Thursday, February 25, 2016

Boise Foothills trails are drying up, ready for hiking, trail-running and mountain biking

Steve at Shane's Summit as the sun was going down last night.
Happy to see the foothills trails dried up and open for use! 
Central Ridge trail 

Runners climbing Ridge Crest Trail in Military Reserve 
Central Ridge near Shane's-Bucktail Jct. 
Mark and Wendy on Crestline Trail 
Hi all,

A string of bluebird days and brisk winds are drying out the trails in the lower half of the Boise Foothills earlier than normal, and that means instead of getting your workout indoors at a fitness center or the Treasure Valley YMCA, you can enjoy an afternoon outing in the foothills, hiking, trail-running or mountain biking right now! For many of us, that's a big Woo-Hoo!

After skiing two powder days at Brundage Mountain last Friday and Saturday, I completed my weekend by returning to Boise and mountain biking one of my favorite loops in the Foothills, riding from Military Reserve up the connector to Crestline, and then climbing Sidewinder to Fat Tire, and then plunging down Trail #5 to Military Reserve and finishing on the sinewy trail along Freestone Creek.

Except for a greasy spot on Fat Tire near the junction with Trail #5, the trails were dry, and it was a delightful ride. My pointer Huck was happy to be out there, too. We've been riding in the foothills this winter on my snow bike on frozen snowy trails, but it's always great to be riding again in the spring. The word is getting out, as there were hundreds of people out and about in the foothills on Sunday, and every day this week.

The Boise Foothills Trail Conditions facebook page indicates that certain trails are still muddy or greasy and should be avoided, including Peggy's Trail and Polecat in NW Boise, and Rock Island and Garden in the Table Rock area. Keep an eye on that page to report what you're finding when you are out hiking, trail-running or mountain biking or see what other peeps are reporting.

For people who live in areas that are still snow-bound such as McCall or Ketchum/Sun Valley, you might want to pay Boise a visit and enjoy some early-spring outings in our beloved foothills. Maps of the foothills trails are available through Ridge to Rivers and more detailed information is available in my guidebooks, Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Trail-Running Routes Close to Home and Mountain Biking in Boise, 65 rides in the greater Boise area. 

Dress in layers! Try to time your workout in the heat of the day, and it's been cool, in the 50s. I wear a couple of warm, synthetic layers on top, and I've been hiking/riding in shorts. I pack along a wind-proof shell for the way down. I'm seeing runners in T-shirts and shorts.

Here are four other loops that I'd recommend right now for hiking, trail-running or biking, beyond the Sidewinder-Fat Tire-Trail #5 loop that I mentioned above:

1. Highlands-Corrals-Bob's Loop - 8 miles, rated moderate to strenuous as a hike/run, and intermediate to advanced as a ride. Bob's is a challenging rocky trail, but you can always carry your bike around tricky features. Travel time: 3.5 hours, hiking, 1:40 running, and 1:15 on a bike.
Park at the end of Hearthstone via Braemere in the Highlands. The is the trailhead for Bob's Trail and Highland's Trail. Climb Highlands, which might be shady in the bottom, but will quickly get sun as you rise out of the draw up to Corrals Trail, providing grand views of the North End. It's a little less than 2 miles and 400 feet of elevation to Corrals. Turn right on the dirt 2-track and cruise on a moderate uphill, and then downhill into a creek bottom, a fork of Crane Creek. The trail dissolves into singletrack here. Go through a gate, cross the creek, and then climb to Corrals Summit (turn right at the saddle to reach the top). It's 3.5 miles from Highlands jct. to the summit. Now you've climbed 1,325 feet and you're at the peak of the route. Descend on Corrals for about a mile until you reach the Bob's junction by a hairpin corner. Drop down Bob's, a narrow and rocky singletrack alongside a fork of Crane Creek. In a little less than 2 miles, you'll end up at the trailhead.

2. Toll Road-Cottonwood Creek-Eagle Ridge loop in Military Reserve Park. I call it the "Military Reserve Easy Double Loop" in Boise Trail Guide. Distance: 3 miles. Hiking time, 1:30, running time, 35 minutes, riding time, 20-25 minutes. This is an easy route with some challenging features here and there that provides a tour of the lower parts of Military Reserve Park. Park at the main trailhead off of Mountain Cove Road (off of Reserve St.) after you make the sharp right corner. Proceed up the Toll Road Trail #27A for a half mile to a signed junction. Turn right, cross the creek, and stay on the low trail, the Cottonwood Creek trail back toward the trailhead. It's a flat trail that zig-zags through the sagebrush. As you near the trailhead area, 1.3 miles, bear left into the Black Forest and enjoy that cool little trail. It pops out on a concrete apron. Pick up the trail to the left of the concrete and you'll hook up with Eagle Ridge Trail #25. Climb up the paved road a short bit to the top of the hill at mile 2. Bear left on #25 and take Eagle Ridge back to the Cottonwood-Toll Road junction. Return to the trailhead as you wish.

3. Jumpin' Jeepers Figure-8 Loop - 6.75 miles. Rated strenuous as a hike or run with moderate sections. Rated intermediate for biking. Hiking time, 2.5-3 hours; running time, 1:20; riding time, 1:10. This is one of my favorite rides in Military Reserve that connects to Shane's Trail. It's an equally nice run or hike. The name comes from the Boise Police Dept. shooting range at the end of Mountain Cove Road. The unexpected blast from a gun might cause you to jump out of your skin! To start, go to the main trailhead on Mountain Cove Road, after the sharp right-hand corner. Take the Toll Road Trail #27A to #20 Ridge Crest and climb to the top of the hill. Turn right on Central Ridge Trail and climb at a moderate pace to Shane's Junction. Take Shane's #26A to the left, and climb to the top of Shane's. You've climbed 1,000 feet over 3+ miles. Give your puppy a drink and a snack. Descend Shane's for less than a mile, turn right on the Shane's Loop and return to the Central Ridge-Bucktail-Shane's jct. Take Bucktail downhill and enjoy the big GS turns as you wind across a big downhill on a large flat. Bucktail drops into the Central Ridge alternative trail. Go right and then left on that and it'll take you back to the trailhead. It's a great view of Idaho's Capital City as you cruise downhill on that sagebrush slope to the trailhead.

4. Camelsback - Kestrel-Crestline-Red Cliffs Loop - Distance: 5 miles. Rated moderate for hikers and runners. Rated intermediate for biking. Hiking time, 2-2.5 hours; Running time: 55 minutes; Biking time: 45 minutes. This is a popular loop with hikers, runners and bikers. Start at Camelsback Park off of Heron and 13th Street in North Boise. Head over to the trailhead in the east side of the park, and follow Owl's Roost Trail on the right by the ponds. Follow Owl's Roost to the Foothills Learning Center area. Turn right at the junction with Kestrel, and climb Kestrel to Crestline, it's about .6 miles of continuous climbing. Turn left onto Crestline, climb a short abrupt hill, and then watch for a left-hand junction with Red Cliffs in less than a half mile. Turn left onto Red Cliffs and enjoy a fun descent for over a mile back to Hulls Gulch. Follow Hulls back toward the Foothills Learning Center, cross 8th Street, and take Chickadee Ridge back to Camelsback Park.

Have fun!

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