Fall Road/Bike Trip
Looking for a relatively short weeklong get-a-way that won’t break the bank? Diane and I (Roger) did just that last week. Here is an itinerary along with places to stay, where to eat, and what to do. The last several years we have celebrated Diane’s birthday “leaf peeping” (northeastern term for gawking at the fall foliage). The best time of year for this is mid to late October. Perfect time to avoid the summer crowds, enjoy some nice but cooler weather, and take advantage of reduced lodging rates as most owners are very happy to greet guests leading into the snow season. We decided on the southern part of Idaho as we had never spent any time there. We had driven through on the interstate, but never really seeing the sights.
First off, book your stays before you leave. Do your research on line, but don’t be afraid to call the motel/hotel and asked further discounts – maybe ask for the “manager special”. I saved $30/night in Boise just for asking if they were running any further “specials”. First off, be sure to bring your bike as there are fantastic riding opportunities at every leg of the trip. Plan on spending two nights in each location (except Walla Walla) in order to get a full day of exploring/riding in.
I recomend Walla Walla, WA instead of La Grande, OR (which is where we actually spent the first night) as there is not much to see or do there. Walla Walla (which we visited on last last year’s trip) on the other hand has some cool wineries/tasting rooms and a short side trip to The Palouse Falls is a must.
- Leave around noon on Sunday and head east on I-84 to Walla Wall – 4.5 hour drive; check into the Marcus Whitman Hotel. They have a nice breakfast that is included in the room rate. We had dinner at a neat sports bar in downtown, but can’t remember the name of it. Just one night in Walla Walla is all that is needed.
- Head for McCall, ID – take highway 12 out of Walla Walla to Dayton, WA. Take a little side trip to Palouse Falls 1 hour drive out of Dayton. Return to highway 12 and continue on to Lewiston, then south on highway 95. At New Meadows, ID turn on highway 55 to McCall. Stay two nights (Monday and Tuesday nights) at the Bear Creek Lodge located about 5 miles west of town. McCall is a cool town on the southern banks of Payette Lake. The temps dipped down to 27 degrees the first night so be sure to bring your wooly’s. Daytime temps were in the upper 50’s to low 60’s. Pull the mountain bike out and ride Ponderosa State Park just east and a little north of town. If you drive to the end of the dirt road in Ponderosa State Park, there is a nice view of the lake and McCall in the distance. The Bear Creek restaurant was closed both nights, so you will need to dine in town. The unit we stayed in had both a refrigerator and microwave, so you can bring fixings for breakfast. “Steamers” is a good bet for dinner. Don’t recommend The Pancake and Christmas House for eats. Be sure to check out the hockey rink right in downtown. Some of the local clubs were practicing one of the evenings we were there. Not a sight you see every day in Portland.
- Head south out of McCall on highway 55 toward Ketchum/Sun Valley via Stanley, ID. Lots of fall colors here. You will turn to the east on the “Banks Lowman Road “(I think highway 210) toward Stanley. Before long the Sawtooth mountains come into view. They stayed with us the biggest share of the day as we circled around them on the north and east. At Stanly, ID we joined up with highway 75 and crossed over a mountain pass at 8,700′ before descending into Ketchum/Sun Valley. We were dumb struck by all of the fall colors as we entered town. Stay at the Best Western Tyrolean motel (Wednesday and Thursday). The hotel staff was very accommodating as they had a secure place to store our bikes just off of the lobby. The hotel is located near an awesome bike path (Wood River Trail) that skirts Ketchum. We probably got 30 miles of riding here – paved paths, double track and some single track. This was a great way to see the towns and countryside. Sun Valley was very different than what I had envisioned. It’s a small resort town much like Sun River. The commercial part of town is in Ketchum. Eat at the Pioneer Saloon for a great steak and a baked potato the size of a Idaho. Be sure to ride the paved paths in an around town. Some great single track riding is the Harriman trail north of town but we ran out of time to find and explore this. You could easily spend and extra day in the area. We visited the local cemetery seeking to find the burial site of Ernest Hemingway. It took us the better part of 1/2 hour and we almost gave up before locating it. Since we were headed out of town Thursday morning, I jumped on the bike and headed down the Wood River Trail to Hailey while Diane drove there to meet me. Only took about 30 minutes to travel the 10 miles. From there we loaded up my bike and headed for Boise with one little detour.
- Destination Silver City – population maybe 3? Basically ghost town that once housed as many as 5,000 people back in the late 1800’s. Diane ran across this little tidbit and so we decided to seek it out. On most every trip we do, we end up doing something on the stupid or silly side (Diane’s idea). This was no exception – a little 40 mile gravel/dirt road round trip where we had no business being on. How many people can say they have been to Silver City, ID? Interesting is about all I can say about. Wouldn’t recommend it to most.
Boise, ID – Stay at the Hampton Inn in downtown. We parked our car on Friday evening and it never moved until we left on Sunday morning. Again, they had a spot for storing our bikes. Just great! Temps were around 70 degrees, so bring along at least one pair of shorts. We walked and biked around town. Lots of bikes in Boise. One observation – riders in Boise either have very hard heads or the importance of wearing a helmet hasn’t reach them yet. Very few riders wore them. Pretty crazy! Wonderful bike path that extends way east of the city; think we got about 20-25 more miles in. Just so happened that there was a football game going on in town – Boise State vs Air Force. Never seen so much orange and blue in my life. They do love there brocos in Boise. Also the farmers market was going on in downtown as well. Took up probably the length of 5 city blocks. Eat at the “Fork” restaurant. Several of the restaurants have nice outside seating as well. Burger and fries at the Boise Fry Company.
Although we covered more than 1,450 miles, it never felt tiring except for the last day Boise back to Portland. It took us just over 7 hours of actual driving time, but the rest of the great trip more than made up for it. We would highly, highly recommend doing this little tour, especially if you have never explored the beautiful southern part of Idaho. A lot of the inspiration for doing this trip came from a book dedicated to “Rails to Trails” that described several of the rides that we did; the trail in Wiser, ID, Wood River Trail and River Trail in Boise. Next year we are looking at doing something similar in the northern panhandle of Idaho but earlier in the month since fall will arrive a little sooner. Hope this has been somewhat helpful and maybe even a little entertaining. Happy trails.