Thursday, April 21, 2016

Cooler weather ahead: Take a hike in Wildcat Canyon in the Owyhees near Marsing

Canyon entrance 

Sister canyon to Wildcat Canyon 

Wonder how this landed here? 
Rhyolite lava rock 

Hi all,

It's been a gorgeous week weather-wise in SW Idaho, with temperatures reaching into the 80s today! But change is afoot and 60s are expected this weekend. It might be wet Saturday morning, but Sunday should be a nice cool day for a hike.

I thumbed through my Owyhee Canyonlands guide, and I thought of the Wildcat Canyon loop, near Marsing. It's a 3.5-mile cross-country loop, climbing a slot canyon in Wildcat Canyon, and then descending in a canyon that runs parallel to it. Rated moderate, with some strenuous pitches. It's a spectacular rocky rhyolite canyon with spires and cliff walls. The scrambling is challenging but doable -- a sturdy pair of boots helps!

I zipped out there this afternoon to get some fresh photos, and everything was very green, even the slopes that burned in the big Soda Fire last fall. The creek was dry today. We flushed three chukars. It took me about an hour to reach the trailhead from my house in Boise.

How to get there: From Boise, take I-84 west to the Idaho 55 South exit in Nampa. Follow ID 55 south to Marsing. Proceed through Marsing and watch for a turnoff for U.S. 95 west of town. Turn left on U.S. 95 South and head for Jordan Valley. The unsigned right-hand turnoff is exactly six miles ahead, after the weigh station. Go slow and watch for a dirt road turnoff. A high-clearance 4WD vehicle is most suitable for this road. You’ll go through several wire gates. Drop into a gully and then bear left at the first fork and follow the dirt road to the mouth of the canyon. Park. You could do self-support camping here.

From my Owyhee Canyonlands guide: "This is a nifty slot-canyon hike less than an hour from Boise. It’s best to wear shoes or sandals that can get wet. It’s pretty easy going up Wildcat Canyon creek, with beautiful, impressive rhyolite and basalt cliffs rising above you. There are a number of spots where you’ll need to scramble up a short steep ledge, and then it’s easy going again. After climbing up the draw two miles, you’ll loop back on a parallel draw that is more open, and then narrows down to a cliff, where you’ll climb out of the draw and hike to the ridge between the two canyons and cruise back to the trailhead. This hike is good for kids 10 and over – they’ll enjoy scambling up the creek and checking out the rocks. Nimble dogs could make it, too. 

Hiking notes: "Take your time and enjoy the setting – it’s only two miles to the top.  I rated the hike moderate to strenuous because you still climb nearly 1,000 vertical feet to the top end of Wildcat Canyon Creek. After you break out of the slot canyon, you’ll come to a fork. Follow the right fork and climb over a small hump to the next draw. This may be a good place for a lunch break. Continuing on, turn right and hike downhill in the draw a little over a half mile, and you’ll notice the canyon narrowing up, and there’s a cliff ahead. Before that happens, bear right and climb up the slope to the top of the ridge between the two draws. Cruise over to the cliff area to check it out from above. Then scramble down the nose of the ridge back to the trailhead."

Outdoor notes: Next Wednesday, April 27th, 5-7 p.m., SWIMBA invites mountain bikers young and old to attend a ribbon-cutting for the new, kid-friendly Snoop Loop Trail at the Eagle Bike Park. SWIMBA re-routed the trail to make it safer for our young riders in the community. Members of BYRDS will lead a ride on Snoop Loop. Free refreshments and speeches! Come support your bike community! 

New Ridge to Rivers management plan in the works! Click on this link to get more information. An open house is being held tonight (Thursday) from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Jim Hall Foothills Learning Center. 
- SS

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