Thunder in Paradise Loop
98 Mi.(158 KM)
% Rideable (time)
Matt discovered mountain biking by accident while winter commuting to classes at Boise State University. Encouraged by a friend to hit the trails in 2015, an immediate passion for singletrack turned toward bikepacking after building a few makeshift bags and heading out his first overnighter. Matt works and lives in Boise, ID as photographer and co-owner of Visionkit Studio. Follow along on instagram @mhwordell @visionkitstudio
Whether you’re a recent transplant of the burgeoning Boise boom or a wayward wanderer looking to explore a new pocket of the Mountain West, consider yourself fairly warned – Southern Idaho is a veritable cornucopia of loops, routes, and rides along well wooded fire roads, offering sweeping views and access to an abundance of rivers, lakes, and the occasionally unoccupied hot spring.
Thunder in Paradise begins at Trinity Hot Springs in Paradise, an establishment known for its healing waters and incredible hospitality. With a little luck, the owners of the resort have agreed to offer discounted access to finishers of the route – so make sure to check in and strike up a conversation when parking and prepping for your ride! From Trinity Hot Springs, the route heads north on a brief stint of pavement, passing through Featherville, Idaho before a series of gravel climbs lead through historic Rocky Bar junction, up James Creek Road, and through the stunning Bald Mountain burn area. Sweeping views surround and a ripping descent to the Middle Fork Boise River brings you to the last few miles winding toward the fabled mining city of Atlanta, Idaho.
Atlanta has been characterized as “a refuge for artists, historians, individualists, miners, and naturalists,” set at the base of the towering, 3,700’ Greylock Mountain, which defines the iconic southern border of the Sawtooth Range. Grab a beer at Beaver Lodge before pedaling up to Power Plant or Riverside Campgrounds and exploring the numerous hot spring options available here. Be prepared to make a friend or two if the springs are occupied.
Pack up and prepare for day two as you head for the Phifer Creek Road turnoff, your gateway to the Trinity Mountains and some of the most beautiful alpine wilderness in Southern Idaho. Take stock of your water requirements for the day, Phifer Creek is just the beginning several sustained climbs. Water options are sparse throughout and preparation is recommended, especially on hot summer days. When riding this section of gravel road, we were lucky enough to chat with a group of folks on ATV’s who generously cracked open their cooler and offered us ice cold drinks – a welcome encouragement to keep riding. The final push to Big Trinity Lake rewards with a refreshing dip in one of the many alpine lakes available in this area and will quickly revive your spirits. Keep an eye out for wildlife, Moose have been known to bathe in the less traveled corners of the lakes.
Finish up the ride with a caffeinating climb to Trinity summit which provides panoramic morning views before a nearly 4500’ descent to Anderson Reservoir. Pedal through Pine for a snack and an easy paved section back to Trinity Hot Springs where a revitalizing dip in the springs rounds out a solid tour in paradise.
The Thunder in Paradise route is rated 6.5 out of 10. While the riding, navigation, and resupply points are accessible and fairly straightforward, the two primary reasons it was assigned a 6.5 are: 1. Multiple steep, sustained climbs can be exacerbated by mid summer heat and shortage of water access in later seasons, particularly the climb up Phifer Creek Road; 2. The section from Atlanta to Big Trinity Lake is 40 miles, big climbs, has no resupply points, and very little water access until you reach the lake, making it a bit more challenging. Technical Difficulty: 2; Physical demand: 6, Resupply and Logistics: 4
Route Development: Thunder in Paradise Loop was a top 5 winner in the Adventures Future-Past routes competition. This route was created with the help of friends and fellow cyclists Jason Harris, Zach Voss, and Glenn Landberg in order to connect areas of the Boise National Forest, Trinity Hot Springs, the mining town of Atlanta, Idaho, and the Trinity Mountain area. Route developers have no affiliation with Trinity Hot Springs Resort.
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- Trinity Hot Springs: Mention you’re riding the Thunder in Paradise route for discounted entry.
- Trinity Springs Water has earned acclaim as the only certified “Naturliches Heilwasser” – a natural health water – in the Americas. The uniquely deep certified healing spring water is recognized as such by the Institut Fresenius in Europe – the international authority on free-flowing spring sources of exceptional purity that contain beneficial minerals. For more information visit trinityhotsprings.club
- Founded in 1863 by John Stanley, Atlanta, Idaho remains, until this day, one of the most remote towns in the western US and in its hay day is estimated to have produced $16,000,0000 worth of gold and silver. Contemporary Atlanta is on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to 19 full time residents. The town is a refuge for artists, historians, individualists, miners and naturalists.
- Rivers, hot springs, alpine lakes, mining towns, wilderness access – what more could you ask for?
- Beautiful forest and mountain views throughout.
- The Thunder in Paradise Loop is designed to start with a mid-day departure from Trinity Hot Springs at Paradise, a full day of riding from Atlanta to Trinity Mountains, and mid-day return to the car, ensuring the route can be scheduled with a Friday off while allowing plenty of time to soak in the springs and drive home that evening
- When to go: Mid July – September are the best months to ride this route as the Trinity Mountains are typically not clear of snow until summer is in full swing.
- Logistics: Access the route from Boise, ID via Highway 20 and FS Road 61 to Trinity Hot Springs via Pine (100 miles, 2 hours driving). Parking is available at Trinity Hot Springs at Paradise, please check in with staff and let them know you’ll be riding the route to receive discounted access to the hot springs when you return.
- Be prepared for long climbs and false summits as you work your way from Atlanta to Big Trinity Lake on day two – not an easy series of climbs but the rewarding views at the top are worth the effort.
- This route is 100% rideable. You can expect well maintained fire roads, and fairly mild traffic.
- Like most outdoor spaces, expect to see higher use on weekends.
- Campgrounds near Atlanta provide several options for camping. Developed options include Power Plant campground & Riverside Campground. Both are $15 per night.
- Strike up conversation with a local in Atlanta and you may be offered a spot to pitch your tent somewhere in town.
- Big Trinity Lake area has abundant developed camping options with beautiful lake-side views. Expect to pay $10 per night at these various sites.
- Boise National Forest is packed with dispersed camping opportunities should you decide to deviate from or expand the route to extend the ride.
- Stay an extra night and unwind at Trinity Hot Springs, just make sure to book in advance.
- Be aware of fire bans.
- Water is available in Featherville, Atlanta, and Pine. Many creeks, rivers, and lakes give you the option to filter your own along the way.
- Visit the Beaver Lodge in Atlanta for drinks, bar food, and above average small town hospitality.
- Very little water between the base of Phifer Creek Road and Big Trinity Lake, be prepared to camel up or carry extra water on hotter days. We lucked out and were offered beers from a friendly ATV traveler on Trinity Ridge Road, which kept us in good spirits.
- Grab a snack in Pine before final paved pedal back to Trinity Hot Springs.
Day 1 – (26 Miles)
Trinity Hot Springs to Atlanta includes a brief paved section, steep climb up James creek, and a ripping descent down to the Middle Fork Boise River before a casual ride into town.
Day 2 – (40 Miles)
A mellow grind down the Middle Fork Boise River to the Phifer Creek Road turn off. Prepare for a full day of climbing from here until you reach Big Trinity Lake. Water is scarce so hydrate wisely.
Day 3 – (32 Miles)
A quick climb to the Trinity Mountain saddle provides you with grand views before a grin inducing descent. Work your way down to Anderson Reservoir. Traffic picks up here as you get closer to pine. You’ll finish out on pavement as you pull into Trinity Hot Springs.
- Add some foot travel and 9 more alpine lakes to your trip by exploring the Rainbow Lakes Trail! Trailhead can be found on the east side of Big Trinity Lake. – idahostatesman.com
- Looking to explore more of the Boise and Sawtooth National Forests? Check out the Smoke and Fire 400 and the Idaho Hot Springs Route.
- The Atlanta School offers artist workshops and an artist in residency program/ A wonderful group of folks worth connecting with if you’re inclined to make some friends on your trip! theatlantaschool.org
- Outdoor Project has a great write up about Atlanta if you’d like more information – outdoorproject.com
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