To be honest, the Osberg Ridgeline Trail doesn’t make any sense. It’s too perfect. It’s too remote, yet too close. It’s singletrack is too flowy, too rolly, too buffed out and way too scenic to be so close yet so far away. It’s too easy to be a backcountry trail and it’s too far from town to be… well it’s almost too much of everything to be real. But it is. Sitting in the middle of nowhere, 3,000′ above the valley floor, unspooling from east to west, following a prominent ridge system that divides Baker Creek and Warm Springs Creek with views for tens if not hundreds of miles, this newest addition to the Sun Valley region’s singletrack motherload is a mind blower.
It seems improbable that a trail this perfect could exist in a place like this. Rugged country cradling buttery singletrack.
Osberg’s is not actually in the middle of nowhere; it’s perched right above Sun Valley. But to get it, you have to really want it. Granted the trail itself is an 11 mile cruise at ridgeline elevation but its start and finish, while connected to other trail networks, requires a significant shuttle or an entire day of pedaling to traverse. We really wanted it. Actually, no one wanted it more than the Smith Optics crew, whose HQ is located in Ketchum. Gabe, Cory, Cassie and Adam from the marketing department were coming off a trade show junket that saw them locked in artificially lit, air conditioned convention halls talking their vocal chords horse, wading in a sea of recycled air. They were also gloating a bit after being named as one of Outside Magazine’s Best Places to Work and this ride more or less confirms what the mag peeps suspected, it’s an awesome place to work. I had sensed they might be in need of an exorcism from the demons of indoor confinement, and was quickly proven correct. Invitations to blow off a morning of work to ride Osberg’s to Sun Valley via Adam’s Gulch were snatched up faster than the last strands of bacon at a pancake breakfast.
Sturtevant’s Mountain Ferry is Sun Valley’s purveyor of good rides. As claimed, it does take you to magical places.
Osberg’s trailhead lies some 45 minutes by car from town but when ridden to connect with Adam’s Gulch drops you off within feet of cold beer and burgers right in Ketchum. So we rang up Sturtevant’s of Sun Valley and enlisted its iconic Mountain Ferry, a bright pink Ford four wheel van of a mid 90’s vintage, whose motto is “Taking You to Magical places”. Joe, Sturtevant’s shuttle captain, greeted us in the wee hours of the morning and mounted our bikes atop this chariot of destiny. Knocking the sleep out of our eyes we dreamily vanished into the dawn out Baker Creek Road to the Lost Shirt Trailhead. A short punchy climb later and we were greeted with views like these.
After a short punch climb you get this. For the next 2.5+ hours. Bike models apologize for their poses.
Osberg’s Ridgeline, formerly known as Warm Springs Ridge, underwent a major facelift over the past couple of years taking it from a rugged up and down hike-a-bike death march (ironically nicknamed “Sound of Music”) to the epic pedal that we were about to relish with good friends under perfect weather. The trail gets its new name from a local philanthropist and hiking legend, Gloria Moore Osberg, who penned the classic pocket guidebooks to hiking in Sun Valley, “Day Hiking Near Sun Valley” and “Easy Hikes Around Sun Valley”. Osberg’s books are found in nearly ever bookshelf around town and proceeds of their sales, numbering in the thousands, have contributed to the popularity of hiking and getting out in the area today. Gloria signed the copyright to her books over to the Idaho Conservation League after publishing them, allowing the profits from their sales to flow into several conservation projects including the trail which now bears her name.
Despite being in the middle of pristine nothingness, the new Osberg trail rides like a loopy little excursion next to town. Uniquely, the trail does not torture you with a climb that lasts for hours before sending you down the other side like most trails in Sun Valley. It follows a ridge system, popping in and out on each side slapping you with show stopping views which make riding at anything other than a stop and go pace almost impossible. As it rolls along, Kodak moments inhibit progress, but we are not in a hurry. Each stop results in another telling of some tale from the road or reminiscing over our many rides past. Despite the mellow terrain, nearly everyone takes a soil sample resulting in arm or leg jerky, but no one seems to care. It is a perfect day for the perfect ride. Whoops can be heard in the woods, and at each stop high fives are thrown all the way around.
On and on and on. One banked turn into the next lifted section dropping into the next for 11 miles. Flowing like water, Obserg’s is a destination ride.
Rides like this are why we ride. Epic trails and good friends. With our wheels turning us toward town, conversation becomes fixed on apre´s which may have contributed to a couple of the aforementioned cases of scraped-off flesh. As we join the Fox Peak to Adam’s Gulch connector you realize it’s the kind of ride that you wish would never end and when it does, the logic of turning around and riding back the other way does not seem that far off the mark. But a piece of shade and cold beers wipe our logic clean and we drop the 3,000′ feet into town with our hair on fire.
Headed along exposed knife ridges like this give one the sense of being on top of the world. But please note, this is not the place to be in an electrical storm.
Mission accomplished, it’s all about fried food and malted beverages. Gabe tag teams a Coke and a Budweiser, the contents of his burger cascading into his basket as he revels in the glory of it all. Osberg Ridge has delivered yet again. For anyone with intermediate or better mountain bike skills and fitness this trail is a not-to-be-missed on your next trip out. It’s actually worth doing irrational things like quitting your job or at least lying to your boss. Be prepared as it is exposed and if the weather turns south you could be in for a long wait. Several different options exist in connecting it to several other great rides so look up Sturtevant’s or another local shop and have at it. For more information on the mountain biking in the Sun Valley area and this little gem in particular go to Visit Sun Valley and get your wheels on some of the best dirt anywhere in the United States or the world for that matter.
Photos: Ray Gadd