Thursday, October 11, 2018

Be aware: Hunting season is underway! Try Snowbank Mountain for a colorful escape

Snowbank Mountain in the spring (courtesy John Platt)
You'll see the trailhead for Blue Lake on the way up to Snowbank. Nice spot! (from Boise Trail Guide)
Hi all,

Well it's that time of year when deer and elk hunters are roaming the woods in search of game. That increases the level of danger for non-hunters who may be out hiking, trail-running or biking on  Idaho's public lands, so be sure to wear bright colors and put bright colors on your pets.

Just so you know, general deer season started on Wednesday, Oct. 10, statewide, and in some areas, elk season started on the same day or will follow soon thereafter. There are multiple big game seasons throughout October and November depending on location, so be safe out there.

In the meantime, the fall colors are really popping in the higher elevations right now. I had to drive from Boise up to Whitebird earlier this week, and I saw the tamarack trees beginning to turn in Long Valley, while the aspens are turning yellow, orange and red, and the shrubs are doing the same.

So I have four recommendations for outdoor outings this week:

1.  Go visit Snowbank Mountain in Valley County to enjoy fall colors and maybe go for a walk at the top of the mountain or over to Blue Lake. It's hard to say how much snow is on top of Snowbank, but as things warm up in the next day or so, I don't think that will be an impediment to reach the mountain top if you have a solid 4WD vehicle. If snow is an issue, you could always stop earlier and go for a walk on the road in your snow boots.

Snowbank Mountain is accessible via Cabarton Road, past the put-in for the Cabarton reach of the Payette River. The turnoff is on your left. A well-maintained dirt road winds its way to the top of the mountain, where a FAA site is maintained and there are many cell towers, etc. Elevation is over 8,000 feet, so the views are spectacular.

Wendy on the Crown Point Trail 
2. Crown Point Trail - This is another spot in the Cascasde area where you could enjoy fall colors on a wide dirt road. The 3-mile old RR grade non-motorized trail goes along Cascade Reservoir, providing fetching views of West Mountain across the lake. You can hike it, run it or bike it. Three miles out, three miles back. Rated easy. There are choice areas with lots of sandy beachfront below the trail where you could stop, eat lunch and enjoy the scenery. The trailhead is by the Crown Point Campground in Cascade, near Cascade Dam.

Taking your kids up to the Intermountain Bird Observatory
offers a chance for them to release a banded hawk ... 
3. Go visit the Intermountain Bird Observatory at Lucky Peak - Professionals will be up there netting songbirds and birds of prey as they migrate to the south and get drawn to the top of Lucky Peak mountain by crafty quail traps that the bird-handlers provide. You can combine a trip to Lucky Peak by hiking to the top or mountain biking to the top, or you can drive to the top in a solid 4WD high-clearance vehicle. See more details about the bird observatory here.

4. Stay close to home and visit Boise Foothills trails. You're not likely to encounter any deer hunters in the Boise foothills except for maybe off of Rocky Canyon Road. The colors are beginning to change in Military Reserve, Hulls Gulch, Dry Creek, Five Mile Trail, Watchman Trail and Peggy's Trail. But the colors will not be as impressive as they are at higher elevations in Valley County.

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, October 4, 2018

State Parks special! Five fall hikes in SW Idaho - Bruneau Dunes, Dry Creek and more

On a clear day, you can see a long ways across the Snake River Plain from the top of Bruneau Dunes 
Hi all,

Sure nice to get some moisture today, we certainly need it, but a continued unstable weather pattern will bring us more moisture on Saturday as well. That leaves Friday and Sunday as the best days to get outside and play this weekend.

I gave a presentation on my favorite fall/winter hikes close to home last night at Boise REI, so it seemed like a good idea to share a few of those gems with you for my outdoor tip of the week.

I touched on 25+ hikes from my Boise Trail Guide and Owyhee Canyonlands guides, so that's WAY too much info. to share here, so I'll shake the dice and deliver five of them ... suitable for this weekend:

  • Bruneau Dunes State Park, south of Mountain Home - Take the kids and go play in the sand. Take your camping stuff if you're so included (check on space with IDPR). Easy to do in a day trip or overnight. Bruneau Dunes has a 470-foot high sandy mountain inside the park. Take a hike on the ridge of the dune. People also try to ski and snowboard the dunes. It's always a cool place to explore. 
    These were our GPS tracks of doing a loop around the dunes (light green line)
  • Eagle Island State Park in west Eagle - Take a 5-mile hike in the park to tour both channels of the Boise River. The trails in the park are generally well-drained with gravel along the river. Hiking time: 2 hours; Vertical rise: 55 feet (essentially flat). Rated: Easy. Make sure you buy one of those $10 annual park passes with your vehicle registration so you have a free pass to get into any state parks in Idaho. Well worth it!! 
 


  • Huckleberry Trail in Ponderosa State Park - If you happen to be in McCall, the "Huck" is especially colorful right now. Wendy and I did the loop 2 weeks ago, and it was really starting to light up! It's about 3.5 miles to do the loop. 400 feet of vertical gain. Hiking time: 2 hours. Biking time is 45 minutes to 1+ hours, depending on your speed. The trail has lots of rocks and roots, but the views are wonderful -- you look out on Payette Lake as you tour of the peninsula. You can climb to the top of Osprey Point at the mid-point for a nice overview of Payette Lake and the surrounding mountains. Do this hike on Sunday. The air will be crisp in McCall -- a high of 52 is forecast. 
    Wendy enjoyed the fall colors on the Huckleberry Trail in Ponderosa State Park. 
  • Charcoal Gulch, Idaho City - Take a drive to Idaho City and go for a nice colorful hike on the Charcoal Gulch Trail, just on the outskirts of town. Find the trail by the Idaho City Airport (ever been there?) on the south side of town. There's a little trailhead on the north side of the airport. Take the Buena Vista Trail along the edge of the mountain, and then you'll see the junction for Charcoal Gulch. There are aspens and pines along the way, plus a small creek.  
    Charcoal Gulch Trail weaves through ponderosa pine trees and aspens near Idaho City. (Courtesy Visit Idaho) 
  • Dry Creek out and back, Boise Foothills - Friday afternoon or Sunday should be a good day to go for a walk on Dry Creek. The colors should be getting good up there, too! The trailhead is off of Bogus Basin Road, several miles up from Boise, on the right side, as the road begins a series of hairpin switchbacks. You'll see other cars at the trailhead. It's a big day to hike to the top of the Boise Ridge via Dry Creek (7.5 miles, 2000+ vertical feet), so just take your time and go as far as you want.
    Steve rides one of the nice bridges across the Dry Creek
    Trail in the upper Boise Foothills. 
  • Bonus #6: Head up to Bogus Bogus, ride the chairlift and go for a bike ride or hike from the top of Deer Point lift. I saw that they are running the lifts on Saturdays and Sundays through October. The promotion this weekend is that if parents buy their college student a season pass ($160), the whole family gets to ride the chairlift for free.   
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A few notes:

  • Our friends at the Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands wanted me to share that they have raised enough money to pay for restoring the Plantation pedestrian bridge on the Boise River Greenbelt. It may be installed by next spring! 
  • The Idaho Whitewater Association will be doing a litter pickup project along the Payette River on Saturday. See Facebook event for more information.