Following the 2013 Beaver Creek Fire on Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest, storm run-off over slopes seared of vegetation all but obliterated the Alden Gulch Trail. The Forest Service, local organizations and the NFF with REI support are ensuring visitors can soon enjoy the Alden Gulch Trail again.
Dominantly used by hunters, the multi-use Alden Gulch Trail provided a very direct route up to Warm Springs Ridge and the Osberg Ridgeline Trail, which follows the ridge for 12 miles. The Ridgeline trail was also impacted by the fire, but has since been rebuilt, and offers impressive views of surrounding mountain ranges. The Forest Service identified restoring another shorter means of access, via the Alden Gulch Trail, as a high priority.
Even prior to the Beaver Creek Fire, Alden Gulch Trail was not ecologically sustainable nor an easy trek. The steep three mile trail was subject to erosion and was difficult to both hike and to climb on a bike.
The re-established Alden Gulch Trail is five miles long. Never fear – the alignment is still very steep and will still be a challenge for some riders! Very strong and skilled cyclists will be able to ride up the entire trail, while everyone else will need to push their bikes in a number of places. It will be a good test for people who want to see if they can do the whole uphill without putting a foot down. As a descent, the trail will be a fun bike ride.
Besides making the trail more attractive to cyclists, the new Alden Gulch trail will be a boon for horseback riders, hikers and runners looking for shorter loop options in the area. At present, the shortest loop available along the Osberg Ridgeline Trail is about 20 miles long. Shorter loops in the range of 10 to 12 miles long will be available once the Alden Gulch Trail is in place again.
The NFF and the Forest Service brought many partners together to fund the re-construction of the trail. The NFF awarded funds to the Idaho Conservation Corps to enable a young adult crew to build .5 miles of new tread, and to realign 2.5 miles of existing trail. The Forest Service hired local trail contracting company Red Elephant Trails for the main build.
The Wood River Bicycle Coalition held fundraisers for the project and worked with their parent organization, the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), as a participant in the organizations “Dig-In” campaign. Local donations were matched by IMBA. The NFF matched the WRBC funds to double the amount and contracted with Red Elephant Trails for an additional 1.65 miles of singletrack. Other partners on the trail project included the Blaine County Recreation District, Idaho Conservation League, Sawtooth Back Country Horsemen, Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, and many others.
While crews have finished construction this fall, the trail will be closed until the spring of 2019. Winter snows will help compact the trail surfaces and the moisture from the melt in the spring will be great for helping to set the trail surface into a tighter tread way.
Thanks to all for a great partner project. We can all look forward to exploring the new trail next spring!