The bank sign in Cambridge Idaho reads 104 degrees at 6:30 PM, June 20th, 2017. Jim O’hare and I are driving from Weiser, Idaho (where we left Jim’s vehicle) to New Meadows Idaho. We are exploring the Weiser River Trail by bicycle. We are doing it mostly for fun but also are checking out the trail conditions for possible future trips.
The genesis for the adventure starts when my neighbor, Ken Ditzler (originally from Weiser), gave Barb and me a regional (southern Idaho) recreational pamphlet containing an inviting article about the Weiser River Trail. The website for the Friends of the Weiser River Trail offers this bit of background: (http://weiserrivertrail.org)
Friends of the Weiser River Trail (FWRT) is a private, nonprofit organization formed to convert the old Pacific and Idaho Northern (PIN) railroad grade from Weiser, Idaho, to Rubicon (near New Meadows, ID) into a trail for public recreation. Starting in Weiser, the 84-mile long trail passes through the towns of Midvale, Cambridge and Council. The entire right-of-way was deeded to Friends of the Weiser River Trail in August 1997 by the Union Pacific Railroad under the railbanking law.
The trail includes many miles of riparian habitat, an additional 1,400 acres of wildlife habitat, and will provide access to 16,000 acres of BLM and State of Idaho Lands currently otherwise inaccessible to the public. Wildlife often seen along the trail include deer, elk, heron, bear, water fowl, raptors and wild turkeys. The setting in the lower (southern) part of the canyon is rolling hills and open canyons topped with black lava cliffs, while the upper (northern) portion is forested.
Barb did some online research and found reviews stating that some of the trail was pretty rough and not an easy ride. Consequently, Jim and I decided to check out the trail for the reference of those interested in riding the trail.
We left my car at the WYE trailhead just off highway 95 a couple of miles north of Tamarack, Idaho. We were on the trail by 7:45 PM. The temperature was very comfortable and the mosquitos were mild and were manageable with a little bug spray.
At 8:00 PM, we came upon the Evergreen campground.
The campground is accessible for cars on highway 95 and hikers / bikers from the trail. The campground was pristine and quiet. Jim and I found a campsite near the restrooms and water. The camp host arrived shortly after and told us the double site was $15.00 per night but we received a 50% discount for being seniors. After we had set up our tents, a neighbor and his wife walked into our site carrying two beers. They had seen us ride in and thought we might appreciate a cold beverage. Smiles all around.
Wednesday morning we were packed and ready to ride by 6:30 AM. The temperature cooled to the point that we were wearing long-fingered gloves and a light jacket.
The trail is surrounded by lush trees and ground cover and follows the Weiser River; birds were chirping as we rode down the trail.
Half an hour in, I decided it was time to set up the iPhone tripod for a video of Jim and me riding the trail. The video took 20 minutes to complete because of my inexperience. We had to take a number of videos as I adjusted the angle to avoid cutting off our heads as we rode toward the camera.
Mid-morning, we arrived in Council and had a second breakfast at the Seven Devils Cafe. We almost missed Council because the trail / railroad traversed to the west of town. After realizing that we were riding away from town, we turned around and rode back to an access point that led us to the city center.
As we left Council, the forest transitioned to grassy ridges and valleys. Snow topped mountains could be seen in the distance. The trail follows the river away from highway 95 and we are soon in a remote valley carved into the massive ridges. The trail condition is near perfect and the riding is easy. The temperature is rising.
Cambridge is 22 miles south on the trail from Council and we stopped for a light lunch before continuing to our stopping point for the day in Midvale, Idaho; a sweet town with a swimming pool, grocery and city park. We obtained permission to camp overnight in the park in spite of the “no overnight camping allowed” signs.
The park has a lush green floor and a canopy created by a large number of trees. The temperature was in the nineties but very comfortable in the shade with a gentle breeze. All was well until about 10:30 PM when the sprinklers came on. Things were a bit frantic as we tried to protect our belongings from getting soaked. Jim, wisely, ended up sleeping under the stars just out of range of the sprinklers and I managed to get my rain fly up and in place. We slept well and were up at 5:30 for a 6:15 departure for Weiser.
The evening of July 20, 5 miles from start to Evergreen Campground.
July 21, 47 miles from Evergreen Campground to Midvale.
July 22, 32 miles to Weiser.
We arrived in Weiser about 10:30 and were back at WYE (and my car) by noon. Jim and I arrived in Spokane (separately) about 8:00 PM.
The trail is in excellent condition and an easy ride (especially from north to south because you lose about 1800 feet in elevation over the 84 miles). We recommend this trail to anyone able to comfortably ride 30 to 50 miles a day. The last 10 miles into Weiser were on crushed rock which took a bit more effort than the rest of the trail but still very doable. The trail is flat as it follows the Weiser River and cuts through the hills and ridges from New Meadows to Weiser.
Barb is committed to doing the trail now that she knows the conditions. We will probably do the Weiser River Trail in early September.
Life is good.
Video (4:55) Weiser River Trail