Besides being famous for potatoes, the state of Idaho has a much-deserved reputation for natural beauty. With rugged landscapes and gorgeous mountain views, it offers visitors and locals alike a chance to soak up the scenery from its many trails. For those who prefer to take in their surroundings from atop a bicycle, there are many well-maintained biking trails available throughout the state. Read on to discover the longest biking trail in Idaho and where to find it.
What is the Longest Biking Trail in Idaho?
The longest biking trail in Idaho is the Weiser River National Recreation Trail. It runs for 84 miles through a variety of terrain, including desert canyons, evergreen forests, and alpine meadows. The northern end of the trail lies a few miles northwest of New Meadows on Whispering Pine Road; the southern end lies in Weiser at Community Fish Pond on 4th Street. The trail passes through the Washington and Adams counties as well as the communities of Weiser, Midvale, Cambridge, and Council.
The Weiser River National Recreation Trail
The Weiser River National Recreation Trail’s surface varies, with different sections composed of asphalt, ballast, and gravel. Equestrians occasionally use the route, as well as hikers and cyclists. The trail passes through different communities as well as more isolated areas. Some stretches do not have cell reception, notably those that descend into canyons. Cyclists braving these areas must be prepared with adequate supplies.
The trail features 62 historic trestles, some of which are almost entirely made of wood. These allow cyclists safe passage over bodies of water and coulees. The trail follows the Weiser River for nearly its full length.
In August 1997, the Friends of the Weiser River Trail acquired the land for the trail, once occupied by a popular railroad line. Hoping to preserve the natural beauty of the area as well as allow unfettered access to its wonders, they created a new path and opened it to the public. Today, it is extremely popular with all types of users.
New Meadow to Council
The longest biking trail in Idaho begins just northwest of New Meadow on Whispering Pine Road. This northern section of trail lasts for over 20 miles and is heavily forested, featuring abundant evergreens and occasional meadows. The trail joins up with the Weiser River and continues to follow it throughout this stretch.
The town of Council recalls the presence of Shoshoni Indians who once lived in the area before the arrival of settlers. The town derived its name from the perceived “councils” held by this group in the surrounding valley. This area is lovely and green, with numerous farms and ranches among its forested hills. Council is a good place for cyclists to refuel before continuing their journey.
Council to Midvale
The middle section of the trail continues for approximately 30 miles, seeing a shift from ubiquitous forests to hillier countries. The trail dips in and out of canyons along the way; as noted, cell reception may be sparse or disappear entirely. The terrain continues downhill for cyclists moving from north to south.
Midvale is a tiny town with few amenities. Cyclists shouldn’t expect extensive refueling options from the community. However, 8 miles from Midvale in Cambridge lies Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in North America. It’s well worth the delay to stop and view the spectacular vista from the top of the canyon.
Midvale to Weiser
Continuing from Midvale, cyclists enter the last and southern stretch of the Weiser River National Recreation Trail. Hills and canyons persist in this area for the next 20 or so miles. Cyclists may wish to stop and view the Weiser River Canyons, which are popular as fishing spots. Weiser is a town of approximately 4,600 people, well-equipped to host tired travelers at the end of their journey.
Navigating the Route
The Weiser River National Recreation Trail isn’t prohibitively difficult, but the surface of the trail is occasionally rough and may pose a challenge to some road bikes. For cyclists looking for a smoother ride, mountain bikes and fat-tire bikes will likely meet the need better than road bikes. The trail trends downhill from north to south, making this the preferred direction of travel.
Walkers, joggers, cyclists, and equestrians all use the trail. Courtesy is essential to avoid unpleasant or injurious incidents. Cyclists must observe right-of-way and yield to all other forms of traffic when necessary. The trail is popular with seniors and young families who need more consideration from cyclists.
Because wildlife is abundant on the trail, awareness of one’s surroundings is essential. Bears, in particular, may pose a threat. Cyclists should be especially cautious around blind turns, as surprised bears can be aggressive. Making noise to advertise one’s presence can help avoid dangerous encounters.
Wildlife on the Weiser River National Recreation Trail
Due to its vibrant and varied habitats, Idaho is home to a generous array of wildlife. Many of its animals are visible from the Weiser River National Recreation Trail. Unfortunately, though they make a fascinating study, black bears, in particular, also pose a potential threat to trail users. They can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, faster than the fastest human ever recorded, Usain Bolt. Black bears are fairly common along the trail; users should never approach or attempt to feed them.
Cyclists may also encounter the likes of wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, wolverines, foxes, and bobcats along their journey. Most of these predators are shy of humans and won’t attack unless provoked. Less threatening species include deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and caribou, not to mention the state’s large population of cows.
Many different species of birds make the Idahoan skies their home. Glancing up, cyclists may spot bald eagles, wild turkeys, blue herons, or various species of kestrels and hawks. Ducks, geese, and quail are also common. In the Weiser River, fish like rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and white sturgeon abound.
Idaho sees its share of reptiles like snapping turtles, western rattlesnakes, and desert horned lizards. Whether you’re looking for a short, scenic bike ride or the challenge of a lengthy trip, check out Idaho’s Weiser River National Recreation Trail for stunning natural beauty.
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