek (7076).
D4 - Smoky Bar to Challis (170 - 185 miles)
Day four again traverses some of the most spectacular terrain anywhere accessible by motorcycle. It's 170+ miles of continuous fun with an elevated level of challenge - in terms of both riding and navigation. Fuel should not be an issue with Smiley Creek and Sawmill Station strategically located along the route. Somewhere north of 9 hours ought to suffice for soloists. A few hours more for teams.
From the southern end of Big Smoky head north about 11 miles along Paradise Creek Trail (7070) to Snowslide Lakes. The first part of this is fast and flowing with just a bit of gnarl before Snowslide Lakes. After the pass at Paradise Peak you'll encounter what many will consider an introduction to "side hills of major concern" - a theme that will become much more prevalent in coming days. One of the reasons for starting D4 at Smoky Bar in 2020 was to give more teams an opportunity to see how far down it is off the side of the trail, in a couple of spots, in broad daylight. The good news is that it's only two switchbacks.
After the second switchback head down mile or so to the West Fork of Big Smoky (224), then southeast just a bit over two miles and look for an intersection on the left with Mule Creek Trail (198) which is not well-marked. Trail 198 is a riot (video), and will aptly punctuate a great morning of riding as you follow it up several miles to the divide between the Smoky Mountains and the Sawtooths and an intersection with Big Smoky Creek Trail (072).
From this intersection head north and follow the trail steeply downhill a few miles to an intersection with NFD 215. The small creek on your left is the origin of the mighty Salmon River. About 5 miles later you'll encounter ID 75. From here it's a short jaunt north to Smiley Creek Lodge where gas is available if needed.
The next 5 miles (70669) climb steeply to the highest point of the Tour (10,420') atop Railroad Ridge where you'll want to pause to enjoy a vista that includes virtually all of the highest parts of Idaho and the spectacular Chinese Wall.
Proceed north 11 miles (70670, 7615, 7675, 2001) to French Creek where the trail narrows from dirt road, to jeep trail to single track as it descends down to the Salmon River. At the very bottom of French Creek, within sight of Hwy 75, the trail bears left to avoid private land near waypoint 4Dxyz43. Do not go through the gate to get to the road. Instead find the trail off to the left which climbs a side hill and descends toward a trailhead parking area. From the intersection with Hwy 75 head east about a mile to Old Sawmill Station where gas is available (24 x 7) along with supplies and some great sandwiches.
Railroad Ridge - the roof of the Tour. The motorcycle is on the Challenge Point.
From Old Sawmill Station, head west along 75 about 3 miles to a bridge which crosses the Salmon River on the right, The right of way on the north side of the bridge is private so head west another two and a half miles along 75 to a dirt road just the other side of a bridge that is a public right of way. Follow this back around to Thompson Creek Road (FS 040).
Head north along Thompson Creek Road (FS 040) about 10 miles to a trail on the left (161) near waypoint 4D32. This trail is not hard to miss but you'll know you did if your start climbing steeply up a series of switchbacks. Follow 161 west about a mile and a half to Cinnabar Creek Trail (162). The last 1/4 of a mile up to Cinnabar ascends a steep meadow and the trail is a bit difficult to follow. The optimal path is marked by a series of rock cairns. Turn left (west) and follow the trail about a half mile to an intersection at a pass.
A very short distance to the west along trail 162 you'll encounter the D4 challenge section: Custer LO. This is a spectacular trail, and a must do at some point in your riding career, but one of the more airy and technical challenge sections on the Tour. Though short this four mile loop will test your meddle - including your ability to deal with dizzying side hills. It is recommended that you ride the loop in the counterclockwise direction only. You must go all the way to the lookout, which requires some extra work, to complete the challenge section.
Why you should ride it. You'll never find a better view than from the top. It's one of my favorite places. Why you should not. It's a long way down in a few spots and some commitment is required to advance. Not advised for soloists.
Continue west down Fivemile Creek to an intersection with Yankee Fork Road (FS 070). Turn right and head northeast about six miles to Elevenmile Creek.