April in Idaho's High Desert — Boise to Montour

Over the hills from Boise, ID to Montour via Pearl Road and Johnson Creek.

When: April 2016

Bicycle Adventurers: Wandering Wheels is a group that meets once a month to talk about bike touring and to plan trips like this.

Accommodations: Bureau of Reclamation campground at the Montour Wildlife Management Area, Montour, Idaho.

Distance: 70 miles, round trip.

Bonus tip for this adventure: 

  • A large part of this route is on gravel and non-maintained, dirt roads. Any bike will work, but those with three-inch tires will have easier going in the loose gravel and sand.
  • Although Google Maps doesn’t show it, from the big dogleg in Sand Hollow Road, east of Emmett, ID, there is a road that drops down to Shalerock Road along Johnson Creek.
  • These bike overnight trips are a great way to shake out gear and bike setups.

Day One

Today we covered about 30 miles from our start in Boise, ID, north to Montour, ID. We climbed almost 2000 feet cumulatively and with the headwind and loaded bikes, we were tired and slept well.

Route Details: Sand Hollow Road is the left arm of the “Y” a mile or so north of Three Horse Winery on Pearl Road. It’s easy to miss, even though I think it is signed. At the top of the saddle, another few miles further, Johnson Creek Road make for a potential short cut and drops straight north to Shalerock Road, while Sand Hollow Road continues west. At this “road” down Johnson Creek, you’ll find a sign that indicates the road is not maintained in inclement weather. (They could have save space and letters by just admitting it is not maintained at all.) 

Google Maps doesn’t know this cutoff road is even here and at the bottom there’s a gate at the junction with Shalerock Road, a gravel road between Montour and Emmett. A few miles east along the Payette River took us to Montour Campground. This campground is not officially open for a few more days but we got prior permission to use it from the Bureau of Reclamation office. We just had to scurry under the locked gate at the entrance.

After setting up camp, we rode 1.4 miles to Triangle Restaurant for dinner. Being the only campers at the campsite, we felt comfortable that nobody would bother our stuff. 

Side Note: According to Bureau of Land Management maps Johnson Creek is on BLM land. It seems like there might be some way to mitigate the damage done by vehicles driving indiscriminately. In some places there are two or three double tracks eventually converging and deep ruts remain from 4-wheel drive vehicles driving in wet conditions.

Day Two

Keeping our loads lighter and our meals simple this morning, before loading the bikes, we again rode back to Triangle Restaurant for breakfast. Between 10:30 and 11:00 a.m. we finally rolled out. Instead of heading back up Johnson Creek we followed Shalerock Road all the way to Emmett, where we followed the canal road to Old Freezeout Hill (got to be a story there). At the top we crossed State Highway 16 and got onto Jackass Gulch a.k.a. JAG Road, which ties back in to Pearl Road where we retraced our route home. This was a 40 mile day with about 2700 feet of climbing.

Your favorite local bike shop?

Bike Touring News3853 N. Garden Center Way, Boise, ID 83703 

Bike overnight tips and tricks?

  • Label your panniers.
  • Eat at cafes where the pickup trucks are parked.
  • Be nice.
  • Ride on wider tires.

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HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your bike overnight adventure!

2 responses so far ↓

Stacy King Powers - May 9, 2016 at 2:41 PM

This is a great way to either shake out new gear or just "get out of dodge". Johnson Creek should not be attempted in wet weather. The campground will have mosquitoes later in the year as it abuts the wildlife sanctuary so no spraying. Finally Roystone Hot Springs is just up the road - pool, hot tub, showers and camping.

Susan McMenomey - May 9, 2016 at 4:10 PM

The food was awesome at Triangle Restaurant!

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