Placerville, Garden Valley, Round Valley

Originally published in the Boise Weekly:

With roughly 30,000 miles of two-track and dirt roads in Idaho, stringing together some epic exploratory routes is not terribly difficult. This particular ride was a real gem because it was remote but connects several desirable recreation spots that many people assume are only accessible via major paved arterial systems. If you get creative, you can get to Garden Valley and/or McCall and Cascade with nary an inch of hardtop along the way. The scenery and recreational options are hard to beat as well.

Getting There:
Leaving Boise around 6 p.m. with my brother Jay and friend Rustin in tow, we made quick work of Aldape Summit from Rocky Canyon down to Robie Creek Road. Instead of traversing over to Highway 21 and Idaho City, we elected to stay on back roads and headed north toward Clear Creek. We stopped at Micki’s Clear Creek Cafe for refreshments before pushing on to Grimes Creek Road and New Centerville.


A short paved haul to the intersection with Harris Creek Road (this connects to the back side of Bogus Basin at the Nordic Center, by the way) and we were back on dirt into the historic mining town of Placerville.


Like other mining towns in Idaho, Placerville maintains a rustic and authentic vibe. Worn but well-kept buildings are set against the backdrop of pine forests.


From Placerville, its a short 12-mile run on Alder Creek Road over the hill into Garden Valley. The panoramas from this vantage point are exceptional and strangely similar to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.


Alder Creek Road runs into Banks-Lowman Road just past Garden Valley. From there, we backtracked a few miles into Crouch and a pit stop at the Dirty Shame Saloon.


We spent the night at a friend’s cabin in Terrace Lakes Resort and continued north along the Middle Fork of the Payette River the next day. Day No. 2’s destination: Boiling Springs, Silver Creek, Idaho’s logging country and, eventually, Round Valley.


The ride toward Boiling Springs was swift. At Trail Creek, the road splits, leaving two options: go north or northeast. North goes to logging country, some hot springs and a series of Forest Service roads that meander into Valley County. Northeast goes to the popular summer recreation spot of Silver Creek Plunge, where fishing, hiking, biking, camping, soaking and lounging opportunities abound. We stayed the course and took Forest Service Road 670 west from the confluence of Silver Creek and the Middle Fork.


This steep two-track ascent proved dangerous. Logging is alive and well in this part of the state, and we had to be constantly on the alert for trucks coming down the road—they had little regard for tourists like us. One gentleman in a company truck stared me down as he came within an inch of clipping my left arm with his mirror. Not the friendliest bunch of dudes I’ve met in my travels.


Our map was slightly off, but we were able to identify where Road 670 transitioned into Road 662/693 towards Six Mile Creek.


Riding the saddles along these picturesque summits was great fun and we stopped along the way to pick highly prized morel mushrooms at a handful of spots.


We found our way to Forest Service Road 600 above Round Valley and switchbacked down to Sixty Lane and Highway 55.


After a burger at Cougar Mountain Lodge, we were on our way back to Boise via Highway 55. Had we continued north from Six Mile Creek, we could have ridden an extensive road/trail system all the way to Gold Fork, Warm Lake, the South Fork of the Salmon River, McCall and beyond. Keep an eye out for future Motojournals that will likely include many of these spots.

Total Distance: 162 miles (101 on dirt)

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