NORTH AMERICAN BIKE PARK REVIEW TOUR
TAMARACK RESORT & BIKE PARK REVIEW
SEASON 2 | EPISODE 1
After a crazy and turbulent spring our crew was unsure if we’d be able to embark on our second season of the Bike Park Review Tour. Luckily, as summer moved on we were able to find six parks that were open and willing to host our team of Dirt Delinquents. If you missed last year’s tour then we’ll quickly bring you up to speed. The goal of our Bike Park Tour is to inform riders and their families what sort of things they can expect from different parks in North America. As we showcase the trails, dining and off-mountain fun these quaint resorts and towns have to offer, we hope to inspire our viewers to get out, explore new places and have the best information possible to ensure their next trip is a good one!
After spending more time at home than we ever had in the last decade, it was time to load up the van and point northeast for the state of Idaho. Our first stop was Tamarack Resort and Bike Park, located 90 miles north of Boise on the shore of Lake Cascade and the small town of Donnelly.
Lodging at Tamarack Park
We stayed at the beautiful and borderline luxurious Lodge at Osprey Meadows which offered both beautiful views of the large and warm lake below and was just a short walk from the main village and Tamarack lift. Along with having a great pool, hot tub and gym, this clean hotel gives 2 Tamarack Passports per night, per room. The Passports give access to amenities like a scenic charlift ride, cruiser bike rentals, kayak rentals, disc golf tickets, fishing pole and tackle rentals and more! It certainly is a great bonus if you are looking to bring the family or do more than just ride all day every day.
After checking in we quickly unloaded and geared up for some afternoon laps in the park to familiarize ourselves with the terrain and soil conditions. It was early August and Idaho hadn’t seen a rainstorm for a while so the dirt was dry, loose and dusty. Nevertheless, it made for some fun drifts and dramatic shots for the camera.
We also met with Tamarack Resort staff Sarah Monen and Mitch Herlein who quickly brought us up to speed and gave us their top hits selection. From there it was time to get some dinner in the village and dust off the cobwebs for our first day filming and riding our brand-new Canyon bikes.
The Tamarack Bike Park Trails
Tamarack Bike Park and the entire resort have had a turbulent go since first opening in 2004, making it one of the youngest resorts we’ve visited. The changes in ownership and transitions have certainly made it difficult but the new owner has taken the reins and the resort appears to be on a big swing in the right direction. Judging by the massive construction going on, the new acquisition of a trail building machine, the newly christened dirt jump and pump track park and hiring of a full time terrain manager, Tamarack is putting a shovel in the ground and marking its place figuratively and literally.
As of right now the Tamarack Bike Park accesses the mid-mountain chairlift station to offer rides 1,700 vertical feet of elevation that takes a bit over ten minutes and sometimes closer to 15. Once at the top riders have the choice to take one of three trails which will then splinter off into more options depending on your skill level. Tamarack Bike Park has 25 miles of trails as of right now with 7 greens, 4 blues and 7 black diamonds available.
Green and Blue Bike Trails
The green beginner trails like Pura Vida and Apollo give riders a great introduction to the mountain and will give them a chance to build confidence on their bikes. The blue trails at Tamarack are a good way to progress but leave something to be desired in terms of fun for those on bigger bikes. While some parks do a great job making blue trails fun for advanced level riders to hit again and again, these will definitely be enjoyed more by beginners and while it will give them a good challenge to progress, doesn’t quite prepare them for the aggressive black diamond terrain found at Tamarack. Super G, Show-Low and Hockey Mom are the standouts in the blue category and trails we think most riders will have fun on.
Black Diamond Bike Trails
The blacks here are technical, rocky and require a couple practice runs to really learn. It’s our favorite type of riding and we love learning trails and starting to pick up speed and gaps as the days progress. Hibernator, Rock Star and ESR will definitely keep riders focused and engaged as they search for lines and try to keep off the brakes. We also loved sections of Smokejumper but felt that, like other parts of the mountain, some rock removals could be beneficial in keeping trail speeds up and making the tails safer for bikes and riders. Hot Shot was one of our favorites and had a great mix of speed, loose drifty turns and great berms!
Overall, the trails at the Tamarack Park are fun and the mountain has a ton of potential that we’d like to see evolve as the new owners and staff continue to build and work on the park. If you are looking for a place to ride great jumps or flow trails, this is not going to be your spot quite yet! There are some future plans coming soon and we’re excited to see how they come along. If you’re looking for rocky, tech and steep chutes then you’ll have a ton of fun here at Tamarack and it’s worth making a trip. Especially if you’ve got some beginners in the crew that want to practice on some mellower terrain and move into some fun but not overly scary blues. On top of that, just below the park is another 20 miles of singletrack that are able to be ridden for free and are also ebike friendly! If you want to get some pedaling in while you’re on your trip, they’ve got plenty of options to make it even more welcoming to family rides or rest days.
Tamarack Park Activities and Food
Tamarack Resort was in a major building phase during our visit and combined with COVID-19 restrictions, things were a bit different than we’d usually expect to find them. That being said, we never went hungry or got bored during our three day stay. Prices for food and snacks at the village market and coffee shop were beyond impressive and honestly shocked our whole staff. It was so refreshing to see a park not taking advantage of people on vacation and not overcharging. A person could get a nice breakfast sandwich for under $5 or get a lunch snack or premade sandwich from the village market for less than $10. Major props Tamarack! Beyond those couple of options however, this summer looks to be a quiet one and it likely won’t be until 2021 that more restaurants and nightlife will be happening in the Tamarack village.
In between meals there’s also plenty of fun to be had whether you’re looking to keep it mellow by lounging at the pool or nearby Lake Cascade or want to get a little more adventurous with whitewater rafting tours, ziplining or water sports at the lake. You can also hike, rent UTVs, play pickleball or disc golf if that’s more your speed.
Venturing into the nearby town (15 minute drive) of Donnelly won’t exactly put you in a modern metropolis as the town of less than 300 people is pretty quiet. There are a couple of restaurants and bars that will be just enough to keep you entertained for a few days.
Lodging, Camping, and Local Information
Idaho is an incredibly beautiful state with massive amounts of land, mountain ranges and freedom. While we absolutely loved and would recommend the Lodge at Osprey Meadows, it’s not the only option in town. Plenty of Vacasa and Airbnb options exist, some smaller inns and motels are in Donnelly and there is a ton of places to camp too. We saw lots of people camping along the shores of the lake at campgrounds and some other non-serviced camping can be found if you look.
If you’re looking for more riding to do, be sure to check out the nearby Jug Mountain Ranch and McCall mountain bike scene as they’ve got some really great options that will make your visit to Tamarack even better.
THE WOLF’S LAST WORD
Tamarack Bike Park is a newer park with a pretty solid trail offering that we’re excited to see growth thanks to new ownership and a dedicated bike park team. The beginner trails are definitely beginner friendly and the addition of the valley trails make it a place that beginners and families can ride and enjoy. There is a lack in blue trails and jump trails but after meeting with Tamarack’s terrain manager we’re excited to learn that they are aware of the gaps in their offerings and have plans to build trails to fill in the voids for a more well-rounded offering. If you’re a fan of raw, rocky trails and like challenging yourself then you’ll certainly enjoy some of the black and double black terrain up on Tamarack, we certainly did.
If you are looking for a place to spend a few days, or maybe even closer to a week with the inclusion of Jug Mountain, we think Tamarack and the surrounding area is a solid option. The park and resort are only going to get better as more trails get built and construction wraps up. The nearby lake is great for more activities, the zipline course is fun and offers some thrills and views and the overall experience in the fresh and newly built village will make it a vacation worth remembering.
If we had to rank Tamarack Bike Park from 1-10 we’d put the trails at a 7.25/7.5 simply because they need more trails to keep people entertained for longer visits. The trails they do have are fun and well built for the most part, but we’d love to see more. The addition of the new jump park and pump track as well as the valley XC trails certainly add to the mix and options for riding though. Once construction of the village is finished we think that the overall resort experience would be up around the 8.25 mark and is worth a visit if you’re in the area.
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