Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fall colors are starting to turn! Head to Idaho City for three day hikes in the colorful forest

Gotta love the old-fashioned charm in Idaho City! 
Long views of the Sawtooths from Pilot Peak 
Hi all,

The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler, causing the fall colors to unleash their beauty in the Boise National Forest. This week, I'm recommending three hikes in the Idaho City area in the Boise NF where you are likely to see some colorful changes in the shrubs, ground vegetation and maybe some aspens and alders.

The weather should be fabulous for a mountain outing this weekend, with temperatures in the 80s in Boise, and 70s in the mountains. It'll be chilly in the mornings.

All three of these hikes are featured in my book, Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. Remember that bow season is open so you may see some people covered in camo pursuing deer or elk in the woods. You also may see bird hunters going after forest grouse. You could combine your hiking adventure with a stop at The Springs in Idaho City to enjoy a nice soak in the hot springs. Note to self: Reservations are required.
My guide suggests a full loop including the Centerville Road
but that's mainly for runners; don't recommend it for hiking 
Hike #1 - Charcoal Gulch in Idaho City - Distance: 4 miles out and back. Approximately 2 hours travel time. Vertical gain: 1,100 feet. Rated moderate. You could combine this hike with a little tour of the rustic old mining town, visit the museum and maybe get a bite to eat.

Getting there: From Boise, take Idaho 21 east to Idaho City. Turn left on main street and follow that several blocks to a junction with Bear Run Road on the right and Centerville Road on the left. Turn left on the Centerville Road and follow that for one-quarter mile to Buena Vista Road on the left. Turn left and follow Buena Vista, past the Idaho City Airport, to the parking area and trailhead for Charcoal Gulch and Airport loop trail. Park.

The hike: Head west out of the parking lot and take the ATV-type trail along the base of the mountain for a half mile to the junction with Charcoal Gulch Trail. Turn right and climb Charcoal Gulch 1.5 miles to the top. Take a break on top and retrace your steps to the trailhead.
The route to Pilot Peak. 
The Pilot Peak Lookout seems to have a different
function these days than a fire lookout.
Photo courtesy Ron Kemnow
Hike #2 - Mores Creek Summit to Pilot Peak Lookout - Distance: 7.9 miles up and back. Hiking time: 3.5 hours or more. Vertical gain: 2,043 feet. Rated strenuous.

Getting there: From Boise, take Idaho 21 east to Idaho City. Continue east on ID 21 to Mores Creek Summit. There is a large parking area and rest room on the right side of the road. 

The hike: Cross the road to hike up to Pilot Peak. Follow the two-track gravel road as it climbs to a saddle junction 3.2 miles from the trailhead. Take a hard right to climb a little over a half mile to the summit. Retrace your tracks to the trailhead. Bring a lunch and plenty of water. Enjoy the big views of the Boise National Forest from the summit. You can see the backside of the Sawtooths, Steel Mountain and much more. 
Follow USFS Road #316 to Sunset Mountain Lookout. 
Sunset Mountain Lookout is usually manned in the summer months.
Photo courtesy Ron Kemnow
Hike #3 - Mores Creek Summit to Sunset Mountain Lookout - Distance: 9.4 miles up and back. Hiking time: 4-5 hours. Vertical gain: 1,800 feet. Rated strenuous. 

Getting there: From Boise, take Idaho 21 east to Idaho City. Continue east on ID 21 to Mores Creek Summit. There is a large parking area and rest room on the right side of the road.  

The hike: From the parking lot, hike up Forest Road #316 to the top of Sunset Mountain. The 4WD dirt road is not as steep as the hike to Pilot Peak because it has some sections where it flattens out and the gradient is less severe. But it is farther to Sunset Lookout. The lookout building itself is still manned during the summer months for fire reconnaissance. It's a beautiful perch from the summit -- you can enjoy a bird's eye view of the North Fork of the Boise River, the backside of the Sawtooths and Steel Mountain. Be sure to pack a lunch and bring plenty of water. 

There you have it! Enjoy the beautiful fall weather!
- SS 


Unknown said...

Thanks Steve. What are your thoughts on MTB'ing the Slaughterhouse-Charcoal Gulch loop you mention? Looks interesting.

Steve Stuebner said...

It's just fine for biking! You'll do the climb on a busy dirt road and the descent on a singletrack in Charcoal Gulch. Good times!

Unknown said...

Done! Was a great time in the snow, thanks for the recommendation.

Steve Stuebner said...

Thx for sharing your tracks and post, Erik!