KETCHUM — “Buttery.”
Elizabeth Moody wasn’t describing the garlic bread at the Olive Garden Restaurant that will soon open in Twin Falls.
Instead, she was describing the new mountain bike and hiking trails surrounding Galena Lodge.
“They’re very buttery and very smooth. Fun. Fun. Fun,” she said. “You don’t want to stop riding. You just want to keep moving, and it’s so nice to ride in the woods.”
Moody spent Monday riding the trails at Galena Lodge, along with her husband Bryan, their 6- and 7-year-old children Katy and Jackson, and golden retriever Nacho. It was a long haul from their home in Virginia but one they made last year as well.
“These trails are so family friendly,” said Bryan Moody. “The trails in Virginia are rocky and very technical — not family-friendly at all.”
This is the first full season for the 47 miles of mountain biking, hiking, trail running and equestrian trails that the Blaine County Recreation District, Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Galena Lodge built over three years.
Many of the trails were designed with the words “beginner” and “family-friendly” in mind since so many of the other 400 miles of single track in the Sun Valley area are better suited to intermediate and advanced cyclists.
The Galena trails follow a stacked system in which the easiest trails are nearest the lodge with intermediate and advanced trails further out. But even trails considered more difficult, such as The Grinder, sport plenty of easy cruising along the way for beginner bicyclists who don’t mind walking their bikes down short rocky steps or through small curvy banks that might seem intimidating.
It doesn’t cost a cent to ride them, although those who love them are certainly welcome to offer a donation to the BCRD, which maintains them through such fundraising efforts as its annual Galena Lodge and the Trails Benefit.
The trails loop through an area that used to boast only old mining roads that were poorly constructed and too steep and slippery in places to be much fun for cyclists or hikers. The new trails, which boast such names as Mine Shaft, Horsefly Hill and even Outhouse Loop, lure hundreds of bikers to the rustic lodge 24 miles north of Ketchum.
The lodge, which used to measure lunch crowds in the dozens, served 300 lunches during a three-hour period on Sunday, said server Michael Lincoln.
“I’ve introduced more people to mountain biking by using the Senate Meadows Loop,” said Alan Hogg, who serves on BCRD’s Galena Trails and Advisory Committee. “And my wife Mary also took it up recently. Most of the trails near Ketchum are too difficult for beginners, but the Senate Meadows loop is super friendly. People not only feel safe while on it but they’re ready to come back and do it again.”
Jenna Vagias said the trails around Galena were key in helping her family decide to move to the Wood River Valley.
“We came here from Yellowstone National Park so public lands were important in deciding where we wanted to live,” she said.
Ask the riders to name their favorite trail and it’s almost always Spring Creek, a 7-mile intermediate/advanced trail that starts off the Spur Trail in Senate Meadows and rolls through woods past a miner’s cabin to Spring Creek. Bikers usually cross the highway there onto Owl Creek and take the Harriman Trail back to the lodge.
“It has a lot of enjoyable rollers and some great views of Galena Peak,” said Hogg.
But great views are not the sole property of Spring Creek.
The Grinder, which takes off just to the northwest of the lodge, offers a 360-degree panorama of the mountain peaks surrounding the former mining camp, including Titus Peak, Gladiator Peak and Galena Peak. It also offers a gorgeous view looking down the valley through which Highway 75 runs, and cyclists and hikers can even watch cars climbing the highway towards the Sawtooth Mountains overlook.
The trail, which is rated more difficult in part because of its length, can be accessed by riding the Lodge Loop for a short distance to Psycho Trail. That climbs up through a few switchbacks to the fork for The Grinder and Psycho Ridge trails.
The Grinder takes people across a knobby ridge, rife with lavender-colored lupine, scarlet gilia and red and golden cushion buckwheat before ducking into the woods past huge Douglas fir trees and stands of slender lodgepole pine.
The trail spans 9 1/2 miles around the perimeter on the east side of the highway before connecting with the Spring Creek Trail.
Those looking for a shorter ride can follow it out of the lodge and loop back on the two-mile Psycho Ridge Trail.
While the name Psycho strikes terror in the hearts of many Nordic skiers, thanks to a plunging downhill, the Psycho Ridge Trail offers a gentle cruise winding through the woods with a couple small rollers and curvy banks that measure just a foot or two, compared with 3- and 4-foot-tall banks on Bald Mountain, a downhill mountain bike area offered by Sun Valley Resort.
Etoile and John Hening of Durango, Colo., discovered the trails around Galena Lodge last year when they brought their daughters to a free week-long summer music camp offered by the Sun Valley Summer Symphony. And they were only to happy to hit the trails again this week.
“It’s always fun to ride something totally different than what we have at home,” said Etoile Hening, a nurse and health consultant. “These trails are less rocky, less technical, so we don’t have to get off our bikes much. And everything’s so well marked. This is the highlight of our summer after being evacuated by fires around Durango all summer.”
Galena Lodge rents out full-suspension Hardtail Mountain Bikes, and it offers mountain bike clinics for those who would like to bolster their riding skills. Call 208-726-4010 or visit www.galenalodge.com for more information.