Photo Essay: Summer Backcountry Epics in Sun Valley
We added Sun Valley to the Chasing Epic roster four years ago to fill a gap in late spring / early summer, and it turns out we couldn’t have picked a better time to run trips there: the weather is perfect, everything is green, and if you get just a TINY bit of rain, the trails turn into hero dirt at the flip of a switch. The one downside of visiting “early” in the season is variable conditions up high (on trails like Castle Creek and Osberg Ridge), but that’s had a positive effect on our fully-custom itineraries… we’re getting creative.
Putting together new routes that no one else does is something we pride ourselves in, and with our Sun Valley trips we’ve started adding a lot more point-to-points with shuttle drops, so we can get DEEP into the backcountry. This June was no different, as we hosted two sold-out trips on back to back weekends and put together some killer rides for our clients. If you’re willing to be challenged and put in the training miles, we can definitely create some incredible rides!
Day One: Oregon Gulch, Chocolate Gulch, Fox Creek and Adams Gulch
Now keep in mind this is our first-day ride… but all that means is we keep the climbs a bit more mellow, and there’s no uber-techy descents to contend with. Our first day in Sun Valley is meant for our riders to acclimate to the terrain, the altitude, and their bikes, while still putting together a killer ride. For this one, we dropped everyone off about 10 miles north of town and hit a series of short climbs and descents through the open meadows and forest. Each of the first few climbs were about 10-20 minutes, with a 1-2 mile downhill on the backside.
With the riders feeling good, we climbed Harper’s for our last big climb of the day, which was about 1100’… but it was so worth it, as we got to rip down Griffin Butte and into Forbidden Fruit for a lap. All told on this day by the time we got back to Lefty’s for a post-ride beer, we rode 22 miles and climbed 3100′ (but descended close to 4000′).
Day Two: Deer Creek Loop (Wolftone-Curran, Deer Creek and North Fork)
This ride is not for the faint of heart… or the unfit. It isn’t often we get to push a group into the backcountry this far with some big, brutal climbs and they come out smiling; but that’s exactly what we got to do last week. With a solid group of riders who like to be challenged, we took them on a loop that included a couple of BIG climbs, and took us far into the backcountry. When you don’t see anyone else during the ride, you know you’ve got something good on your hands!
The ride starts off with a 7-mile, 2000′ climb up Wolftone Road and singletrack before cutting across the high-alpine and dropping into Curran, one of the fastest, flowiest descents in the area. Once we hit the creek crossing and refilled our bottles with some ice cold water, we climbed Deer Creek- a loose, technical climb that’s known to put more than a few riders in the pain cave. It’s a grunt for sure, but again we were rewarded with the flowtastic singletrack of North Fork, which had everyone smiling from ear to ear. Today we put in 24 miles and just over 4000′ of climbing in a loop for the ages!
Day Three: Warm Springs to Greenhorn Gulch Point-to-Point
Another big ride no matter how you cut it… the “short option” for this one was 19 miles with 3200′ of climbing, while the bigger option was 23 miles and 4300′! Today we knew it would be a different ballgame with a couple of big rides in the legs, so we prepared accordingly. About halfway through the ride, one group continued on the plan route down North Fork, up Howard’s, and down Greenhorn to the waiting ice-cold drinks. The group looking to push themselves took a left and climbed up Red Warrior before a killer descent and a climb back up into Greenhorn on the north side. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with either ride as they’re both epic, and we didn’t see anyone else on the trails other than a few moto riders until we got to within a mile of the TH.
Day Four: Greenhorn Gulch Loop
Just because it’s the last day, doesn’t mean we’re going to take it easy on our riders… in fact, the Greenhorn-Imperial ride we do on the last day in Sun Valley is one of our favorites anywhere. Talk about bang for the buck! It starts out with a *mostly* gradual 5-mile climb up the Greenhorn Gulch proper before cutting back to the south and getting into the open, where you’ve got incredible views in all directions. Once you top out, you’ve got 5+ miles of super flowy descending that will take your breath away.
Don’t get too comfortable though, there is a 10-minunte climb that rudely interrupts the descent, but it’s over before you know it and you’re back to hauling a$$ through the wildflowers and aspens. All told for today, we ride 11 miles with about 2000′ of climbing, while the “bonus” ride covers 15 miles and 2700′ of climbing. Now that’s how you do it!!