Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hike the Station Creek Trail in Garden Valley

Trip map

Google Earth GPS map ... do the loop counter-clockwise

Wendy strikes a pose. Typical open slopes with big views.

Bow hunters are in the hills so bright colors are a good idea.

The weather forecast for the weekend looks fabulous, so it should be a perfect time for a hike in the Boise National Forest. I'm recommending the Station Creek Trail in Garden Valley, a sweet singletrack that climbs 1,300 feet over several miles to the top of the ridge overlooking the broad valley. It's a 4.5-mile hike round-trip.

The Station Creek hike is featured in my book, the Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home.

The trailhead is about an hour from Boise on the Banks to Lowman Road, east of Crouch and Garden Valley, and directly across the highway from the Garden Valley Ranger Station. Take Idaho 55 north to Banks, turn right and watch for the trailhead on your left after passing through the little town of Garden Valley and the grass airstrip on the right.

The trail winds through neatly spaced ponderosa pine trees and climbs at a moderate pace to an initial ridge at mile 2.1. You'll notice a right-hand turnoff on the way up for a short loop. Ignore that one unless you have young kids and you can only do the short hike. At the top of the ridge, you'll see a sign directing you toward the downhill loop toward the Alder Creek Bridge, which crosses the South Fork of the Payette River. Take the left fork to walk a series of ridges back to the highway or circle back toward the trailhead. As my book notes, the downhill trail fizzles out as you leave the top of the ridge, but you can see the valley below the whole way, so you can just enjoy a ridge-walk downhill.

As an alternative, at the top of the ridge (mile 2.1), you can go right and follow the trail to Bald
Mountain for a bigger view and a little more exercise. Return to the ridge junction and cruise back to the trailhead or the Alder Creek Bridge.

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.

- SS