Thursday, April 30, 2015

Try the Boise "Grand Slam Peaks" - Climb Four Mountain Peaks Close to Home

Mt. Heinen (courtesy Tom Lopez) Grand Slam Peak #4
It's a long ridge walk from Three Point Mountain to Kepros Peak (courtesy Tom Lopez)
Kepros is Grand Slam Peak #2
Boise State students band birds of prey and songbirds on the top of Lucky Peak
in the fall during the migration season. Good time to visit!
Lucky Peak is Grand Slam Peak #3
Top of Cervidae Peak - Grand Slam Peak #1
Hi all,

A friend of mine casually mentioned the "Grand Slam" to me recently about bagging four mountain peaks close to Boise. It's an intriguing idea, and I thought I should pass it on! The Grand Slam is the brainchild of Tom Lopez, author of the excellent book, Idaho: A Climbing Guide. He calls them the "Grand Slam Peaks" in a great blog post detailing the routes on his web site.

If you have been thinking about climbing some mountains this year or backpacking in the high country, these local mountains are a great starting point for getting your legs and lungs in shape. As Lopez points out, these mountains melt off early and provide plenty of challenge to prepare you for tackling taller mountains in Central Idaho this summer.

Plus, it just so happens that the Idaho Hiking Club (Facebook Meetup group) is leading hikes to all four Grand Slam Peaks in the next week or so. The hikes are being led by Chad Rohr. When I spoke to Chad today, he had 12 openings for climbing Cervidae on Friday afternoon, three for the Lucky Peak hike next weekend, and five openings on the Mount Heinen hike on Sunday, May 10. Sign up via the Idaho Hiking Club web site.

Two of the four mountains in the Grand Slam -- Cervidae Peak and Shaw Mountain/Lucky Peak -- are featured in my new book, Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home. Cervidae is a steep, 2.2-mile hike one-way with 2,000 feet of vertical gain, starting from the trailhead near Spring Shores Marina next to Lucky Peak Reservoir. The hike is rated strenuous!

There are multiple ways to climb to the top of Shaw Mountain/Lucky Peak ... either from the Homestead Trail near Harris Ranch or from Highland Valley Road off of Idaho 21. It's a 13-mile loop with 3,158 feet of vertical gain, to climb to the top of Lucky Peak via Homestead Trail and Trail #8, and then descend on Trail #E and Trail #11 to end up at the Crow Inn for a beer. Lopez says he likes to mountain bike to the top so he can enjoy the fast descent. I'd recommend that too for hikers who also mountain bike.

The other two peaks involved in the Grand Slam are Kepros Peak (5,428 feet) and Mount Heinen (6,336 feet). Hiking to Kepros involves 1,700 vertical feet of gain as you walk a total of 10 miles out and back from the trailhead at the summit of Black's Creek Road (take I-84 exit and head toward Prairie). You hike up to a saddle above the road near Three Point Mountain (5,324 feet) and then do a giant ridge walk to Kepros Peak. This hike is rated strenuous because of the distance.

Mount Heinen is the tallest of the four Grand Slam peaks at elevation 6,336 feet. The trailhead is along the Middle Fork Boise River Road, which goes by Lucky Peak Reservoir and Arrowrock Dam. The trail starts up the mountain just past the Irish Creek Boat Ramp. The trail goes directly up the mountain, reaches the first ridgetop and then you do a long ridge walk to the top of Mount Heinen. The hike is 4.5 miles one-way. Lopez rates it strenuous. Allow about 7-8 hours for the hike. Carry plenty of water and food.

"My favorite is Heinen because it s straight up for the first 1.8 miles, then you discover that you're not even halfway to the peak," says Chad Rohr, who's leading a series of hikes to the Grand Slam Peaks for the Idaho Hiking Club. "If and when you make it to the top, the accomplishment is felt deeply in your body."

Lopez likes to hike the Grand Slam Peaks in this order:
1. Cervidae (usually melts out first)
2. Kepros
3. Lucky Peak
4. Mt. Heinen.

This year, snow is not a limiting factor on any of these mountains, so I'd say go for it! Many thanks to Tom Lopez for the inspiration, and to Chad Rohr of the Idaho Hiking Club for leading the hikes! But none of these routes are hard to follow in my opinion, so feel free to pick them off when you have time. Take your kids!

BTW - Two of these peaks are located in the Boise River Wildlife Management Area, owned by Idaho Fish and Game, and two of them are in the Boise National Forest.
Alpenglow mountainsport is having their used boat swap on Saturday, May 2nd, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Great place to find discounted flatwater kayaks, whitewater kayaks, inflatable kayaks, whitewater rafts, paddles, life jackets, wet suits, dry suits, etc.!

Pam Conley is leading a family birding walk on Sunday, May 3rd, starting at 9 a.m. from the Jim Hall Foothills Learning Center, on N. 8th Street after the road turns to dirt. Email Pam at


Friday, April 17, 2015

Pick up the new Boise Trail Guide to tap into 90 hiking & trail-running trips close to home!

The Station Creek hike in Garden Valley would be primo right now. 
Five Mile Creek in the East Foothills is a great trail to explore just about anytime ... 
Get the kids out hiking before they even know they're hiking ... 
Jennie Lake is one of 15 new hikes added to the book.  
Ultrarunner Dennis Ahern on the way up to Observation Peak in the Sawtooth Wilderness ... 
Hi all,

Hikers and trail-runners can rejoice in the launch of the 2nd edition of Boise Trail Guide, which has been one of my most popular books of all-time. Now it features 90 -- count 'em, 90! -- hiking and running routes close to home. Woo-hoo!

Even the fact that it's possible to feature 90 hiking/running routes in the greater Boise area shows how lucky we are to have such a huge diversity of trails and terrain that we can explore close to home, whether it's on the Boise River Greenbelt, in the Boise Foothills, the Owyhees, the Boise National Forest or Idaho State Parks.

We are BLESSED, people! I tried to maximize your enjoyment by serving up the most trails featured in a single hiking and running guide in Boise history!

The first shipment of books have arrived from the printer. Rediscovered Books, Idaho Mountain Touring, Shu's Idaho Running Company and Bandanna Running & Walking in Boise, and the Pulse Running and Fitness Shop in Meridian all have books in stock. Boise REI and Sierra Trading Post will be carrying the book in the coming days. It's also available at and at

As always, on my web site, you can buy the book in paperback ($19.95), or as a color ebook ($24.95), or you can buy individual trail descriptions and maps for 99 cents each, or for discounted prices in lots of five, 10, 25, etc. You can do this for any of my guidebooks at

For this weekend, I'd recommend:
  • All Greenbelt and Parks Trails. The new edition features 15 Greenbelt Loops and Parks Trails, showing folks how to navigate every stitch of the Greenbelt system from Eagle to Lucky Peak, including multiple loop possibilities using pedestrian and street bridges. Recently, in this blog, I've featured the Eagle Island State Park loops (5 miles) and the Marianne Williams Park - Barber Park nature trail loop
  • Nearly all 17 of the Easy Mountain Trails. These trails typically cover short distances in loops where possible without much vertical gain. They're easy trips like the Red Fox-Owl's Roost Loop out of Camelsback Park, Bruneau Dunes State Park, Jump Creek Canyon and Succor Creek State Park hikes. A few short hikes in the Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas and Crooked River are probably still snowed in. 
  • Many of the 23 Moderate Mountain Trails. These trips span from moderate hikes in the Eagle Foothills and Hidden Springs, to the Polecat Gulch loops in NW Boise, and Central Foothills favorites like the Crestline-Hulls Loop, the new Highlands-Corrals-Bob's Loop, and moderate trails at Bogus Basin and in the Boise National Forest, like the Station Creek Loop. That'd be perfect this weekend. 
  • Many of the 26 Strenuous Mountain Trails. Some of these are snowed-in still, but most would be snow-free. There are more than 20 foothills favorites in here, plus a long Hillside to the Hollow Loop, Watchman Loop, Orchard-Five Mile Loop, Around the Mountain at Bogus, Cervidae Peak, and Hike to Jennie Lake ... too early for that, though.  
  • Most of the 7 Epic Mountain Trails. The Boise Ridge Climber's Special, Stueby's Death March, Race to Robie Creek course, Homestead - Trail #8 - Trail E Loop would be all doable. You'd still run into snow in the other epics in the Sawtooth Wilderness and the Boise National Forest. 
Have a great weekend!
- SS

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Give Back to the Land: How to plug into trail projects with groups in Southwest Idaho

SWIMBA trail event in the Owyhees
Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation trail project 
Land Trust of the Treasure Valley volunteers 
Idaho Hiking Club volunteers worked on Table Rock trails for R2R

Hi all,

Spring is coming early this year. Hikers, dog-walkers, runners and bikers have been hitting the trails with a vengeance. I've been doing that, too!

Spring is also a time when the weather can be cool and moist, a good time for working on dirt trails before they get baked by the summer heat. It's a great time to put some love into the trails with a little sweat-equity.

This year, I'm flat impressed with all of the trail projects on tap in Boise and the greater SW Idaho area. Here's a quick list of six groups that have multiple projects on tap:

  1. The Land Trust of the Treasure Valley has a number of volunteer trail projects coming up, starting on Saturday in Dry Creek. They're already full for that session, but more projects are happening on April 14th, May 2nd and May 6th. They need volunteers to build a new trail in Harrison Hollow on May 2nd, in cooperation with Boise REI, and they're doing trail-enhancement work on April 14 and May 6. Go to the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley or Boise REI to sign up online.
  2. The Idaho Trails Association has a full slate of trail projects on the calendar for the entire year. This is a solid group with leaders who have experienced know-how to teach folks how to maintain existing trails and build new ones. There's a trail project planned in the Owyhee Canyonlands on June 6th, National Trails Day, East Fork of Lake Fork in McCall on June 27, Box Lake Trail in McCall, June 28, Alice-Toxaway Loop in the Sawtooths July 19-25, and much more. Check out this map for all of their projects planned this year.

    The ITA is having a fun Volunteer Appreciation Party on April 18th at the Ann Morrison Old Timers Shelter from 5-9 p.m. In the Wild Chef Steve Weston is going to be cooking up some excellent D.O. fare, and I'm hoping to join the party and cook up one of my favorite D.O. desserts, Devil's Tooth Cheesecake. They'll have some craft beer on tap. See you there!
  3. You can always count on the Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association (SWIMBA) to dial up a bunch of trail projects every spring. SWIMBA has four work days set up this month -- April 4, 18, 21, 25 -- to work on Peggy's Trail in the Daniel's Creek area near Polecat Gulch. Just like ITA, SWIMBA has a lot of strong leadership in the trail-maintenance and -building department. Plus, you can count on some beers after the work day!
  4. Our beloved Boise Foothills take a beating from all of the public use, so it's always a great idea to give back to the foothills trails by signing up with Ridge to Rivers for a volunteer trail project. Watch the Ridge to Rivers web site and Boise Foothills Trail Conditions Facebook page for upcoming trail events. Sam Roberts handles volunteer projects for Ridge to Rivers,  
  5. How about a little love for the rivers? The Idaho Whitewater Association is hosting a riverbank cleanup on May 9th along Idaho Highway 55 from Cascade Kayak to the Beehive Bend boat launch. People are meeting at Beehive Bend at 8 a.m. More information here
  6. Last but not least, the Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation dishes up a bevy of trail projects every year for volunteers to benefit the wilderness resource. These projects require more of a time commitment in terms of a week-long backpack in "the Frank" or the Selway-Bitterroot that also involves trail-maintenance work with the assistance of crew leaders, pack stock, tools and materials. The Foundation also has opportunities for cabin and lookout hosting! Contact the Foundation for more information.

    Think about what a privilege it is to enjoy our public lands in Idaho. Pitching in on these volunteer projects will make a difference! Have fun!
    - SS