best of mountain biking

Idaho Mountain Express and Sun Valley Guide writer Greg Moore rides through Adams Gulch on a typically sunny summer day.
Photo by Willy Cook

adams gulch has
something for every rider

Forbidden Fruit Trail adds downhill excitement.
Greg Moore

Ease of access and variety—year after year, those two attributes have kept the Adams Gulch trails at the top of many mountain bikers' lists of favorite places to ride.

"It has something for everybody," said Greg Martin, who serves on the board of directors of the Wood River Bike Coalition. "You can do a 20-minute ride or you can use it for a launching point for an all-day ride."

From Adams Gulch north of Ketchum, riders can connect north to the Fox Creek Trail, west into the Baker Creek drainage or south into the Warm Springs trails.

Warm Springs resident Dennis Thompson, out riding in the morning to try to beat the heat in July, said it's just a quick trip on his bike out his back door to Adams Gulch.
"It's just a classic," he said.

That "classic" status has helped make Adams Gulch the gold-medal winner for best mountain biking trail in the region.

The gulch has a longer riding season than any other significant trail in the north valley. The Sunnyside Trail on its north side often stays snow-free late into the fall and is one of the first to dry out in the spring. On hot summer days, riders can stay cool on the Shadyside Trail.

According to Jeanne Flowers, whose family created a homestead near the mouth of Adams Gulch in 1908, the gulch is named after Abijah Adams, who built a sawmill at the confluence of Adams and Eve's gulches in the 1880s. The mill site contained a boarding house and a bunkhouse and was the year-round home to about a dozen loggers and four or five mill workers. The first U.S. Forest Service headquarters in the Ketchum area was built near the mouth of the gulch in the early 1900s. A 1920s-era log house that was part of the Flowers' family ranch is a landmark along the road just past the Adams Gulch bridge.

Parts of the gulch were charred by the Castle Rock Fire in 2007. Though many dead fir trees are still visible in the upper parts of the gulch, nature has wasted little time in turning the lower elevations green again. Riding up the Sunnyside Trail on the gulch's north side, bikers cruise through dense stands of young aspen trees, which are now about 8 feet tall and starting to obscure the pale, older trees with peeling gray bark that still stand as ghosts of the fire. The aspen groves are already more lush than they were six years ago.

A prime attraction to bikers in Adams Gulch is the Forbidden Fruit Trail, a biking "flow" trail created by the Forest Service in 2011. The one-way, mile-long trail, accessed off the Eve's Gulch Trail, has banked turns and rollers. Martin said it's for "pushing your limits and scaring yourself a little bit." It's the only trail of its type in the north valley.

"I love it," said Ketchum rider Ken Luplow. "It's an easy, non-technical downhill and you can get some air."
The Wood River Bike Coalition took over maintenance of the trail after it was built. Martin said that mostly just involves raking out the stones that accumulate in the bottom.

"The majority of the trails here weren't sustainably designed," he said. "Forbidden Fruit was. It's designed so that water doesn't flow down the trail."

Federal and state grants for watershed protection work following the Castle Rock Fire funded construction of five new trail bridges in Adams Gulch in 2011. Forest Service Recreation Forester Joe Miczulski said the agency is glad to see an area that it has been putting work into garner first-place status in the Best of the Valley contest.

"We're pleased that people feel that way," he said.

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