Thursday, October 22, 2015

Try these five scenic, kid-friendly fall hikes in the Boise National Forest close to home

Peace Rock Roadless Area, north of Garden Valley

Peace Rock Trailhead. The trail also is open to mountain biking and motorcycles. 
Cottonwood Creek Trail in the higher elevations ... 
Wendy on Station Creek Trail 
Bald Mountain, optional high point from the Station Creek Trail. Well worth it! 
Hi all,

The weather looks fabulous for just about anything outdoors this weekend, with highs in the mid-60s and lows around 40 in the Garden Valley or Idaho City areas, so I am recommending five scenic hikes in the Boise National Forest that you'll enjoy.

Remember that rifle deer season is still open in the Garden Valley and Idaho City areas, so wear bright colors and put bright colors on your dogs as well.

My top five hikes for this weekend:

1. Peace Creek Trail, Peace Creek Roadless Area, north of Crouch - This is a little-known gem near the Silver Creek Plunge. The Boise National Forest has a little blurb and map on the hike. I'd rate the hike moderate at the beginning and strenuous overall. It's five miles from the trailhead to a high point, and five miles back for a total of 10 miles. Vertical gain is over 3,000 feet to the top. Peace Rock Roadless Area is a wilderness study area. It's very scenic with big white granite slopes and rocks everywhere, mixed with big ol' ponderosa pine trees and aspens. Great place to go if you don't run into hunters. Getting there: Take Idaho 55 to Banks. Turn right and go to Garden Valley. Take Forest Road #698 north of Crouch along the Middle Fork Payette River to a junction with Forest Road #671, heading for Silver Creek Plunge, a hot springs resort. Go just past the resort, and you'll see the trailhead for Peace Creek. Take a Boise National Forest map or a Topo map with you. It used to be possible to hike from the high point in this hike back down to the Peace Creek Valley but that trail has fallen off the grid. So it's an out-and-back hike. Pack a lunch and bring plenty of water. Good for kids 8 and older. Stop at Silver Creek Plunge for a nice soak after your hike. Bring your swim suits.
Trip map for Peace Creek hike (Click to enlarge)

2. Cottonwood Creek, near Arrowrock Reservoir - This hike is in my book, Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Running  Routes Close to Home. Rated moderate for a casual out-and-back hike along Cottonwood Creek. It's 10 miles one-way to Thorn Butte Lookout on the Cottonwood Creek Trail, so it's generally too far to hike for a day trip, so just head up the Cottonwood Creek trail as far as you want and enjoy the day. Bring a lunch and water. Getting there: Take Idaho 21 toward Lucky Peak Reservoir. Turn right after crossing the Mores Creek bridge. Drive 15 miles along the bumpy dirt road next to Lucky Peak and Arrowrock. Turn left on Forest Road #377 and go three miles to the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead on the right. FYI: The trail crosses the creek multiple times on the hike, so be ready for that. The creek is running low, so the crossings shouldn't be a problem. Feel free to take the kids on this one.

3. Station Creek Trail - This is another one of my favorites, close to Garden Valley. See previous blog post for details. Rated moderate. The trailhead is directly across the Banks-to-Lowman Road from the Garden Valley Ranger Station. There's an optional climb to the top of Bald Mountain when you get to the top of the first ridge. It's worth the extra distance. The hike is kid-friendly for children 8 and over.
Map for Charcoal Gulch Trail ... The loop
is best done for biking or running. Best part
of the hike is in Charcoal Gulch. 
4. Hike Charcoal Gulch Trail in Idaho City. This one is pretty close to town next to the Idaho City airport, so hopefully you won't run into any hunters on this hike. You might see some road hunters at the top of the hike. Rated easy to moderate. Kid-friendly. Its two miles uphill on the Charcoal Gulch Trail to the top of the hike, and two miles back. Four miles total. You'll hike in a forested setting with views of quaking aspens here and there. Bring a lunch and enjoy the day. Getting there: Take Idaho 21 to Idaho City. Turn left on Main Street and follow it several blocks to a junction with Bear Run Road and Centerville Road. Go left on the Centerville Road, Forest Road #307, for a quarter-mile to Buena Vista Road. Turn left and follow Buena Vista past the airstrip to the parking and trailhead.
It's possible to bike to Stargaze as well but it's pretty steep! 
Brenda and Leo on the deck of Stargaze Yurt. Great 360 degree views! 
5. Hike to Stargaze Yurt - Here's an easy to moderate kid-friendly hike with great views of the surrounding countryside. You'll take Idaho 21 past Idaho City and Mores Creek Summit to Beaver Creek Summit. Park at the summit and follow the Park n' Ski Trail up to Stargaze Yurt and a high point overlooking the Boise National Forest. It's 1.4 miles to the yurt from the road. You'll be hiking in a forested setting with pockets of quaking aspen trees here and there. Bring a lunch and enjoy the day. If you've never stayed at Stargaze, you'll know why it's one of everyone's favorite yurts because of the high perch and good skiing in the winter.

You'll note that I did not recommend hiking from Mores Creek Summit because it's likely that deer hunters will be ever-present on the Pilot Peak Road or Sunset Lookout Road. Ditto with Banner Ridge trails.

Have fun!
-- SS

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