Wednesday, June 15, 2011

An easy hiking trip in the Owyhee Mountains called the Shoofly Creek Quick Loop

Looking north toward the Snake Plain from a rock pinnacle

Bighorn sheep skull and horns

Jeep Trail makes for easy walking

Old cabin at the confluence of E. and W. Forks of Shoofly Creek

W. Fork Shoofly Creek

On the way into Shoofly Creek

"Between the Creeks" canyons come into view

The first canyon

Indian paintbrush was bursting with color everywhere

Hi all,

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I'm working on an Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook, and so this week, I'd like to highlight a cool 5.5-mile loop hike near Grand View, about 1.25 hours from Boise.

I'm going to call this hike the "Shoofly Creek Quick Loop" because it's a short drive to the trailhead on an easy and tame 4WD road off of Mud Flat Road (easily navigated with a Subaru), south of Grand View, and the hiking trip itself took me only about 3 hours. It's a family friendly trip ... kids 8 and over would do fine on the hike. Just so you know, the hike features 840 feet of vertical gain and descent over the course of 5.5 miles.

Why go: The hike penetrates a portion of the new Big-Little Jack's Creek Wilderness area in a spectacular area that's called "Between the Creeks" on USGS maps. The rocky canyons are very scenic, you'll see wildflowers, and you might see wildlife (I found a bighorn sheep skull and horns on my hike).

There is no official trail on this route, so you'll need some basic map-reading skills to complete the loop successfully. My route will take you up one short canyon in the Owyhee Front to the top of the plateau, and then less than a half-mile away, you'll discover a basalt and rhyolite crack that leads to the West Fork of Shoofly Creek. From there, you'll follow that fork of Shoofly Creek down to the confluence of the two forks, where you'll see an old cabin, and loop back to the trailhead (see trip map above).

Getting there: Take Interstate 84 east about 20 miles to the Simco Road Exit. Go south toward Grand View. At the junction with Idaho 167, turn right and go to Grand View. In Grand View, turn left on ID 78. In two miles, bear right on Mud Flat Road, known officially as the Owyhee Backcountry Byway. Follow Mud Flat 18 miles (past where it turns to dirt) and turn left on an unsigned two-track that runs along the foot of the Owyhee Mountains. Follow the two track for two miles, and it dead ends. The hike starts here.

From the trailhead, walk uphill and slightly to the right (southwest) and climb a small basalt canyon. As you near the top of the canyon at mile .6, you'll see that the main canyon cliffs out to the right. So you'll need to switchback to the left and climb up on top of the rim through one of the grassy gateways between the rocks.

Once on top of the plateau, you'll feel like you're on top of the world. Walk toward the southwest, and look for the canyon that drops into Shoofly Creek. Once you reach the edge of that canyon, you'll see the Between the Creeks plateau and the box canyons of each fork of Shoofly Creek. The only way into the crack is at the very top of it. You can scramble down through the rocks and follow the crack into Shoofly Creek.

At mile 2, you'll reach the West Fork of Shoofly Creek. Bear left and hike along the creek (don't cross). You'll climb over over a fence at mile 2.4, and you'll pick up a road next to the creek and follow that to the old cabin at mile 2.6. This is a nice lunch spot.

From the cabin, hike along the jeep trail until it crosses the creek at mile 3.1 (this was under deep water when I was there a couple weeks ago). Don't cross, and stay on the left side of the creek and wander downriver. The low-slung canyon rims along the creek get steep, so it's best to go above the rim and sidehill along the canyon and aim for a saddle by a pinnacle point overlooking Shoofly Creek. This was my lunch spot at 4.0 miles.

Drop off the pinnacle point toward the flats along the Owyhee Front and hike back to your rig heading directly to the west on the edge of the mountains. Final mileage is 5.5 miles.

- 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 Detailed descriptions and color maps of Steve's hikes, bike rides and paddling trips are available for 99 cents each at, plus the full ebooks and hard-copy guidebooks.


Laurie B said...

Thanks Steve, great idea for a Sunday Father's Day hike!

Tim Bondy Votes said...

Great article/post. I love the Owyhee's and in particular the Mud Flat area. Been on about 15-20 hikes in this area in the last 3 years.

So, did you encounter any of my rattlesnake friends on your hike? It's because of these creatures I tend to avoid the Owyhee's during the warm season.

In any case, looking forward to seeing your guidebook getting published. Also looking forward to taking this hike during the late Fall time period.

I also have some hike trip reports in this area posted on my website called

Steve Stuebner said...

Thx Laurie and Tim ... Thx for letting me know about your web site, Tim, I'd like to see what hikes you've done out there ... I didn't see any snakes on the hike I described ... it's still been pretty cool out there but I'm sure snakes will emerge as it gets hotter in July ...

John R said...

Great hike! The directions were spot on! My wife and I did it in early May carrying our two fifteen-month old girls in backpacks. The last two miles of side-hill hiking was not ideal, however. I would rate the hike as "moderate" because of this. Having hiking poles definitely helped.-John R