Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ten hikes & bike rides suitable for families and kids for Be Outside and Unplug Week

Geoff Baker and his son, Morgan, on the Castle Rock Trail.

Dry Creek is a wet shoes kind of hike or bike ride, but it's really cool.

Kids love the pump track at the Eagle Cycle Park.

My son Quinn when he was much younger near Hulls Gulch

Steve enjoys the view on top of the Bruneau Sand Dunes
Hi all,

In the spirit of Unplug and Be Outside Week, I thought I'd recommend 10 hikes and mountain bike rides close to home that are perfectly suited for families and kids.

I took my 7th grader, Quinn, on a bike ride yesterday in Military Reserve. He's kind of a super jock, so he's been spending a lot of time playing hockey, skiing and playing baseball in recent weeks. Yesterday was a rare day when he didn't have baseball practice or a game, so I seized the day to take him on a ride on a gloriously sunny afternoon.

We rode the Jumpin' Jeepers Figure 8 Loop, a 6.5-mile hike or bike ride that culminates in climbing to Shane's Summit (see description below). Quinn had a funny low-speed crash on a tight corner. Check out the video.

He was complaining a bit about climbing Shane's until he saw a couple of young boys and girls at Shane's Summit from the Boise BYRDS, a youth-development cycling team. Some of the kids were less than 10 years old, and they made it up there! Plus, one of Quinn's classmates at North Junior High was there with the BYRDS. He was impressed.

All of the routes I'm recommending are featured in the Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home and Mountain Biking in Boise, 5th edition. Most of these routes are pretty easy, but I tossed in a couple that are a little more challenging as well.

Be sure to bring plenty of food and water with you in a day pack. Pack a camera and take some pics. Take your time, and ask your kids how they're doing frequently to make sure they're having a good time. It's important that they have a good time, so they'll want to go on the next adventure.

In the spirit of the "unplugged" nature of this week, the tunes and cell phones should be left at home or in the vehicle. Blame it on me.

Here we go:

1. Veterans Park - Garden City Loop. This is a 3.25-mile Greenbelt loop. Good for hiking or biking. Hiking time is 1+ hour. Biking time is about 30 minutes. Start at Veterans Park in NW Boise at the corner of Veterans Parkway and State Street. The loop goes from the Veterans Memorial Parkway bridge to the Main Street bridge by the Double Tree Riverside and back. Check out the new pedestrian bridge along the way, and you can figure-8 the loop by crossing the bridge in each direction. If you've got really young kids, do the Veterans Pond loop (1 mile total). Here's some helmet cam footage of this loop.

2. Eagle Cycle Park. Go out West State Street to old Horseshoe Bend Road by the Stinker Station. Turn right and proceed 1.5 miles to the cycle park on the right. Here, you can set the kids loose on bikes and let them fool around on the pump track and small jumps. You also can cruise around on the easy but twisty singletrack trails next to the jumping area. The trails include Rabbit Run, D's Chaos, Twisted Sister and Junk Yard. All of the trails are short loops, so just cruise around until you or your kids get tired. The trails at the cycle park are open to hiking, running and biking. Here is my favorite video of the Eagle Cycle Park.

3. Owl's Roost-Redtail Loop. This is an easy 2.2-mile loop in the Central Foothills, starting and finishing from Camelsback Park (13th and Heron) in Boise. You can hike or bike the loop. Start from behind the tennis courts in the east side of the park. Go north on Red Fox Trail, cross 8th Street, and come back on Owl's Roost. You'll find Owl's Roost next to the Foothills Learning Center.

4. Seaman's Gulch Loops. This is a sweet and easy loop off of Seaman's Gulch Road in NW Boise. On the way to the landfill, you'll see a trailhead, rest room and parking area on the right next to a large brown water tank. There are two short loop hikes you can do here. The loop on Trail #110 is one mile, and the loop on Valley View Trail #111 is three miles. I recommend Valley View -- it has a great bird's eye view of the city up on the hill.

5. Military Reserve Double Ridge Loop. Go to the Fort Boise ballfields in NE Boise near St. Luke's Regional Medical Center. Take Reserve Street north from Fort Street, and turn left on Mountain Cove Road. Follow the road for over a mile around a corner and park at the trailhead. The Double Ridge Loop is 3.7 miles long. Take Central Ridge Trail #22 and climb up on the middle ridge in Military Reserve Park for a mile or so. At the top of the ridge, turn right on Ridge Crest Trail #20A and go downhill to Cottonwood Creek. Go left at the bottom of the hill, cross the creek, and go left on Eagle Ridge Trail #25. Follow that trail to the toe of the ridge, and drop down to the trails by the flood control cells next to Reserve Street. Turn right and hike/bike back to the trailhead. If you want to shorten this route for young kids, do a short loop on the Toll Road Trail #27A and Cottonwood Creek Trail #27 (total distance is slightly over 1 mile).

6. Jumpin' Jeepers Figure 8 Loop. This is a 6.75-mile moderate to strenuous loop in Military Reserve Park that's more suited for young teen-agers and up. Start at the same Military Reserve Trailhead (see directions on #5 above). Take Mountain Cove Trail along Freestone Creek out to the police firing range. Turn right on Trail #20 and climb to the left-hand turnoff for Buck Tail Trail #20A. Enjoy the twists and turns in Buck Tail and climb to Shane's Junction (Trail #26A). Climb to Shane's Summit. Now it's all downhill on the way back. Complete Shane's Loop, then take Central Ridge Trail #22 all the way back to the Trailhead. It took Quinn and I a little under 2 hours to ride this loop, including a few short stops.

7. Castle Rock - Table Rock Loop. This hike is called "Foothills on the Rocks" in my guidebooks. It's best done on foot because the trails are quite steep in a few places, especially in the approach to Table Rock on the south face. Trip distance is 4.35 miles. Travel time is 1.5-2 hours. Take Warm Springs Avenue east to the Old Penitentiary. Park behind the Bishop's House at the public trailhead. Take Castle Rock Trail #19 to the top of Castle Rock. If you have small kids, this can be your destination and loop back to the trailhead. Otherwise, take Trail #15 from the top of Castle Rock and climb to the top of Table Rock. Enjoy the view. Do a loop of Table Rock on Trails #16 and #17 and then retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

8. Surprise Valley - Oregon Trail Loop. I wrote about this earlier this spring as a great early-season route. Check out my blog for details on this route. It's 2.6 miles and 1 hour hiking time. Rated easy. It's great to do this one on a bike or on foot.

9. Dry Creek out and back. Ironically, Dry Creek is the only perennial stream in the Boise Foothills, even though the name would suggest otherwise. This is a good out-and-back trail. It's more than six miles to the top of the trail, but most people go just a few miles up and back. To find the trail, go about three miles past the stop sign at Bogus Basin Road and Curling Drive and park in an unsigned pullout on the right side of the road. This is an intermediate hike best suited for 8-year-olds and up. It's an advanced mountain bike ride. Be aware there will be several stream crossings, so your feet may get wet, especially this time of year.

10. Bruneau Dunes State Park. I had to toss this in as an option because kids love to play in the sand, and spring is a perfect time to visit the park. Take I-84 to Mountain Home. Go south on ID 51 toward Bruneau. After you cross the Snake River, turn left on ID 78 and follow signs to the park. There is overnight camping and RV hookups. Drive into the park to the closest access point to the dunes next to the lakes. Look for interesting animal tracks in the sand. See if your kids can identify the tracks. Climb to the top of the sand dune and enjoy the view.

For more detailed information and site-specific maps of these trails, go to

For a large-scale Ridge to Rivers map of the Boise Foothills, click here.

-- 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