Thursday, January 29, 2015

No new snow ... might as well try winter hiking in the Owyhee Canyonlands

Moon rise in Leslie Gulch (courtesy todaysphoto.com) 
Leslie Gulch is a paradise for hiking and scenery
The view coming into Succor Creek State Park 
Some of the caves at Succor Creek Park 
View from the upper deck of Succor Creek, looking across at McIntyre Ridge.
That's Steve walking with son Drew a few years ago ...  
My boys Drew and Quinn on the China Ditch Trail in Reynolds Creek 
Hi all,

Winter weather seems to have turned into the "off" mode lately, and it's been getting pretty darn balmy in the afternoon, with temperatures at least in the mid-40s, if not higher. Seems like the higher you go, the warmer it gets. And this is still January?

So if you're sick of skiing the groomers, and you're not heading up to the McCall Winter Carnival, consider taking the family or your friends out to the Owyhee Canyonlands for a little hiking adventure! This week, I'll recommend several hikes close to home. All of them come from my latest guide, The Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide. 

Please note that the trails in the lower Boise Foothills are extremely muddy and they're getting hammered in a bad way. See the latest trail update. Please stay off muddy trails!

Before we get into the hikes, remember to dress in layers for your hiking adventure. It might be chilly in the morning, but by the afternoon, you'll be peeling layers. Bring a light backpack for extra clothes, food and water. Also remember a hat and mittens.

Just so you know, all of these hikes listed below can be accessed with a Subaru-type vehicle. Venturing off into secondary roads in the Owyhees without a full-on 4WD could be a bad move right now. The ground is pretty soft because of the freezing and thawing and recent rainfall.

The hikes:

  • Wilson Creek-Reynold Creek Loop - This is a 7.4-mile hike in the Owyhee Front, south of Nampa, about 45 minutes from Boise. You take ID 45 south of Nampa toward Murphy. Cross the Snake River, turn right and head for Marsing. Watch for Wilson Creek Road on the left. Take Wilson Creek Road to the BLM trailhead for Trail #300 on the left side of the road. Follow Trail #300 over to a junction with a dirt road. Go left on Road #410 and follow that over to the China Ditch Trail #600 in Reynolds Creek canyon. This is the best part of the hike. Go upcanyon on Trail #600 and enjoy the redrock canyon of Reynolds Creek. Good place for lunch. When the canyon opens up, you'll see a junction with Trail #510, which heads back over to the junction with Trail #400. Take that trail back to the parking lot.
  • Succor Creek State Park - Multiple hikes can be done from Succor Creek State Park, just across the border in Eastern Oregon. It's a great place for kids and families. It has a rest room, and you could camp overnight there if you want. There is hiking to the east behind the camping area, or you can explore caves across the road, or hike above the caves to McIntyre Ridge and get a great view of the whole area. Getting there: Take I-84 west to the ID 55 exit in Nampa. Follow ID 55 west toward Marsing. Turn right on Chicken Dinner Road, and then left on Homedale Road to go to Homedale. Drive through town and go west on Highway 19 and Oregon 201 to a signed turnoff for Succor Creek State Park on the left. It's 16 miles of gravel road to the park.
  • Leslie Gulch - It should be a nice weekend to explore Leslie Gulch, one of the most scenic parts of the Owyhee Canyonlands, considering it's the end of January. By going now, you can beat the rush of people who normally go there in late March, April and May. You could go there for a day trip or camp overnight, your choice. Getting there: Take I-84 west to the ID 55 exit in Nampa. Follow ID 55 west to Marsing. West of Marsing, turn left on U.S. 95 and go south about 16 miles to a signed turnoff for Leslie Gulch. Follow signs to reach the park. It's 22 miles from the highway. Allow two hours from Boise to get there. In Leslie Gulch, you can hike around on the cool rock honeycombs with the kids, or a do a little more serious hike up Juniper Gulch to the top of Yellow Jacket.  

Have fun!
- SS