Thursday, September 4, 2014

Try these two hikes/rides close to home: Polecat Gulch and Watchman Loop

Wendy and I ran into Dave Kordiyak on the Polecat Trail,
overlooking the Terteling Ranch. 

Polecat Gulch near Quick Draw junction
There's almost always water for dogs in Five Mile Creek.
These are my boys Quinn and Drew 
New Polecat Gulch Trailhead. Looks pretty snappy! 
Hi all,

I rode the Polecat Gulch Loop on Monday, and I was pleased to see that the City of Boise had completed the new trailhead for Polecast via North Collister off of Hill Road! This will make it much easier to access Polecat Gulch for many people in Northwest Boise. It's also a good reason to talk about the benefits of hiking, running or biking in Polecat Gulch in my outdoor tip of the week.

This week, I'm also going to suggest doing a long hike or ride on the Watchman Loop in NE Boise. The cool weather has been fabulous for foothills recreation this week, and it appears that it will continue this weekend, at least in the mornings. The highs this weekend in Boise are projected to be in the mid-80s in the afternoons.

Both of these hikes/rides are a little off the beaten path because they're not in the Central Foothills where many people go day after day. I'm recommending these hikes/rides close to Boise because the kids are back in school, so it's harder to get out of town for many people. If you can escape, it should be fabulous weather for a high country adventure in McCall, Stanley or Sun Valley.

Let's start with Polecat Gulch. This area was a key new 834-acre open space reserve purchased by the City of Boise in 2002 with funds from the 2001 Foothills Levy. It opened up a great system of trails in an area that had been previously unaccessible because its private land status. The trails in Polecat are more moderate than many in the foothills, so that's another draw. This area also is home to albino mule deer. I've seen them myself!
Polecat Gulch map (click to enlarge)
How to get there: Take Hill Road to N. Collister in NW Boise. Turn north on N. Collister and proceed to the Polecat Trailhead at the end of the road. There is a restroom in the parking lot.

The Polecat Gulch "finger" loop as I call it in my guidebooks, Boise Trail Guide and Mountain Biking in Boise, is approximately 6 miles long. It circumnavigates the whole gulch. I call it a finger loop because the trail snakes around little ridges that extend like a finger from the top of the gulch. It takes about an hour to do the loop on a bike, 1.25 hours for trail-runners, and several hours if you're hiking.

There are shorter loops you can do, too ... For instance, you could hike/ride up the bottom of Polecat Gulch from the N. Collister trailhead, and take QuickDraw to the top of Doe Ridge, and come back via the Polecat Loop trail. That would be about 2.5 miles.

Go visit Polecat from either the N. Collister side or the Cartwright Road trailhead ... you'll like it!

The Watchman Loop is one of the best hikes/rides in Boise IMHO. Starting from the bottom of Rocky Canyon Road, the loop is 10.2 miles long. It takes me a little less than 2 hours to ride it fast. It'd be a much longer trip if you're hiking -- about 4 hours. I rate the mountain bike ride advanced, and I rate the hike strenuous. The route features 1,900 feet of climbing. It's a fairly challenging route, but the views and the countryside you tour make it a four-star experience in my book.
Five Mile - Watchman Loop (click to enlarge)
Directions: Start at the bottom of Rocky Canyon Road at the end of the pavement. Proceed up the dirt road 2.5 miles to the Five Mile Creek Trail on the left. Climb Five Mile to a junction with the Orchard Gulch connector. Go straight and climb the steepest section of the trail for the next quarter-mile. The junction with Watchman comes up after you cross a creek at mile 4.2. The hard part is over!

Watchman Trail contours along Five Mile Creek canyon, offering big views of Rocky Canyon. Then it takes you over to another un-named canyon, and then you zoom downhill to Three Bears and follow Curlew Ridge all the way back to Shane's Summit in Military Reserve. Ignore the right-hand junction with Trail #6 before you hook up with Three Bears.

Bring plenty of water and food and enjoy the day!
I saw two volunteer opportunities coming up that looked fun and important:
1. Volunteers are needed for Greenbelt surveys to be held later in September. Contact Jerry Pugh, or call 608-7617.
2. Volunteers are needed for bike counts on Boise city streets. The Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance is coordinating the effort. Go to their web site to sign up:



Anonymous said...

Have you ever done a post or article about how the foothills trails got their names? I'm particularly interested in the origin of Watchman, Three Bears, and Polecat Gulch, but I'm sure there are some stories there.

Thanks for humoring my suggestion,

Steve Stuebner said...

Yes, I've written about the origin of the trail names in my book, "Mountain Biking in Boise" and "Boise Trail Guide."

Polecat Gulch is the actual name of the gulch on the USGS topo maps ... so that name has been around a long time ... Three Bears refers to the three distinctive humps on Curlew Ridge ... but I am not sure where Watchman came from ... I assume David Gordon of R2R came up with that one ...