Boise, Idaho is best known for its blue football field and baked potatoes. But it’s also a fantastic mountain biking destination. The city of 240,000 people is perfectly positioned in a river valley at the base of foothills, giving its residents ample opportunities for outdoor recreation.
There are over 200 mountain bike trails in and around the city with a combined total distance of nearly 400 miles. That’s a staggering number of trails. No wonder Boise is ranked as one of the happiest cities in America and one of the best cities in America for young professionals.
To get more information on what makes Boise a great mountain biking destination for riders of all skill levels, I enlisted the aid of Shea Anderson, a Boise resident and former nationally ranked singlespeed racer, and John Curtis, a senior vice president and managing director of Falhgren Mortine.
According to Anderson, Boise’s biggest advantage as a mountain bike destination is trail access. “From downtown Boise you can be on singletrack in a matter of minutes.” Boise has ample amounts of singletrack trail available to riders in residential neighborhoods all around town.
In fact, visiting riders can stay at a hotel downtown and use their bike to access many of Boise’s trails and attractions, thanks to the Boise River Greenbelt, a multi-use trail nearly 25 miles long that follows the Boise River through the city. There are many trails that branch off from it and connect to the area’s singletrack.
Additionally, the variety of trails available to riders is outstanding. There’s an ample number of trails for every kind of rider, from rocky, technical trails to smooth flow trails. There’s even a bike park and asphalt pump track located inside the city limits.
So, when is a good time to visit? Anderson cautioned that Boise gets hot in the summer, hitting triple digits easily during July and August. “Try visiting with bikes in May, June and September, our prettiest and most comfortable times to ride.”
The must-ride trails for beginner, intermediate, and advanced riders?
Anderson recommends the Mountain Cove Trail for new riders. “It’s a winding, nearly flat singletrack cruise that parallels the road up the valley toward more challenging routes. You can park at the Boise Bike Park and pedal up the road to the trailhead from there. Mountain Cove is an out-and-back trail unless you feel like climbing to the Central Ridge Trail. From the parking lot to the point at which beginners might want to turn around is less than 2 miles.”
The Around the Mountain trail offers a fun ride with great views. Photo: Shea Anderson/Boise CVB.
For riders willing to drive a little bit, Anderson recommends heading up to Bogus Basin Ski Resort and trying the Around the Mountain trail. “It circumnavigates the ski area in a fun 10-mile loop with lots of options to go bigger or explore. The loop itself has just about everything: flowy sections, jumps, berms and a few roots and rocks to keep you on your toes.”
Anderson suggests advanced riders tackle Hard Guy. “Although it’s not necessarily the most technical trail, every strong rider in Boise will want to know if you’ve tackled it.” Hard Guy is a steady uphill trail that in barely five miles of climbing will challenge all riders. Anderson says riders can either descend back down Hard Guy or take the Boise Ridge Road (which you’ll meet at the top of Hard Guy) and follow it to several downhill options, including Sweet Connie, a local favorite.
After the Ride
For riders with post-ride munchies, Anderson suggests checking out Boise’s “restaurant row” on 8th Street near the Idaho State Capital building. It offers lots of options, including Diablo & Sons (a taco saloon), the Bittercreek Alehouse, Fork (which sources its food almost exclusively from local growers), Pie Hole, and R&R Barbeque.
Boise is also home to 15 different craft breweries, which makes sense given that Idaho is one of the largest hops producers in the United States. Among them are Lost Grove Brewing (which offers craft beer, pizza, and local entertainment), Payette Brewing Company, White Dog Brewing Company, Boise Brewing, Woodland Empire Alecraft (which has a bottle shop, taproom, and restaurant next door), Cloud 9 Brewery, and Clairvoyant Brewing Company (which is both dog and kid friendly).
Rest Day Attractions
For riders who visit during the summer months, Anderson recommends floating down the Boise River through town. “Start at Barber Park where you can rent float tubes or other gear and then float down to the take-out at Boise State University, where you can catch a shuttle back to your car.”
Animal lovers should check out the World Center for Birds of Prey, which is devoted to conserving raptors. Visitors can see eagles, owls, vultures, hawks, and falcons from around the world.
For those who enjoy history, the Old Idaho Penitentiary, one of only four territorial prisons open to the public, is worth the visit.
Boise is also home to a large Basque community, who first settled in Boise in the late 1800s. Visitors can learn more about the Basque culture and its history in America by visiting the Basque Museum and Cultural Center in the downtown area.
Special Events and Races
The Boise Goat-Head Fest Parade is a sight to see. Photo: SWIMBA.
The first annual Boise Mountain Bike Festival was held this past June. 600 people attended the 3-day event, which included vendors, demos, group rides, skills training, and contests. The event was designed to celebrate the sport of mountain biking, educate riders on the fundamental skills of the sport, and advocate for the local trails. Look for it to return in June of 2023.
The 2022 Boise Goat-Head Fest will take place on August 27th. The Fest is “a pedal-powered, wonderfully weird, and bona fide Bose celebration of Boise’s vibrant bicycle community.” The main event of the Fest is a parade of over 6,000 cyclists in costume.
Bogus Basin hosts a 6-race series for XC and DH riders during the months of June and July. XC races are held on Wednesdays and DH races are held on Thursdays during these months.
Information about the Local Club
The Southwest Idaho Mountain Bike Association (SWIMBA) helps advocate for and maintain the trails in the foothills just outside Boise’s city limits. It’s been advocating for trails, educating the community on the sport of mountain biking, and assisting with special MTB-related events since the early 1990s. SWIMBA has just over 500 members and their current executive director is John Palumbo, Jr. You can follow SWIMBA on Instagram or check out their Facebook page for the latest information on Boise’s trails.