McCall to Burgdorf Hot Springs, Idaho


I can’t shake the impression that these mountains know what’s coming and that they are preparing for it. The water in the Payette River between upper and lower Payette Lake is far below the high water marks, and the surface is smooth and unhurried. Waiting. The leaves on the trees and the “needles” on the tamaracks are turning, preparing to drop. It rains off and on throughout the day, heavier towards evening, soaking the ground so that when the temperature drops, the first snows will stick.

Every piece works towards the same goal, the same vital task: Storing water for the long hot dry summer in the high desert cities 100 miles downstream. The rain will turn to snow within the next few weeks, uncountable individual flakes of snow filling in every crack, crevice, nook, and cranny; accumulating until there is an unbroken floor several feet above the ground, but with a cosmology only generally resembling the underlying surface. The streams and rivers and lakes will freeze solid. Waiting. When the earth tilts back into a more sun-favorable position in six months or so, the snow and rivers and streams and lakes will begin to melt, delivering their collection to the reservoirs, slowly at first and then in a crazy, violent torrent, until it’s all gone and the country begins its preparations all over again.

These are the thoughts that go through my mind as we work our way from McCall, up to Burgdorf, Idaho, 30 miles away. Chris and Christine have invited us to ride from their home in McCall up to the resort at Burgdorf, which consists of a natural hot springs pool and some scrappy cabins, one of which we have reserved for the night. We are carrying only some extra riding clothes and a little bit of food, since Stacy (who has a broken foot and is unable to ride) is driving the sag wagon.

It’s a gradual uphill grade to Upper Payette Lake, which is also the halfway point. We stop to commune with nature and eat. I comment on the fact that we have covered 15 miles already in a little over one hour. Chris points out that the climbing to Secesh Summit really starts now.

As we start out again the clouds that have been building all afternoon begin to spit rain on us. At the summit we regroup and begin the descent. We turn off Warren Wagon Road onto the gravel road leading to Burgdorf, as Warren Wagon Road continues on to Warren -- before tying into a spiderweb network of Forest Service roads, some of which peter out in the wilderness near the Montana border. (There is a way to loop back to McCall past Warm Lake on forest roads. Years worth of adventure touring out here!)

There are no showers at Burgdorf, but we soak in the hot springs pool, which is replenished at 150 or so gallons per minute by the natural springs. The pool itself is lined with logs and has a decomposed granite bottom, which is not unpleasant on the feet, and a uniform depth of about five feet. The cabins are primitive; only a wood stove, a couple of tables and beds. But with all our supplies carried up in the sag wagon, our digs feel luxurious. The rain comes down heavily throughout the late afternoon and into the evening, and we feel cozy and smug in our hideaway.

Getting out of town to make this trip was easy, relaxing, and just as memorable as the longer tours we have done. Yet it all fit inside a weekend -- we left home Friday afternoon and returned Sunday. Short trips like this can be fantastic stress reducers, especially for someone who might be intimidated by the planning and logistics involved in taking longer tours, or who may simply not have the time for a longer adventure. Easy to plan and execute, with no need to take time off from work, a bike overnight can be a good introduction to touring or just another excuse to get out of town and on the bike.

Get more information about bike overnights.

Tip for this adventure: October can be a great time to do this trip; just be sure to check weather conditions first!

Bike Touring News: Our mission is empowering the bicycle traveler. Bivouacked in Boise, Idaho, at 3853 N. Garden Center Way, we have a service center, and we are able to install and to service everything we sell and to provide maintenance for local customers' bicycles.

5 responses so far ↓

trailsnet - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Woohoo… BikeOvernight made the featured blogpost in & Thanks for your great website.

Cindy - Jan 18, 2013 at 1:40 PM

Did this trip in February '00 on a snow cat and loved soaking in the springs while the flakes fell around us! I'd love to do it your way next time!

Kevin from - Jan 18, 2013 at 5:51 PM

Who provided the sag for you. That's the way to do bicycle tours… a sag for carrying your load & hot springs for resting your weary bones.

Bike Hermit - Jan 19, 2013 at 9:32 AM

My wife had a broken foot at the time so she drove the sag wagon. She was able to ride with us the next year!
We have a touring group- Wandering Wheels- with monthly meetings and two or three overnight trips a year. Everybody is welcome. If you want to be on the mailing list, leave another comment.

Kevin - Jan 19, 2013 at 4:14 PM

Do you ever do international tours or tours of lengthy trails like the Katy, C & O, Allegheny, etc?

Leave a Comment

Leave this field empty