McCALL, Idaho -- The twisting trail led straight into a rock wall. Had we made a wrong turn?
Nope. The trail snaked beneath a cliff-faced boulder and disappeared into the forest.
What would be around the next corner? On the trails at Jug Mountain Ranch south of McCall, an Idaho resort town, you never know, but you can bet it's going to be fun.
The trails at Jug Mountain and elsewhere in McCall are a blast and surprisingly user friendly.
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Why surprising? For one, because mountain trails by nature are steep, and they can be tough to ride. But Jug Mountain's trails allow you to climb gradually on a dirt road before descending on some giggle-inducing single track.
Second, you often can't see the lay of the land in the mountains like you can in the open Foothills, so navigating a trail network can be tricky.
Trails are mapped and marked at Jug Mountain Ranch. Ditto for Bear Basin trails west of McCall.
Those two areas are great introductions to riding in McCall, or fun places to ride if you've been there before.
"We've worked to complement what else is going on in McCall," said David Carey, who operates the family-owned Jug Mountain Ranch.
Jug Mountain Ranch
These trails are on a 1,410-acre private residential community and golf course at the base of Jughandle Mountain.
The trails are a mix of Jeep roads (aka double track) and single-track trails built for mountain biking.
They twist and turn through the lush forest and drop onto the low rolling fields near the golf course.
The trails are great for all levels of mountain bikers who have single-track experience. Because they're relatively short, they're also a great place to learn because you won't be deep in the woods if you decide to bail.
There are also some downhill trails that will challenge any rider, and put a big grin on the faces of riders who are game for them.
Watch for the trail markers, and if you see a black diamond, believe it. Expect sheer drops, hard-banked corners and jumps (most of which you can ride over or avoid if you're not a big-air guy).
You will also see some North Shore-style platform jumps, wooden ramp corners and more.
Don't expect any marathon-length trails at Jug Mountain. This is a tight network of trails, most of which you can ride in a day, or possibly an afternoon if you're really fit.
Afterward, you can relax at the clubhouse. Jug Mountain's trailhead is at the clubhouse parking lot. Mountain bikers and golfers share the restaurant and patio dining.
It's part of McCall's come-as-you-are attitude.
"We tried to build Jug Mountain Ranch to emulate what attracted us to McCall; it's casual and low-key," Carey said.
The idea is to bring an "apres-ski" experience to bikers.
"Come on down and buy a burger and a brew," he said. "I'd like to see as much Spandex in the clubhouse as plaid pants."
Not only will you enjoy a post-ride beer and meal in a first-class setting, you will help the trails you just rode.
Golfers and bikers both bring business to Jug Mountain Ranch, and that exchange is "how these trails got built and maintained," Carey said.
For details and maps, the Jug Mountain Ranch website -- http://jugmountainranch. com/mtnbiking.html -- will have you covered.
These trails are located on public lands managed by the Forest Service and serve double-duty as mountain bike/hiking trails and Nordic ski trails in winter.
The trail network is a mix of Jeep roads and single track. Unlike most other trails in the McCall area, Bear Basin's trails were designed with mountain bikers in mind.
The entire network has a mild 500-feet elevation change between its highest and lowest points, which is far different from McCall's backcountry trails that tend to be steep and rugged.
Most trails are suitable for all levels of riders. They are fun to ride, easy to follow and marked for difficulty.
Short loops through the forest are great fun for novice riders and kids because you're never far from the trailhead.
But this isn't the biking equivalent of a bunny hill.
Check out Upper and Lower Drain trails. They're mind-blowing free-ride trails with high-banked, hair-pin turns followed by a series of jumps.
Maps are available at the trailhead parking area, which also has a restroom.