Lift-served biking on the Warm Springs Trail – Sun Valley/ Ketchum, Idaho



It doesn’t appear that lift-served mountain-biking or hiking are huge summer draws. Admittedly it was Friday but the base facilities were deserted even when we got there about a half hour past opening time of 9am. The chairs run slowly and bikes are loaded on chairs behind you. Rental bikes and bike equipment (including big freeride bikes – 6 inch travel Kona Stinky’s which IMO are overkill for these trails) are available for rent at the valley floor rental facilities.

Trail signage when you get to the top is very good. There are some restroom facilities and dining/refreshments at the Lookout Restaurant.

There aren’t too many trail choices; signs direct you to the Broadway traverse trail which takes you to the Cold Springs/Warm Springs junction. Be aware that these trails are public accessed and are not patrolled so you are on your own once you leave the clearly marked ski area boundaries. Although I am told most people doing this as a self-powered route ascend Cold Springs then descend Warm Springs expect uphill traffic on Warm Springs and regulate your speed accordingly. Both trails descend from about 7,800′ to 5,800ft – Warm Springs is about 7.5 miles long while Cold Springs is about 6.5miles long.

Bikes ride in the chair behind while you go up, up, up

Entrance to the bike trails at Bald Mountain

Paragliders also get a ride to the top. Click here for the full size pano

Panoramic from the peak chairlife. Click here for the full size

View from the Broadway Trail looks N and NE towards the Boulders and the Pioneers. Click here for the full size

Tyler rides down to the Cold Springs/ Warm Springs intersection


We elected to drop downhill on the Warm Springs Trail and weren’t disappointed. Cold Springs is south-facing and it looked to us like the alpine flower season had already passed on that trail. Warm Springs is slightly more north-facing and the flowers were in full bloom, especially in burnt out areas.

As alluded to earlier, this is a trail for all ability levels. Although a freeride bike and armour can’t hurt especially if one isn’t especially a confident rider or wants to haul downhill at speed, this isn’t really a “big bike” kind of trail. The trail is smooth, flows and logically links downhill sections together in a gradual gradient. Breaking up the downhill there is a half mile of climbing at the Monarch Ridge and Little America Point viewpoint sections. From that viewpoint and ridge you can get a good look at the terrain you just descended and the mountains to the North and East. This is a beautiful trail – you get views, you get a ridgeline, you get buff smooth singletrack.

From the Little America viewpoint the trail then proceeds gradually downhill pretty much all the way. At the last mile you can elect to take either the River Run Traverse trail back to the River Run Base Plaza base area from where you loaded on the chairlifts or you can take a series of downhill switchbacks to the Warm Springs Lodge and then finish with a roadride through the dedicated bike-path system of Ketchum back to the River Run base area. We took the latter route and found a series of fast traverses interspersed with switchbacks. Indeed that was a common theme for Sun Valley singletrack – speed is the name of the game.

Flowers grow wild at the burn on Warm Springs


There’s a small climb midway on Warm Springs – this view looks back to the lift towers on the ridge behind.

About the author: Lee Lau

Lee Lau calls North Vancouver and Whistler BC home. He's had over 15 years experience riding bikes mainly in western North America and in Europe. Unlike many people who learned to ride bikes on North Shore trails, he actually enjoys riding (and sometimes bushwhacking) uphill.

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  • sv biker says:

    A couple notes for those who have never been but read this. There is not overly technical aspects on the trail, but it is very fast, and a lot of times cutting on a slope of 35+ degrees. This means if you fall off you are falling far. There are many adrenaline seeking bikers that his this up because of the high speeds, fun rollers, and the fact you have to be ON IT every second otherwise you will end up like others with broken collarbones, busted up knees, arms, whatever else.

    Also, the lift biking isn’t as big of a draw as skiing, where is it? The last picture caption is pretty dumb considering you don’t buy your tickets at the door anyways. you walk all the way inside to the back of the building to buy your tickets. Also, the first picture says ‘main office building’ where that building isn’t even open in the summer. Duh. Too bad there wasn’t a picture of all the rental bikes and shop tent set up outside.

    Plus side, if people write articles like this, the crowds will continue to stay away.

  • leel says:

    wow – sorry you seemed to take the trail descriptions personally.

    I mentioned many times throughout the article that this is a fast trail. Perhaps you didn’t click on subsequent pages? That might explain the confusion.

    Finally I have no idea what you mean by the comment: “Also, the lift biking isn’t as big of a draw as skiing, where is it?” – Could you clarify?

  • Moses Mexia says:

    After living in SV for 20 years and making probably 100 laps on the resort, I couldnt agree more with the review. Its fast, smooth and pretty fun. But there really isnt anything that could be categorized as techical. The views are spectacular and it is just one of the many sweet XC oriented rides in Sun Valley. I know there is dialogue to create a more progressive scene there and that would certainly draw more people. Lets all hope it happens.

  • julian tyo says:

    Whoa there, sv biker.

    First, I suggest you read the rest of the article.

    Next, ditch the old school, locals-only, keep-the-crowds away attitude.

    If that’s how you’re going to roll Buzz Killington, you shouldn’t be anywhere near the Baldy trails anyway.

    I know a nice ride out Long Gulch where you won’t see a single person.

    Third, if you’d like to talk any more about this article, I’d be more than happy to discuss in person.

    My name is Julian, and I work at Pete Lane’s up at Sun Valley.

  • pf says:

    Just thought I’d add an interesting ‘local’ person ‘of note’ to your list of celebrities — namely, our friend and world-renown author, Ridley Pearson — who has, throughout his career, written extensively about Sun Valley in his best-selling mystery novels!!!
    He lives here part of the year and writes using local people and places known to him in our City, and in our State.
    Just wanted to round out your ‘list’ a bit…..:-)
    Enjoyed your article, by the way!! pf

  • sv biker says:

    I apologize for a ridiculous post. I read it in a different light. this is actually a great review, and well accurate. I apologize to MTBR, to Sun Valley, and all the locals. Mr Moderator, It would even be appreciated if you could delete my first comment. MTBR, Lee, I apologize. Thank you for coming to our hidden treasure, I hope you enjoyed your stay and hope to have you guys back again.

  • leel says:

    hey no problem. I actually thought for a horrible second that i goofed and wrote something that slandered all the trails. I can’t edit the comments but will ask Gregg if he can do something. Thanks and no worries

  • eg says:

    First off, I believe you put together a great article.
    I would just like to say that for the most part this discussion seems rider-biased. I am not a Bomber by any means, but i do like to Go. I would consider parts of Warm Springs & Cold Springs quite technical, most curves/corners need to be taken carefully with any speed. There is a lot of loose, sharp shale and random roots that can throw you off the side. While it is a gorgeous ride, you do have to be on your game.
    Side note, watch out for hikers.

  • leel says:

    eg – Absolutely. I mentioned it in the article but it bears repeating. You might encounter uphille riders and hikers on both Warm Springs and Cold Springs. Manage your speed accordingly.

    Sidenote – there’s lots of places on these trails where there’s long straight sightlines. If it’s clear then you can let the brakes go. But do that when you can see ahead

  • local sv says:

    i think the article shouldve mentioned more about sun valley itself instead of just baldy or at the very least mention the other trails. There are so many awesome trails there… i prefer Adams Gulch.. more technical uphill and a gnarley ride down towards hulen meadows.

  • leel says:

    Hi local SV – we did ride local trails and I mentioned it but it’s buried in a link. Most people won’t read long stories unfortunately so I kept it short. – is the Mountain Fairy shuttle to Fox Peak – Adams Gulch trails – is when we did Pioneer to Long Gulch the same day we did Warm Springs.

    We definitely need more time here.

  • julian tyo says:

    trails are prime as of now.

    come join the fun!

  • Susan from St. Paul, MN says:

    Just visited SV for the first time and loved it! As a middle aged mountain biker from the midwest, where I am used to dirt, sand, roots, logs and love our urban trail system, I found the rocky terrain EXTREMELY out of my comfort range. The trails and views were gorgeous! I found myself knowing that if I picked up my speed, I would probably fly through the rocks easier, but I felt too unstable on the surface, so walked around many of the curves and through alot of the rock. It wasn’t until I hit the woods, with the lucious smell of pine and saw the lovely flowers, that I felt most at home and could relax a bit. Of course, my shoulders and right arm hurt the next day from the hold on that brake.
    Don’t regret a bit of it.
    Spent some more time up near the Lodge and loved that, too!

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