Thursday, September 12, 2019

Here's 5 hiking loops to enjoy during the Hyde Park Street Fair

Boise city scape from the trails to the Camelsback Summit.
Exhibitors getting set up for the weekend!
Boise Byrds biking group heading out for a ride.
Hi all,

Everyone knows the Hyde Park Street Fair is a rockin' good time, and it's happening Friday-Sunday of this weekend, Sept. 13-15.

It's always a hoot to hang out with your friends at the street fair, run into other peeps you know, shop the booths and enjoy the music. See the Boise Weekly article for all the details. It's the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Park Street Fair! 1979 man - Wow!

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending five hiking-biking-running loops that start and finish at Camelsback Park to maybe knock out before you go to the fair, knowing that you might be enjoying an alcoholic beverage or two ...

This list is kid-friendly and family-friendly, starting with the easy and building from there.

Trail to the top of Camelsback hill
1. Kiddie hike to Camelsback summit - Distance: 1/4 mile; Difficulty: Easy. There are several trails climbing to the top of Camelsback Summit from different sides of the park. One of them marches straight up the face of the hill in a series of steps. Take your young kids to the top to get a great view of the park and the city. When the music is playing, and the park full of colorful people, it'll be way cool to take in the event from up there. Best for kids 2-5 years old. Tip: there's a sand pit on the east side of the Camelsback hill, accessible from the trailhead on the east side of the tennis courts, where little kids love to play.

Walkers and runners headed out on Red Fox Trail.

2. Red Fox - Owls Roost Loop - Distance 2.3 miles; Difficulty Easy. Hiking time: 45 minutes (brisk pace) to 1 hour. This is the shortest and flattest loop from Camelsback Park venturing into the foothills. But it's very scenic going up Red Fox #36 Trail and coming back on Owls Roost (watch for great horned owls in there). Start from the trailhead on the east side of the tennis courts, and hike up Red Fox Trail 1 mile. Cross 8th Street, and take Kestrel a short ways to the Owls Roost junction. Turn right and return to Camelsback on Owls Roost.

3. Kestrel - Red Cliffs Loop -Distance: 5 miles, starting from Camelsback; 3 miles, starting from the Foothills Learning Center. Difficulty: Moderate. Hiking time: 2+ hours from Camelsback; 1+ hours on the short loop. Vertical gain: 606 feet. This hike is a great little workout close to home. Take Owls Roost out of Camelsback about 1 mile to the Kestrel junction. Turn right and climb Kestrel on the ridge up to Crestline Trail. Go left on Crestline a short ways and then turn left on Red Cliffs to return to the Learning Center and Camelsback. Great views from those trails, too, once you're on Crestline, and on the way back on Redcliffs.

4. Crestline - Hulls Gulch Loop - Distance: 7.25 miles, starting from Camelsback; 5 miles from the
Foothills Learning Center; Difficulty: Moderate with strenuous pitches. Hiking travel time: 2.5-3 hours; Running travel time: 1.5 hours; Vertical gain: 868 feet. Crestline-Hulls is a classic loop in the Central Foothills. It may be one of the most popular loops, if not THE most popular loop, because it’s a great tour in a scenic setting. Starting from Camelsback, take Owls Roost Trail about 1 mile to Kestrel. Turn right on Kestrel. The climb up Kestrel is steep in places and fairly continuous on the ridge, but once you're on Crestline, the gradient is very gradual and moderate on a wide sandy trail all the way to Hulls Gulch. The rocky singletrack trail going down Hulls creates a little more entertainment, but it's no big deal for hiking. Just watch your step! 

5. Corrals - Hulls Gulch - Loop - Distance: 8+ miles, starting from Cameslback. Difficulty: Moderate with strenuous sections. Vertical gain: 1,000 feet. This one requires a shuttle if you're hiking. It's a piece of cake if you're riding this route on a mountain bike. But it's a great tour from Corrals, over Corrals Summit to Bob's Trail then over to 8th street, cross 8th, and down Hulls Gulch back to Camelsback. You could hike up Highlands Trail from the bottom of Bob's in the Highlands to catch Corrals Trail, or start at the Corrals Trailhead 1.2 miles up Bogus Basin Road from Highlands Elementary. Proceed on Corrals Trail over the summit to Trail #1 to 8th Street. Cross 8th Street and descend on Hulls Gulch. Best for mountain biking, but it's a great hike or trail-run too! 

Have fun! 
- SS

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Here's at least 10 last-minute ideas for outings and camping on Labor Day weekend!

Final weekend for camping ... Labor Day weekend
Hi all,

Labor Day weekend is upon us! It's the typical last weekend of camping in the summer season, so I'm dishing up some last-minute tips for the three-day weekend, as always. 

Before we get into the camping ideas, both Bogus Basin and Brundage Mountain have some fun stuff going on this weekend. 

This weekend will be the final segment of Music on the Mountain at Bogus Basin for the summer, a free concert highlighted by Jeff Crosby (headliner), Rider & Rolling Thunder, Matt Hopper & the Roman Candles on Saturday, Aug. 31, from 12-6 pm on the lawn outside Simplot Lodge. Plus you can partake in Fun Zone activities, including summer tubing, bungee trampoline, gem panning, climbing wall, and mountain coaster will operate from 11 am to 7 pm., and so will the Deer Point Chairlift. Plus, you can hike, ride or trail-run on Bogus' many trails.

Live music at Bogus Basin will continue into Sunday with Music on the Patio, featuring local artist Ryan Wissinger, who will play from 2:00 to 5:00pm.

On Friday night, Aug. 30,  Brundage is hosting a free concert with, guess who? Jeff Crosby and the Refugees. A BBQ dinner will be served as well, Friday night. Buy tickets at The Bluebird Bluebird quad will be running from 10 am to 5 pm daily through Monday.

Now, on to the camping tips and other Labor Day ideas ... the weather looks stellar BTW for camping, hiking and biking this Labor Day weekend, with daytime highs in the 80s in the mountains, and 90s in the Boise Valley.
  • Cascade area - Stolle Meadows and Landmark are my favorite camping areas in this neck of the woods. There are tons of primitive car-camping spots in both locations, east of Cascade, off the Warm Lake Highway. I've heard there may be some construction in the Stolle Meadows area so check with the Cascade Ranger District for any closures. Plus, there are hot springs in the vicinity. FYI: There should be salmon spawning in Stolle Meadows this weekend.
  • Lick Creek area in the Payette National Forest 
  • McCall area - Camping, hiking and backpacking in the Lick Creek area NE of McCall should be fabulous. Some of the nice mountain lakes up there include Box, Snowslide, Duck, Hum, Enos and Thirty-three lakes. Pick up a Payette National Forest map or a McCall Adventure Map to get the details for access. Also, check my blog from earlier this summer on five easy-to-access kid-friendly mountain lakes in the McCall area. 
    Stanley Lake 
  • Stanley area - I'm sure the Stanley area will be hopping with lots of campers at Stanley Lake, Redfish Lake, Pettit Lake and points along the Salmon River. Backpacking in the White Clouds should be dandy, particularly from the East Fork side, being a three-day weekend and all. Don't forget the Marsh Creek Trail as another potential destination ... great hiking and fly fishing spot. Hike up to the junction of Bear Valley and Marsh Creeks, and there's a huge glory hole right there. 
    North and Middle Forks of the Boise River ... car-camping mecca 
  • Idaho City area - The North and Middle Forks of the Boise River work great for car camping. See my post from last week.  
  • Salmon River beaches - Upstream from Riggins along the Salmon River Road are some sweet spots for camping, hanging out and swimming.
If you're staying in town, I'm hearing that some people will be taking in the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic, going on from Thursday through Sunday. There are supposed to be more than 5,000 balloon launches.

Also, Labor Day weekend is chock full of big sales at your favorite outdoor retailers in the Boise area, places like Idaho Mountain Touring, George's CyclesBoise REI, Greenwood's, McU Sports, Alpenglow Mountain SportIdaho River Sports, and Shu's Idaho Running Companyall have some fantastic clothing and gear on sale right now. Great deals! Go get 'em! 

- SS

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Bogus Basin mountain bike festival, hiking Granite Mountain and house party for Lauren McLean

Riding at Bogus Basin is a pleasant alternative with cooler weather, shade and great trails! 
Hi all,

If you haven't been mountain biking at Bogus Basin this summer, this weekend looks like the perfect time to go.

Bogus is hosting a Mountain Bike Festival from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Chair #1 will be running to take folks to the top of Deer Point. There are guided rides for men, women and kids, professional riders competing in the "Whip-Off" big air challenge, demo bikes, raffles and more.

The event costs $45 through Friday, and $50 on Saturday. Register here

The goal, according to organizers, is to celebrate mountain biking by "bringing our passion-filled mountain bike community together." Meet new riding friends, meet local shops and services, get out and ride the trails and enjoy what should be a nice cool mountain day. Participating bike organizations and shops include SWIMBA, Central Idaho Mountain Biking Association (CIMBA), George's, Idaho Mountain Touring, Reed Cycles, Boise REI, World Cycle, Eagle Bike Shop, McU Sports, Rolling H Cycles, and Kore North Bicycles.

I love the trails at Bogus. If you haven't gotten to know the trail system up there, you need to. IMBA rated the Around the Mountain Trail at Bogus the best in the state of Idaho! 

Granite Mountain summit and USFS lookout. Elevation 8,500 feet.
Hike Granite Mountain

I went for a fun hike to the top of Granite Mountain last Saturday while I was in McCall. Here's a link to my Facebook pics. I'd rate the hike "moderate." It was 3+ miles to the top of Granite Mountain from the trailhead off the Goose Lake Road. Travel time was about 4+ hours round-trip.

The views on top are fantastic. There's a manned Forest Service lookout tower on top. You can see the Wallowas and Seven Devils to the west, Meadows Valley and the Little Salmon canyon leading down to Riggins, the northwest corner of "the Frank," the Payette Crest off to the east, and Brundage Mountain, and Long Valley to the south.

Granite Mountain is the giant hulk of mountain that looms to the west of McCall when you approach the mountain community. Brundage provides snowcat powder skiing trips on Granite, and I have had some legendary times up there on the mountain.
House party for Lauren McLean 

The political race for Mayor of Boise is under way. I have known Lauren McLean since the first $10 million open space campaign 1999-2001, and she has been a proven champion of open space and trails for the Boise Foothills ever since. I still feel that winning that initial open space campaign was a transformative event for the City of Boise, and now there's huge community support for open space, trails, conservation and water quality.

Mayor Bieter has had four terms to lead Boise, and I think a lot of people feel they are ready for a change.

My partner Wendy Wilson and I are co-hosting a house party on Thursday, Aug. 29, for Lauren at our home at 3209 N. 39th Street in NW Boise. Sam Sandmire and Cary Hattabaugh, Diane Ronayne, Zack Waterman, Nicole LeFavour, Suki and Bill Molina, and Elena Lansing are co-hosting. 

We are inviting folks to come hear Lauren speak about her priorities for the City of Boise moving forward, even if you haven't made up your mind. We are inviting outdoorsy and conservation types. Shiny Shoe Bob is playing music, and we'll have food, wine and beer.

If you're interested in coming to the house party, please RSVP to 

Please see our Facebook invite for more information.    
- SS

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Refresh your soul with a double mountain lake hike to Snowslide and Maki Lakes

Huck looks for fish in Snowslide Lake
Wildflowers were magnificent on the pass on the way to Maki Lake. Edelweiss moment.
Hi all,

My tip of the week is about hitting the high mountain lakes in the premium part of the hiking season in August and September ...

See my article in the Idaho Press about hiking to Snowslide and Maki Lakes off of Lick Creek Road in McCall. The article was published on Wednesday, Aug. 14, in the Idaho Press Outdoors section.

Maki Lake also could be named Hidden Lake ... you won't see it until you arrive ... 

Cool to have both lakes to ourselves on a Saturday in August. 

Looking down at Snowslide Lake from the pass above ... granite granite everywhere! 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Summer vacation is on the wane! Two weekends left before school starts!

Steve backpacking in the Red Mountain Lakes area.
Hi all,

Sad but true, summer vacation is on the wane! There are only two weekends left before Boise Schools start up on Monday, Aug. 19. How have you done on your summer outdoor punch list?

Taking a look back at my many recommendations for summer, let's review your options for what to do!  

1. Float a river (day trip) - we're blessed with so many options here, but have you floated the Boise River? How about the Payette River -- there's the Main Payette, South Fork Payette or Cabarton run on the North Fork. Check with Cascade Raft, Idaho Whitewater Unlimited, Bear Valley or the Payette River Company about guided trips. The Payette's calmer sections are great for stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), sit-on-top kayaking and canoeing.

Float a river! This is on the Cabarton stretch of the Payette River. 
2. Climb a mountain - The pinnacle is to climb Mount Borah, but there are so many other options in Idaho, with dozens of peaks over 10,000 feet and 8 peaks over 12,000 feet. See Idaho mountain expert Tom Lopez's list of recommended mountain peaks. McCall mountain expert John Platt also has an extensive list of peaks and mountains that he's climbed.

3. Ride the ski lift to the top of Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain or Sun Valley and go hiking or biking from there. Bogus is going to give away a free season pass to whoever is the 100,000th person to ride the mountain coaster this weekend. Sounds like a reason to go! Brundage recently opened a new intermediate-level mountain bike trail. They've also got Emily Tipton playing Friday night as part of the TGIF concert series and a Caribbean dinner planned. Hope the Netheker fire burning near Burgdorf doesn't create a lot of smoke! #prayforburgdorf!

4. Take your kids fishing - See the list of Idaho Fish and Game's Family Fishing Waters to find some great recommendations close to home.

Go hiking in the Sawtooths (photo courtesy Michael Lanza/The Big Outside)
5. Go backpacking in the Sawtooths, White Clouds, Pioneers or Big Lost Mountain Range. See Michael Lanza's recommended hikes in the Sawtooths in his blog, the Big Outside. See a recommended major loop in the White Clouds in Backpacker mag. For a great hike in the Pioneers, see my blog post about hiking Broad Canyon. For the Big Lost range, see this overview in Summit 

6. Sleep under the stars in a dark sky venue like Bear Valley, the Owyhee Canyonlands or outside of Stanley.

Catch a trout on the Middle Fork Salmon River. 
7. Fly into the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and go fly-fishing for native cutthroat trout. Air taxi services in Boise, Cascade or McCall can take you into the Middle Fork in less than an hour. All fishing is catch and release.

8. Go mountain biking on a classic loop trail like Fisher-Williams in the White Clouds, Loon Lake north of McCall or Around the Mountain at Bogus Basin. 

Climbing up a short hill to finish the Fisher-Williams Loop (courtesy Salsa cycles)
9. Go SUP'ing, boating or swimming in a refreshing, natural Idaho mountain lake like Payette Lake, Redfish Lake, or Priest Lake.

10. Go see an outdoor concert! See a summer roundup in the Idaho Statesman for a full rundown of outdoor concerts planned in the summer of 2019.

For further enrichment on Idaho bucket list trips, see an Idaho bucket list post from Boise State radio, and a post that I did listing another 30 bucket list trips that they didn't cover.
- SS

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Five unsung off-the-beaten path paddling destinations for kayaks, SUPs + camping tips

The mountains are calling! Find your own Private Idaho at Upper Payette Lake.
Hi all,

It's mid-summer in Boise, and the mid-90ish temperatures definitely inspire us to head for cooler locations and our rivers and lakes in particular.

Last weekend, I floated the Cabarton stretch of the Payette River on Saturday, and it was busy as usual, but the Main Payette was absolutely slammed around Banks and the North Fork Payette also  was super busy with a lot of visiting Class 5 boaters testing their skills on the world-class river.

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending five more off-the-beaten-path paddling and Stand-Up Paddle Board (SUP) locations fairly close to home. Several of these recommendations come from my book, Paddling the Payette, a guide to 24 day trips on the Payette River system.

I also would take a moment to plug the Boise Goathead Fest happening Friday, Aug. 2 and Saturday, Aug. 3 at Cecil Andrus Park across from the Idaho Statehouse. This is an important event for bike-related nonprofits, so please try to participate in the parade (pre-register for $5 donation), drink beer, and buy food and merchandise to pump up the sales.

The Upper South Fork Payette River has a beautiful turquoise color.
Now for the unsung, off-the-beaten path paddling recommendations:

1. Upper South Fork Payette River - The upper South Fork just doesn't get very much public use. There's a nice Class 2 section between Eight Mile Creek (just upstream of Sourdough Lodge) and Helende Campground. It's running about 500 cfs right now, perfect low-flow level with some cushion. There's several Class 3 rapids below Helende and Kirkham Hot Springs, and then the river mellows again to Lowman. The Upper South Fork from Bonneville Hot Springs downstream has a number of gnarly and bony rapids at low flow (not recommended). There's a ton of self-support car-camping areas along Idaho 21 along the South Fork, and there's a hot springs in Grand Jean. Lots to do.

Middle Fork Boise River (courtesy John Keys)
2. Middle Fork Boise River - Drive up the Middle Fork road past Arrowrock to Troutdale Campground or any other spot of your choosing, and float the lower section of the Middle Fork Boise River. This is a mostly Class 2 flatwater run with rocks to dodge and small rapids. Good for kayaks, IKs, and skilled SUPs. Bring your camping gear and enjoy the setting along the Middle Fork Boise River. 

Deadwood Reservoir
3. Deadwood Reservoir - It's a long drive, but it's a scenic destination with good fishing, boating and camping in a remote location. Take Banks to Lowman Road to turnoff for Deadwood Reservoir near Little Falls. Go north to the reservoir. At least one developed campground, Cozy Cove, can be reserved through the Boise National Forest. There are lots of options for camping in the area. Deadwood Reservoir is a mile-high elevation-wise, so you can expect cool weather similar to McCall and the West Central Mountains.

North Fork Payette, south of Sheep Bridge
4. Sheep Bridge to Hartsell Bridge/Smylie Lane on the North Fork of the Payette River - The 9-mile float starts at Sheep Bridge, across Mission Street from the Forest Service Smokejumper Base. Leave a vehicle at the takeout at Smylie Bridge. It's a full day on the water, typically six hours, floating through millions of S-curves and meanders on a slow-moving river. Bring a lunch, your favorite beverages and enjoy it. Best for kayaks, canoes, IKs, and skilled SUPs. There's are a couple of log jams on the second half of the float that you'll need to portage. It can be decent fishing in there, too.

5. Upper Payette Lake - This one doesn't get much use either. It's got fishing and paddling in a beautiful setting surrounded by the Payette National Forest and granite mountains. The location is north of North Beach and Payette Lake, about 15 miles from Shore Lodge. Remember to take East Side Drive if you go during the middle of the week. Warren Wagon Road is closed during the day for construction. Upper Payette is 2 miles long and a half-mile wide, and it's got camp sites and picnic areas. Nice spot.

There you have it! Enjoy these unsung destinations and stay cool!
- SS 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Stanley Lake has everything for an easy-going, scenic mountain experience

Stanley Lake with McGowan Peak looming in the background.
Hi all,

We went up to Stanley Lake in Stanley last weekend to do a little camping, hiking, swimming and R&R, and we really enjoyed the trip.

I thought I'd share a few tidbits about our trip in case you might want to visit that popular spot in the future.

Stanley Lake is a gorgeous setting on the northwest corner of the Sawtooth Mountains. But there's a paved road to the campground and day use area, so it does get more traffic than a more off-the-beaten-track destination in the Sawtooths. That said, it's not nearly as busy as the Redfish Lake area.

Drew is a trouper ... did the hike to Bridal Veil Falls no problem.
I took Wendy and my son Drew to Stanley Lake as a cool place to swim on a hot weekend, and a convenient jump-off spot to hike up to Bridal Veil Falls on the Stanley Lake Creek Trail. We also planned to camp in a primitive spot on the way to the lake. I had initially planned an ambitious hike to Observation Peak, but decided that a lower-key trip on the well-maintained trail to Lady Face Falls and Bridal Veil Falls would work best for Wendy and Drew.

As things turned out, the hike was great ... it's a 9-mile jaunt round-trip to Bridal Veil Falls, so it's still a substantial hike. It took us several hours to get up there, including a substantial creek-crossing, and about 1.5 hours back. Drew was right on my heels or walking ahead of me the whole way ... it was a good distance for him. Vertical gain is about 500 feet. The trail gradient is very easy until the last mile or so to the falls.

Very well-maintained trail going up Stanley Lake Creek.
Be sure to take the side trip to Lady Face Falls on the way. You can get quite close to that rushing steep rapids, much closer than you can get to Bridal Veil Falls. There is no trail to Bridal Veil, BTW, so it's best to view that from a distance. I hadn't been up to Bridal Veil in more than 20 years, so it was fun to see that water rushing down the mountain from the Hansen Lakes and the peaks above, roaring over the rocks in the image of an arched, white bridal veil.

Last Saturday afternoon, even though we were at 6,500-foot elevation, it was pretty hot in the afternoon. Stanley Lake was a welcome sight after our hike. Time to set up the lawn chairs, go swimming and hang out at the lake! We did that on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, and really enjoyed hanging out by the water. The water temperature was still quite cold, so Wendy couldn't exactly swim across the bay, like she often might do.

Large beach area for swimming, SUP'ing, hanging out ...
We saw people Stand Up Paddle Boarding on the lake, kayaking, fishing and canoeing. There were maybe one or two power boats on the water ... There are ample areas where you can hang out by the lake on the beach. The Forest Service has moved the campground to the south end of the lake, and converted the north side to day use. There are parking areas and rest rooms for both the Stanley Lake Creek Trailhead and for the Stanley Lake day use area. Both parking lots were full and overflowing last weekend, but there was still plenty of elbow room on the beach.     

Drew and Steve
Watch out for bugs! We had plenty of bug dope, but the no see 'ems seem to have gotten the better of us we noticed after the trip. Little tiny red welts everywhere, and they itch like crazy for a couple of days! Forest Service officials at the Stanley Ranger Station report that bugs have been pretty major by all of the Sawtooth major lakes. Mosquitoes and horseflies are out in force as well. Wearing long sleeves and pants can help! Bring plenty of your favorite insect repellent.

Camping at Stanley Lake - There are several places where you can car camp in self-supportive primitive spots on the way into Stanley Lake. We prefer to do that since we are still tent-campers, and we have all of the self-support camping stuff handy from our river trip gear. These areas are all marked as such by the Forest Service. For camping at the official Stanley Lake Campground, contact to check on availability and make reservations. Grabbing a camp spot directly on the lake would be premium and worth the extra bucks! Camping fees are $18-$36/night.

Photo courtesy IWA High-siding at Howard's Plunge
everal related articles I've seen this week:

The Idaho Whitewater Association is hosting "Safety Saturday" this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Main Payette River. Sign up at Banks at 10 a.m. on Saturday. See Facebook event page for details ... I highly recommend participating if you need to sharpen up your river safety skills -- always a good thing to stay sharp!