Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Check out Freddy's Stack Rock Loop Trail near Bogus Basin, if you haven't already

Stack Rock, a signature landmark near Bogus Basin

Google Earth GPS map of the ride
Topo GPS tracks of the ride
The ride has 2,600 feet of gain ... lots of up and down
Hi all,

With these hot, dog days of August weather, it's best to cool off in the lakes and rivers, or go hiking and biking on high elevation trails.

This week's tip is about the new loop trail around Stack Rock called Freddy's Stack Rock Trail. Stack Rock is a signature granite pyramid-shaped rock on a timbered ridge to the west of Bogus Basin Mountain Resort. Approximately 1,300 acres of the Stack Rock area recently came into public ownership courtesy of a $1 million donation by Boise resident Fred Alleman and additional funds from the Boise Foothills Levy Committee. The land was purchased from the Terteling family in December 2009 for $1.32 million to make it available for public use.

The City of Boise has placed a rock at the trailhead with a message about the land-preservation effort to let the public know how the purchase was made possible. THANK YOU FRED ALLEMAN!

Since that time, the Ridge to Rivers Trail Program built a loop trail around Stack Rock. It's called Freddy's Stack Rock Trail. Here's the Ridge to Rivers trail map of the route, Trail #125. Judging from how well-used and buffed the trail was on Tuesday, I'm guessing that a lot of people have been sampling the new trail and love it!

"Awesome trail!" a mountain bike rider exclaimed as he came into the parking area/trailhead off of Bogus Basin Road soon after I arrived. The parking area is 12 miles from the stop sign at Curling Drive and Highlands Elementary School.

It's a 9.5-mile hike or bike ride from the trailhead to do the loop around Freddy's Stack Rock Trail. I would rate the bike ride as advanced intermediate because of a number of fairly steep continuous climbs along the way, and I'd rate the hike or trail run as moderate to strenuous because of the distance and 2,600-vertical-foot gain/loss.

Just so you know: The trailhead is not marked. It's a major pullout on the left as you're heading to Bogus Basin after the road passes the turnoff to a number of cabins on the left. Just set your odometer when you leave the stop sign at Curling Drive, and you'll find it, no problem. Mile 12.

I checked in with Fred Alleman on Wednesday to see how he likes the trail. He said he's been up there a bunch, either biking or hiking it. "I like it," he says. "I think Ridge to Rivers has done a great job with the trail."

I agree. Stack Rock was a stealth destination for years, but we had no official access, and the area could have been lost to development forever if the city and Fred Alleman hadn't stepped up to protect it for perpetuity.

You should allow 2+ hours for the biking loop, and 4-5 hours for hiking the loop. Be careful when you're climbing around Stack Rock. "Going up is the easy part," Alleman notes. "It's getting down that's hard."

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Try to squeeze in a great day hike in the mountains before school starts next week

The spell-binding view from the top of Observation Peak in the Sawtooths (courtesy

Washington Lake in the White Clouds (courtesy ICL)

Red Mountain Lakes in the Boise National Forest near Lowman

High mountain lakes are where you want to be right now ...
this is Steve at a mystery lake in the Payette National Forest

Wendy on the summit of the Payette Crest
Hi all,

Sad, but true, the summer is slipping away -- at least for the parents of kids who start school next week.

It's going to be hot as blazes this weekend -- temperatures are forecast in the mid-90's and higher on Sunday -- so I'm recommending that you dash to the mountains for a high-elevation hike in the cool air near Stanley or McCall.

Start early in the day and get to the trailhead when it's still cool in the morning, so you can enjoy a full day in the high country before you need to head back home. Be sure to bring a day pack with water, snacks, a lunch and a rain coat. Bring bug juice as well as sun screen. Wear a hat for sun protection.

If you go to the Stanley area, you can partake in the Sawtooth Salmon Festival on Saturday. "Fall in love with the miracle of wild salmon," the organizers say. Educational tours start at 11 a.m., you can go look at wild salmon spawning in the Salmon River (must-do activity), enjoy live music in the afternoon and evening, and chow down on a salmon feast in the evening.

Here are some suggestions for high-elevation day hikes:
  • Climb Observation Peak (elev. 9,151 feet) in the Sawtooths. This is the only mountain in the Sawtooths that has a trail to the top, according to The hike from the Grand Jean Trailhead is 12 miles round-trip. Here are more details.
  • Hike to Red Mountain Lakes, near Lowman. This area is closer than Stanley. Drive to Lowman and go north on the Clear Creek Road (USFS Road #582) for about 12+ miles to a junction on the right with Forest Road #515. Take #515 to the trailhead. If you like to fish, try catching trout in the lakes.
  • Hike to Marten Lake, near Banner Summit between Lowman and Stanley. Watch for the trailhead just past Banner Summit. It's a pretty easy hike to Marten Lake from Banner Summit. It's about 5 miles to the lake. It's an out-and-back day hike unless you want to plant a shuttle vehicle at the Trap Creek Trailhead by Idaho 21, and it's about 10 miles total, and you won't have to retrace your steps. Again, bring your fishing pole if you like to fish.
  • Hike to 4th of July Lake and Washington Lake in the White Clouds. This is a nice, short one for young kids, but more of a drive. Drive to the Sawtooth Valley either via Stanley or Ketchum, and watch for the 4th of July Road on the east side of the valley. The long dirt road takes you to a high perch where you start hiking to 4th of July Lake, the first lake. It's only a mile to this location. Keep going into the White Clouds and you'll come to Washington Lake, within view of Castle Peak.
  • Hike to Snowslide Lake in the Payette National Forest near McCall. This is one of the more accessible lakes in the McCall area. The lake is only 1.5 miles from Lick Creek Road, northeast of McCall. Once at the lake, you could climb to Snowslide Peak (elev. 8,522) or just hike to the saddle to look into the Maki Lake basin.
  • Hike to Boulder Lake near Lake Fork, south of McCall. This is a pretty easy one, too ... 2.6 miles from the trailhead. You take Idaho 55 to Elo Road, go east on Elo to Forest Road #403, and go east to the trailhead at Boulder Meadows Reservoir. It's an out-and-back hike, with great views of the mountains in the Payette Crest.
  • Hike the Deer Point Trail to the top of Bogus Basin. If you don't have time to get out of town, here's a good one that I've blogged about before. It's a 5-mile loop that circumnavigates Bogus Basin.
  • Take the chairlift to the top of Bald Mountain in Sun Valley or Brundage Mountain in McCall. These are great options if people would prefer to get a "free" ride to the top. Both resorts charge a fee to ride the chairlift. At Sun Valley, it's $25 for one ride, and $30 for a full day. At Brundage, it's $10 for one ride, and $30 for a full day. Both mountains have great trail systems to explore if you'd like to walk down.
Pick up a Boise National Forest map, Payette National Forest map (McCall District), or Sawtooth National Recreation Area map for guidance on these trips. The easiest way to get these maps is from the Boise National Forest headquarters on Vinnell Way near Overland and Maple Grove. also is a great resource for climbing Idaho's mountains.

Have fun!

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 Detailed descriptions and color maps of Steve's hikes, bike rides and paddling trips are available for 99 cents each, plus the full ebooks and hard-copy guidebooks.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Explore the Lochsa Country in North-Central Idaho; it's plum full of cool things to do

So happy to be here!

Wendy and Elena on the Warm Springs pack bridge

A few huge tamaracks grew among the giant western red cedars

Big trees and ferns

Warm Springs Creek

Life is good!
Hi all,

A quick drive to Missoula, Mont., last weekend reminded me how much I miss the Lochsa River Country in north-central Idaho. To be totally honest, I feel a huge tug in my heart when I go there -- a feeling that comes from many wonderful trips in which I felt absolutely awe-struck by the beauty, power and majesty of the Lochsa region.

As a University of Montana student many moons ago, I frequently went backpacking in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, often via Elk Summit or other trailheads along the Lochsa River. I used to visit Jerry Johnson Hot Springs in all seasons -- at all hours of the day or night -- and even went winter camping and backcountry skiing in the vast mountains around Lolo Pass.

Later, I went whitewater rafting on the Lochsa and the Selway rivers, traced the Lewis & Clark Trail by mountain bike, went canoeing on the lower Selway, and survived an epic mountain bike loop featuring more than 5,000 feet of climbing in the high mountains above Lowell for my book Mountain Biking Idaho.

So for this week's tip, I'm going to share a few suggestions for recreation outings in the Lochsa Country. It's all in the spirit of the Idaho stay-cation, where you can enjoy an inexpensive trip relatively close to home over a long weekend and explore some hidden parts of Idaho that perhaps you've never seen before ...

How to get there: Take Idaho 55 north to U.S. 95 in New Meadows. Follow U.S. 95 to Kooskia on the Clearwater River. Turn right and take U.S. 12 east to Lowell, where all of the fun begins! It's about 4-5 hours of drive time to the Lochsa.

Here are some cool trips to try:

  • Canoe the lower Selway River. The whitewater season is over on the Lochsa River, and all but the die-hards are done on the Selway. But low water means a smooth non-threatening trip on the lower Selway River. The cobalt blue water coming out of the wilderness is crystal clear and pure, so you see fish swimming below, and of course, if you're into fishing, you can fish along the way! Go upriver on the Selway River Road from Lowell. Launch the canoe at 23-mile Bar campground and float 12 miles to Lowell and take out at the bridge. The Class 1 to Class 2 rapids on this section make it ideal for inflatable kayaks and small rafts as well.
  • Mountain Bike the Lewis & Clark Trail. Go east on U.S. 12 to Powell Junction, and take Forest Road 569 to Pappoose Saddle (elev. 5,680). Park there, and ride FR 500, the "Lolo Motorway," to the west and trace the route that the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery took over the mountains to reach the Pacific Ocean in the early 1800s. There are interpretive signs along the way that explain various tidbits of history regarding Lewis & Clark and also the Nez Perce Tribe. You should map out what part of the trail you want to experience before you go. I did a three-day, 75-mile trip on the Lolo Motorway with vehicle support, and it was a blast! Lots of up-and-down riding on a single-lane rocky dirt road. If you don't have multiple days, drive to a point where you can ride to landmarks like "Sherman Peak," "the Smoking Place" and "Indian Post Office." You'll need a hardy 4WD rig to drive the 500 Road. Guided hiking and biking adventures are available through Lewis & Clark Trail Adventures. This ride was listed by Outside mag as one of the Top 25 trips of a lifetime.
  • Hike Warm Springs Trail to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. Watch for a big cable-and-wood pack bridge on U.S. 12 that leads to the Warm Springs Creek Trail. Cross the bridge and hike up trail to the hot springs. It's a little over 1 mile to the springs. Easy hike. Huge western red cedar trees greet you alongside the trail. I used to walk into the springs barefoot at night during a full moon. Too cool! Clothing is optional at the springs. The Forest Service closes the springs at 10 p.m. at night. Not sure how they enforce that. Warm Springs Trail is also great for a longer hike and backpacking. The trail enters the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and goes for many miles into the interior.
  • Try conquering the Coolwater Ridge Epic Jungle Ride. Ride mileage is 25 miles, but it's a demanding full-day ride. Starting from Lowell, climb the Coolwater Ridge Road #317 more than 5,400 vertical feet to Coolwater Lookout, follow a high ridge overlooking the Selway River country, and then descend more than 5,000 feet through jungle brush on the East Boyd Trail (singletrack with rock water bars) to the Selway River Road. Then grind back on the road to Lowell. (I arranged a partial shuttle). It's a 6- to 8-hour ride. The ride is detailed in my book Mountain Biking Idaho.
  • Stay at Wilderness Gateway Campground. Wilderness Gateway is a high-quality developed campground right next to the Lochsa River. Across the river is the Lochsa Historic Ranger Station. There's a hiking trail that goes to the west from the ranger station and travels above the river corridor. Thimbleberry plants will tower over your head. Side activities include fly fishing on the Lochsa or other streams that feed into the Lochsa near the campground.
More lodging ideas. If you'd like to get a room, the Western Motor Inn in Kooskia, River Dance Lodge, run by River Odysseys West, one of the best oufitters in Idaho, and the Lochsa Lodge in Powell are your best options. Because lodging is so scarce in the area, be sure to call ahead for reservations. ROW has guided trips available in the vicinity.

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 Detailed descriptions and color maps of Steve's hikes, bike rides and paddling trips are available for 99 cents each, plus the full ebooks and hard-copy guidebooks.