Thursday, May 3, 2018

Station Creek hike is a primo option in May - it's bursting with wildflowers and very green

On top of 5,122-foot Bald Mountain with its weird lightning-rod thingy marking the summit. 
Arrowleaf balsomroot was blooming from near the trailhead to the top of the mountain, depending on aspect 
The trail climbs next to Station Creek to begin with, and then switch-backs over to the ridge
for a sweet ridge walk under the stately ponderosa pines
Bald Mountain, the destination, looms off in the distance ... 
Hi all,

Every once in a while, I like to revisit my favorite hikes for a little inspiration and fresh pictures. Knowing that wildflowers are popping with gusto right now in the lower elevations, I thought it'd be a great time to revisit the Station Creek Trail in Garden Valley and climb Bald Mountain. I saw flowers from the trailhead all the way to the top of the peak.

As I did the hike today, I thought that Bald Mountain would be a worthy addition to the Boise Grand Slam Peaks, if there were such a thing as a 5-base hit. Even if the terminology is off, climbing Bald Mountain is very similar to climbing Mt. Cervidae or Kepros Peak, but it's much more scenic in a forested setting with large ponderosa pine trees, grassy benches, shade and wildflowers.

Huck takes in the view of Garden Valley at the top of the initial ridge ... 
The Station-Creek to Bald Mountain hike is 3.5 miles one-way, or 7 miles round trip. The hike features more than 2,000 feet of vertical gain, starting at a base elevation of 3,170 feet across from the Garden Valley Ranger Station, and climbing to the 5,122-foot Bald Mountain Summit. There are some extra up and downs along the way. Hiking time for me was a little less than 4 hours at a pretty brisk pace. Pack a lunch for the top.

This is a very kid-friendly hike, especially for kids 8 and up. They'll probably beat you to the top. Another thing to note about this hike is that it's probably the best hike in the Boise National Forest close to Boise because it's got a good trail, there's no downfall, and the whole area is beautiful and green -- it's a rare spot in the Boise NF that hasn't been burned.       

The weather forecast this weekend in Garden Valley looks pretty ideal for Friday and Saturday, with highs in the high 70s. Sunday looks a little unstable with chances of showers and thunder-showers.

The Station Creek hike is featured in my book, the Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home. I rate it "moderate" to "strenuous" in terms of difficulty -- but moderate overall. It's got some steep sections as you approach the first initial ridge, and then another super-steep section as you approach the top of Bald Mountain. All doable. 
Scott Mountain off in the distance to the north ... it's an 8,000-footer with plenty of snow on top. 
The trailhead is about 1 hour to 1:15 from Boise via Idaho 55 and the the Banks to Lowman Road. Take ID 55 to Banks, turn right to Garden Valley. Proceed past the town of Garden Valley to the big airstrip and Garden Valley Ranger Station. The Station Creek Trailhead is directly across the road from the ranger station. The road to the trailhead will veer off to the left of the highway before you reach the ranger station. There's public parking at the trailhead but no rest room. 

At the top of the first ridge (mile 2.1), you can go right and follow a faint foot trail to Bald
Mountain for a bigger view and a more complete experience. It's worth the extra work to get there. Return to the ridge junction and cruise back to the trailhead. 

A faint foot trail leads from the first ridge over to Bald Mountain, just a delightful walk ... 
After the hike, you can hit a local hot springs and/or have a burger in Crouch at the Longhorn Saloon. There are many places to camp in the area, particularly along the Middle Fork Payette Road north of Crouch, or you could stay at a Bed & Breakfast, the Garden Valley Hotel, or rent a private cabin. Check out the Garden Valley Chamber of Commerce web site for more information.

Have fun!
- SS 

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