Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's official: Boise Foothills trails are ready to enjoy

Google Earth GPS route of Cross-Foothills Route; click to enlarge
Hi all,

I checked on the Ridge to Rivers web site earlier this week to check on Boise Foothills trail conditions, and the headline was, "Trails are mostly dry." After all the rain in the last month, that's great news! We've got the official green light to go hiking, running or biking on foothills trails.

So I dashed out for a mountain bike ride on Tuesday afternoon, and indeed, the trails were bone dry. I went on a cross-foothills ride today (more on that in a moment), and the trails were mostly dry. Of course, as the Ridge to Rivers trail report points out, conditions can change when rain is in the forecast. There's a 50 percent chance of rain on Saturday, for instance. Be sure to give the trails a chance to dry out after a storm.

In the meantime, seize the day and head out on the trails. You'll hear the sound of meadowlarks, and the creeks roaring with snowmelt. Red-tailed hawks are soaring in the fresh winds, searching for prey. Foothills grasses are turning green and shrubs beginning to bloom. Spring is in the air!

It's always interesting to see how the legs and lungs have fared over the winter during the ski season. If you're like me, you've got some lung power, but the quads aren't that used to climbing long steeps. Winter road biking helps. But you've pretty much got to go mountain biking for real to get in mountain biking shape. Same goes for hiking and running.

So if you haven't been training for the Race to Robie Creek (the race is Saturday!) for the last month, take it easy at the beginning of the season and tackle some easier hikes, runs and bike rides to get the body tuned up for the summer.

I've got some recommendations from Mountain Biking in Boise and Boise Trail Guide. The main thing right now is to focus on the mid- to lower foothills trails. The upper trails and the Boise Ridge Road are still snow-bound. The trails in the mid- to upper foothills, such as the Watchman Trail, are still wet and greasy in some places, so it's best to wait for them to dry in the coming weeks.

  • Cross-Foothills Ride (Intermediate; strenuous in places) - 10 miles. 2 hours riding time. Today, I rode up to the Corrals Trail (trailhead is 1.8 miles north of Curling Drive on Bogus Basin Road), rode Corrals to Corrals Summit, and then rode downhill on Corrals and Trail #1 over to Hulls Gulch. Then I took Crestline to Military Reserve, and dropped out on the Freestone Creek Trail in Military Reserve near Fort Boise. The hardest part of the ride is climbing to Corrals Summit (3 miles uphill from trailhead, 1,200 feet of vertical gain). Then it's mostly downhill to Military Reserve, with a few uphill sections in between. Fun ride! Hardy mountain trail runners would enjoy that route as well.

  • Jumpin' Jeepers Figure 8 Loop - (Intermediate/Moderate) 6.75 miles. 1+ hour riding time; 2.5-3 hours hiking time; 1:15 running time. This hike and bike ride are featured in my guidebooks Boise Trail Guide and Mountain Biking in Boise. It's a Figure 8 loop as the name suggests, starting from Military Reserve Trailhead on Mountain Cove Road, climbing the Toll Road Trail #20 to the Central Ridge Trail #22. Follow Central Ridge to Shane's Junction. Turn left and ride Shane's Loop clockwise. Back at the Shane's-Central Ridge Junction, bear right on Bucktail Trail #20A, and take the lower part of Central Ridge #22 back to the trailhead. Be aware that police officers practice firearms training at the end of Mountain Cove Road, very close to Bucktail Trail. I've jumped out of my skin a few times when enjoying the quietude, and then, "bang!"

  • Military Reserve Double Ridge Loop - 3.7 miles. Moderate. 1.5 hours hiking time; 45-50 minutes jogging time; 45 minutes riding time. This one is even easier. You go to the Military Reserve Trailhead near Fort Boise on Mountain Cove Road, go uphill on Central Ridge Trail #22, turn right on Ridge Crest #20A, take that to the bottom of the hill, go left on Eagle Ridge Trail #25, and do a short loop on Eagle Ridge. Drop down the hill to the trail by the dog park, and return to the trailhead.

  • Crestline-Hulls Loop - 7.25 miles. Moderate. 2.5 hours hiking time; 1.5 hours running time; 1.25 hours riding time. Start from Camelsback Park in Boise on N. 13th. Find the trailhead behind the tennis courts. Climb on Owls Roost and Kestrel to Crestline. Follow Crestline to the Hulls Gulch Junction. Turn left and descend on Hulls Gulch. It's rocky and uneven in places. When you reach the 8th Street trailhead by the Foothills Learning Center, turn right, cross 8th Street, and finish the ride on Red Fox Trail, which leads you back to Camelsback Park.

  • Seaman's Gulch Double Loop - 3 miles total. 1+ hours hiking time; 30-45 minutes running time; 30 minutes riding time. This one is the easiest of the routes listed here. Take Hill Road west in Boise to the Seaman's Gulch/Hidden Springs right-hand turnoff. Go right and follow Seaman's Gulch Road to a nice paved parking area and rest room next to a large water tank. Take the Valley View Trail #111 to the right, and then take the first left on Trail #110 to Phlox Trail #112, turn left and return to the trailhead for a one-mile short loop. Now go back on Valley View, and keep going out to the true "valley view" viewpoint provided by the trail, hanging above the Boise Valley. The trail loops around to Phlox and returns to the trailhead.
Please see the Ridge to Rivers map or check out my books for more hiking, biking and trail-running possibilities in the Boise Foothills. The Boise Trail Guide features 76 hikes and trail runs within an hour of Boise, including routes on the Boise River Greenbelt, the Owyhees, along the Snake River, the Boise Foothills and in the Boise National Forest.

Mountain Biking in Boise provides a guide to 65 rides in the immediate vicinity of Boise, including the foothills, Bogus Basin, Stack Rock area, Avimor and Oregon Trail.

In case you didn't know, you can buy digital color files of individual hiking, biking and paddling trips on my web site now for .99 cents each, in bundles of 5, 10, 15, or the whole book as an e-book. See more at

Have fun!
- SS

Steve shares his weekly outdoor tips with Ken and Tim on 94.9 FM The River each Friday morning at approximately 7:10 a.m. If you miss the program, you can hear the segments on River