Southwest Idaho is the ultimate destination for a bike packing adventure.
The region is crisscrossed with 2,000+ miles of singletrack trails through virtually untouched wilderness — with plenty of epic views and secluded campsites along the way.
Craving to hit the trails but not sure where to start? We’ve put together a guide to help you get started.
Part backpacking and part mountain biking, bikepacking involves carrying the bare essentials on your bike while you explore miles of trails and camp in the wilderness. This could mean just a quick weekend jaunt in the foothills or a multi-week journey spanning hundreds of miles, taking routes along forest service roads or singletrack trails.
The only requirement: You do it all by bike and camp under the stars.
Practically any mountain bike can be fitted into a bikepacking rig. Depending on the trail conditions on your route, you’ll typically want to use a rigid bike with a nice seat, mechanical disc brakes and a multi-position handlebar. (This will balance comfort with ease of use on the trail.)
Because you’ll be riding with additional weight and gear, make sure to take some extra precautions while you ride. Limit your speed, especially while going downhill. Allow more space for stopping distances and turning corners. To prevent fatigue on the trail, ride with a lower gear than usual.
The typical gear setup for a bikepacking rig usually involves a large seat bag, a handlebar bag, water bottle cages, frame bags, a top tube bag and possibly a day pack. Keep the things you’ll need most often on the trail (h4.e. water, snacks, etc.) more easily accessible than what you’ll need at camp. Heavier items should be placed in the frame bag for stability.
Some essentials for the trip to include:
- Mini repair kit — cable ties, inner tube, pliers, CO2 canisters, handpump, quick patches, chain link remover/holder, tire levers
- Camping pack — sleeping mat, sleeping bag, tarpaulin, cord, pegs, small compact tent, headlamp
- Food and nutrition — dehydrated meal packs, protein bars, enamel mug, spork, small camp stove (include fuel, lighters, pot and stand), water bottles and purification tablets (or a filtration pump)
- Clothing — padded shorts, jersey, padded warm gloves, socks, waterproof jacket, thermal leggings and top (for sleeping), swimsuit (for hot springs!), helmet
- Safety and navigation — GPS, portable charger, cell phone, bear spray, sunscreen, bug spray, small first-aid kit
- Other necessities — Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, microfiber towel
3 Bikepacking Trips in Southwest Idaho
A quick overnighter in the Owyhees, a weekend-long jaunt on the Weiser River, a 400-mile journey through rugged mountain ranges…When it comes to bikepacking on Southwest Idaho’s trail systems, you really can choose your own adventure.
Easy Route: Cascade to Tamarack
Coast near the shores of one of Idaho’s largest (and most iconic) lakes. About 30 miles in length, Mountain Road is a lightly trafficked, partially paved route that will take you along the west side of Lake Cascade. You can tackle the whole route in a day or two, or take your time and stay a while at the campgrounds around the lake!
Your journey starts in the small town of Cascade. From there, you’ll bike a few easy miles before making one uphill climb through the ponderosa forests. The rest of the route is relatively flat as you follow the shores of the lake. (You’ll spot plenty of sandy beaches during the ride — be sure to stop, go for a swim and take in the scenery.)
Local’s Tip: About 20 miles into the route, you can take a turn off to Tamarack Resort, where you’ll find a few trails with views overlooking the entire valley!
At the end of the trip, you’ll reach the north side of the lake near Donnelly, where there are plenty of campgrounds nearby. Set up a tent, start a fire and sleep under the stars. When you’re ready to head back, we recommend taking the same route back to Cascade. The eastern side of the lake doesn’t have a straightforward bikepacking route back to town.
Need to rent a bike?
Stop by River Gear in Cascade, right off Main Street. The owners will be happy to set you up with adult and kid-sized bikes to rent for the weekend.
Moderate Route: Weiser River Trail
Once the route of an old railroad, the 84-mile Weiser River Trail winds through 1,400 acres of untouched wilderness. You can bike the entire trail in 2-4 days, or take on 5, 10 or 15 mile sections.
The trail is relatively flat, great for taking the family for a ride! Just make sure you take two cars (park one at the end, and one at the beginning of your route) or arrange for someone to transport you back to your car when you’re finished.
If you want to bike downhill from the northern trailhead, you’ll start your adventure in Council at the Trailside RV & Bicycle Park. (Consider camping there the night before to start bright and early the next morning!) You’ll cruise through lush meadows and then coast through a forested canyon along the Weiser River. Among the trees, you might spot some deer, elk, heron and raptors who call this area home.
You’ll then pass through the small towns of Midvale and Cambridge. Make sure to soak in Mundo Hot Springs and enjoy a hot dinner at Bucky’s Cafe in Cambridge. If you’re looking to treat yourself to a cozy bed for the night, try reserving a room at the Cambridge House Bed and Breakfast! (You can also stay the night at the campground near Mundo Hot Springs.)
On the last portion of the trail, the land will transition to rolling hills of patchwork farmland and open canyons topped with black lava cliffs. You’ll end your journey in Weiser, a small farming community known as the fiddling capital of the world.
Need to rent a bike?
Trailside RV & Bicycle Park offers front suspension mountain bikes, comfort bikes, kid’s bikes, covered child trailers and more. All of their rentals come with an emergency tire repair kit, water bottle holder and a helmet. You can reserve your rental online. (They even offer an affordable shuttle service to get you back to your car once you’ve finished biking the trail!)
Local’s Tip: Camp at Monroe Creek Campground & RV Park and explore the historic buildings in town.
Expert Route: Idaho Smoke n’ Fire 400 Trail
Up for the ultimate bikepacking challenge? Try the Idaho Smoke n’ Fire 400 Trail. This 400-mile loop climbs nearly 41,000 feet over old forest roads and singletrack trails — making for a challenging, adrenaline-filled ride.
The loop begins and ends in Boise. From there, you’ll climb up to Anderson Ranch Reservoir and pass through several mountain towns near the Sawtooth Mountains. After a few challenging summits, the trail will take you to the stunning crystal-clear waters of Redfish Lake, one of the most picturesque places in the state.
After resting up at Redfish Lake, you’ll coast through the meadows outside the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness (one of the most unexplored regions in Idaho) and wind along old Forest Service roads back to Boise.
Biking the entire route will take you at least a week, if not longer. Your campsites will be found along the trail (mainly in meadows and along the river bank), and you can restock your supplies in Ketchum, Featherville and Stanley.
After such a challenging ride, be sure to stay a few days to recoup in Boise. The laid-back city is filled with breweries, wineries, farm-to-table restaurants and plenty of quirky local hangouts.
Bikepacking is one of those rare experiences where you truly get to immerse yourself in the wilderness. It’s just you, your bike and the trail. Everything you need fits on a small frame and two wheels. With every mile, you get to disconnect from the busyness of your everyday routine and reconnect with nature, yourself and the world around you.
The trails we featured in this guide capture just a few of these unforgettable experiences. Check out our Mountain Biking Guide for even more adventures.