Pioneer Cabin via the Hyndman North Fork Trail
Well I should have listened to Brian when he warned me about the hike-a-bike to Pioneer Cabin. Brian, my Sun Valley ride advisor works at Backwoods Mountain Sports in Ketchum.
Brian told me I had to go to Pioneer Cabin, but asked, ” Do you like to hike-a-bike?” I had already told him I am getting pretty good at hike-a-biking when we were discussing the Osberg Ridge Trail, the ride I did the day before this one.
He continued with, “This will be the toughest hike-a-bike you have ever done … but the view from the top … oooouweeee!”
Hey, I won’t mind the hike-a-bike,” I stupidly told him.
Note** If these photos are distorted or the map below does not show up, please click Pioneer Cabin to view the actual page rather than the email version.
Cindy and I easily found the Johnstone Trailhead after driving through the “throwback” town of Triumph and passing two most unusual sentries at the gate of a ranch. These figures looked a little like some downhill mountain bikers I shared rides with … all geared up!
Brian drew up the plan for Cindy and I to ride the dirt road to the Hyndman Trailhead together, then I would continue onto the Hyndman Trail while she biked around some before returning to the truck.
As we approached the Johnstone Trailhead we noticed a field full of rocks. Cindy said they were sheep but I watched and if they were sheep, they were temporarily paralyzed.
Cindy has just started mountain biking … not an easy task at this point of her life. She prefers to hike but was having trouble with her feet so I suggested getting on the bike. I feel bad that she must wear so much clothing while in the sun. Years ago doctors removed a melanoma from the back of her calf and since then she has been careful to cover up her fair skin.
The dirt road followed alongside Hyndman Creek for a little over a mile, gradually climbing most of the way. As we approached the Hyndman Trailhead I noticed a whole bunch of parked cars and a sign on the right for my trail … the Hyndman Creek Trail.
I said goodbye to Cindy, turned on my digital book, and started down my trail. She said she was going to continue up the road to see where it went.
Almost immediately I crossed a bridge, then cruised along an easy trail continuing beside Hyndman Creek, heading due east. My book was about how the U.S. sneaked some great scientists out of Germany near the end of World War 2 … real interesting to me.
I kept waiting for the trail to turn north but kind of got distracted by my book and the incredible view of Cobb Peak right in front of me.
After riding almost two miles along Hyndman Creek I finally decided to check my Trailforks app to see exactly when my trail was supposed to turn north.
I was shocked when I looked at the screen. The app showed me on no trail at all! My blue dot was floating way to the east of the trail I needed to be riding!
So I turned around and blasted back down the trail for a half mile or so, then checked Trailforks … I was closer to the northbound trail.
I flew farther back toward my starting point and checked again … the blue dot was closer. I rode all the way to the bridge and checked. The app told me I was almost exactly where the northbound trail was supposed to start.
I crossed the bridge and rode back into the parking lot with all the cars. After I made a right turn, I pedaled farther up the road Cindy and I had been riding earlier … where she was going to continue to ride.
- Below you will find a map for Pioneer Cabin.
- Click the green or red balloons for driving directions to the trailheads.
- Click Tracks or Icons for Specific Info
I rounded the corner only to find the road ended in a cul-de-sac or smashed down grass … obviously where many cars had made their U-turn. At the end of the circle I spotted a slender Carsonite sign forbidding motorcycles.
Next to the post I spotted a skinny singletrack through the brush. Could this be my northbound trail? I checked the Trailforks app and sure enough, I was on the correct trail … finally! After I clicked the trail image on the app my phone listed the trail as Hyndman North Fork … not Hyndman Creek Trail. How could I be so careless!
I took off as fast as I could, embarrassed by my mistake and hoping to make up some of the time I had wasted. But after the trial crossed the grassland it headed straight up the side of the mountain. I was less than a hundred yards into my ride and I was already hike-a-biking!
Fortunately the trail dropped back down and followed beside the creek. I found myself cruising through flowery bushes and aspen groves. The trail was too easy, and I began to get worried. I knew the Hyndman North Fork Trail was going to rise 2,480 feet in 4.1 miles, and I was riding right along, not gaining much altitude at all! I had to cross a couple of rock slides but they were not too difficult.
At about eight miles into the ride the trail headed straight up the mountain, as it had earlier. But this time the trail never came back down. I am not sure a motorcycle could have scaled the trail (if they were allowed). The path was so narrow I could not walk beside my bike and keep both of us on the trail. I tried walking through the brush with my bike on the trail, but my shins soon became all scraped up.
I tried walking the bike through the brush (with my feet on the trail) but found myself in a wrestling match I quickly lost. I tried pushing the bike up the trail in the wheelie position I had used to cross single-railing log bridges on the McKenzie River Trail in Oregon. But trying to balance and push the bike up the steep incline using the handlebars quickly caused my arms to ache. My final solution was get as much behind the bike as possible, place my right hand on the seat post and stretch my left arm forward, enough to steer the bike with my fingertips.
Before I complain any more I must tell you this … while I struggled up the canyon wall I witnessed a landscaping masterpiece unfold before my vary eyes. To the north and east jagged peaks began to emerge. And just like shark’s teeth, more serrated crests appeared behind those. I was facing a glorious amphitheater created by Mother Nature. Snow desperately clung to some of the highest peaks. The largest patch looked like a white gecko.
My original goal was to eat my snack at the Pioneer Cabin as a reward for reaching the top. However, after an hour and a half I was getting weak and was stumbling around, so finally I just sat on the trail (nowhere else to sit except in the bushes) and ate my apple and nut bar. I polished off a good portion of my Skratch, then trudged onward. I spent almost two hours climbing out of the ravine (including my lunch time).
Have you ever climbed a mountain which seemed to go on and on forever? You look up and see the top. But when you go a little farther you look up again, only to realize what you were looking at earlier was not actually the top? Well, this happened to me a dozen times on this hike-a-bike!
Either the sight of Pioneer Cabin or the pain from the scrapes on my shins brought tears to my eyes. As I walked up I noticed the door was open, but the interior looked inhabited. Cooking utensils and a water bottles lay upon the table. A guitar was sitting on a bed. The place was spick and span … not a trace of dust! A lawn chair sat just inside the door.
The Pioneer Cabin could not have been placed in any better spot, for from this chair a person could look out the door and see it all. But I sat outside, on a long wood bench offering the same view. I ate another nut bar and drank some more Skratch, then decided it was time to move on.
I took a few photos of the cabin from different angles, then rode over the hill (yes, rode on my bike) to the west.
Maybe twenty yards down the other side I came across the only two people I would encounter on my trip. A woman was hiking up the trail and behind her a fellow was stopped, busy snapping pictures in all different directions.
I stopped and the woman asked if there were any more steep hills before she got to the Pioneer Cabin. I said, “If you walk up this trail another twenty yards you will be able to see the roof of that cabin!” She uttered a throaty, “Thank God,” and thanked me too!
The switchbacks down from the Pioneer Cabin were pretty tricky, with most of tread consisting of loose rock and sand. The trail headed toward a huge rock slide, turned away for fifty yards, then traveled back to the edge of the slide again … over and over! This was the Pioneer Cabin Trail, and I much preferred sliding down the loose rock compared to the hike-a-biking up the Hyndman North Fork Trail!
So, once I had started down I thought I had it made. But little did I realize I still had more than 150 feet of climbing. If the trail builders had headed straight toward Johnstone Canyon much of this additional climbing could have been avoided, but instead they made the Pioneer Cabin Trail drop over 700 feet before meeting up with the Johnstone Trail. So, i just had to turn around and climb back up those 150 feet.
At 4:42 pm I was at the top of the Johnstone Canyon. I sent Cindy a text telling her I was just starting the descent with 4 miles to go. I figured I could ride four miles along a creek in half an hour … wrong this time!
Riding down the Johnstone Trail a little bit of a challenge due to the tread. About 90% of the time I was traveling down some kind of loose rock. From a distance the trail looked like something I would normally bomb down … but one false turn would surely cause a tire to wash out … causing some kind of crash and severe pain.
I did get another great view of the jagged peaks to the east and a huge green meadow below, and the weather was perfect.
At one point I came across an elegant waterfall and further down some elaborate beaver ponds.
As I raced out of some baby aspens Cindy was just putting her lawn chair away. “Did you see me coming or something?” I asked. “No, I just had a feeling you would be showing up any time,” she countered. I found that statement miraculous … for she did not know I had taken the wrong trail, did not know how tough the hike-a-bike had been, and did not know the Johnstone Trail had been a lot tougher that I had anticipated!
“Did you see a sheep up there?” She then asked. “No, why do you ask?” I questioned. Because the sheepherder was here and said one was missing?”
“No, at the start of this ride I was like a lost sheep … but I finally found my way!”
During most visits I take many more photos than I can place on a page. To view every image I captured … 104 photos in all, please visit my Photo Gallery Site.
The following link can give you all the stats for this ride … just click on the box below.
Would you like to try this ride? You can copy my GPX file from the Strava Link below.