A group of us just finished a lollipop route running from Ketchum, north through the White Clouds Singletrack section, down to Stanley, and back to Smiley Creek on SR 75 just north of Galena. All told it was roughly 140 miles and over 17,000 feet of climbing. We did it over four days and three nights. We carried both the main route and singletrack options map. Both were dialed, by the way. Great job on the maps!
Thought I would post a few other observations that might be of use to others who ride the White Clouds singletrack section.
- First off, we had an epic trip in every sense of the word. It was incredible. The White Clouds are an absolute gem and not to be missed. As you ride near SR 75, you can see why the Sawtooths attract most of the attention, but venture back in the White Clouds just a bit and you're in some rugged country.
- There were five in our group - 2 from Denver, one from Phoenix, one from Santa Barbara, and one from Vancouver, BC. The elevation particularly on days 2 and 3 can be significant. If possible, it would be helpful to acclimatize for a day or two.
- We rode a spectrum of bikes from a fully rigid, custom Soma Juice to a Transition Bandit. There probably isn't a perfect bike for all of the terrain that you encounter. All of us rode 29er wheels.
- We rode mostly bikepacking setups. Revelate seat bags, custom frame bags, feed bags, etc. Some had Revelate handlebar bags and others had strapped dry/compression bags to the bars. Would definitely recommend the Revelate handlebar bags over the the strapped compression bags. The dry/compression bags are excellent for most tours, but the downhills in the White Clouds broke several straps and generally bounced around all the handlebar bags except the Revelate.
- The trail is VERY faint in places, particularly leaving Bowery guard station, near the top of Chamberlain creek, through the burn area on Warm Springs, and the Meadows before the Martin Creek climb. The map was spot on, but you'll want to be paying close attention in these areas.
- The maps mention several turns as "unsigned" that are now signed, likely within the last 3-4 months. One of the key areas is the Warm Springs trail leaving Born Lakes.
- The descents into Germania, into Ants Basin, and down Warm Springs all require expert level mountain bike skills. All are completely rideable, but loose, rocky, and steep are the general conditions. The Germania descent was particularly surprising. It's a blast, but hold on! The other descents (down into Bowery, down Casino Creek, into the Washington Lake/Fourth of July Lake area) are all fun and flowy.
- The burn area down Warm Springs creek to the Meadows has about 25-30 downed trees that require hopping on and off the bike. We spoke with several folks on dirt bikes who thought they might get up to clear it with chainsaws, but it definitely slowed our pace.
- The map mentions some hike-a-bike. We would definitely not advise taking this lightly. The climb out from Bowery is nearly unrideable, particularly the final mile. It is fall line riding for much of the climbing with very few bench cuts leading to switchbacks. More would be rideable without gear, but it's still largely hike-a-bike. The climb into Chamberlain basin/lakes area is also quite a bit of hike-a-bike, though less than the previous climb. We started up after a significant rain/lightning storm and relatively weary legs, but many sections would have been very tough regardless. Avalanches over the winter have brought deadfall over the trail in several areas on this ascent as well. Don't plan on flying up it - it's a grind.
- We encountered thunderstorms every afternoon so try to plan to hit most of the exposed passes early if possible. You're greatly exposed on the climb out of Bowery and the climb over to Born Lakes, in particular.
- The view before the descent into Ants Basin is absolutely incredible.
- Water was no issue. Nearly the entire section follows streams or comes across lakes every few miles. We packed a Katadyn 6L for camp and used it to fill bottles and reservoirs. We also had a Steripen and Iodine as backup.
- We saw a ton of bear sign and one black bear. Be sure to hang your food. We brought 400lb parachute cord, which is super light and could withstand hoisting several bags.
- The climb up Martin Creek begins with some pretty sandy sections that have been chopped up by dirt bikes. Much of it is rideable, but it saps the legs a bit.
- Lastly, the descent on Casino Creek is one for the ages. Huge views, tight singletrack, and it seems to never end. Be sure to keep your head up as we ran across 2 sets of elk in this section.
- We broke off route to grab a bite at Smiley Creek on the first day before heading over to Grand Prize Gulch. Great folks and good food. We also ate breakfast at Stanley Baking Co on the final day. Highly recommend this place, especially after several breakfasts on the trail.
- We did ride the toll road to the Galena summit. It's easily rideable on a mountain bike - grade is mellow and basically no route finding until you cross SR 75 where the trail is very faint. Recommend it if you are on a mountain bike.
Hope this helps some folks planning this ride. Highly recommend it. Unforgettable trip.