Thursday, March 29, 2018

Early-season tips on hiking in the Boise Foothills and Owyhee Canyonlands

Wendy enjoys the view while Huck sniffs for critters on the top of Hillside to the Hollow 
Walking up the wash in Sage Creek, Owyhee Canyonlands 
My son Drew enjoyed climbing around the rocks in Sage Creek. 
Three Fingers from a distance in the Owyhee Canyonlands 
Hi all, 

The weather has been getting nicer every day this week, and now temperatures are nudging 60 degrees in the heat of the afternoon -- perfect temps for hiking, mountain biking and trail-running in the Boise Foothills and the Owyhees. The high Friday is 65, Saturday 61 and Sunday 63. I say go for it! 

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'll recommend five hiking or trail-running routes in the foothills and the Owyhees:

1. Hillside to the Hollow - This is a nice little gem at the edge of the city that can be accessed from a parking area next to Healthwise off of Bogus Basin Road, Hillside Junior High by the tennis courts, or several other streets off of Hill Road. Start by Healthwise and hike up the canyon known as Harrison Hollow. This is a very gradual hike for a mile to a saddle. Continue going uphill at the saddle and head west toward the high point of the Hillside-to-the-Hollow complex. Once on top, you'll feel as if you can reach out and touch the city below. Great views up there! This is a relatively easy hike done at a relaxed pace. It's about 1.5 miles to the top, and 450 vertical feet of climbing. Rated moderate. Good for kids. 

2. Kestrel - Red Cliffs Loop - This is a great trail for a casual foothills walk with your friends, family, dogs, whatever. You’ll get a nice workout, but you can moderate your speed on the climb up Kestrel according to your preference. Distance: 5 miles. Vertical gain 660 feet. From a running perspective, this is a popular standby. Start at Camelsback Park. Take Owl's Roost Trail, a moderate, slightly uphill cruise to a steeper climb up Kestrel Trail to Crestline. You can crank up the hill as fast as your lungs and legs will allow. After one more steep climb 100 yards after joining the Crestline Trail, the trail levels off for a bit and then it dives downhill to Red Cliffs. At the bottom of Red Cliffs, circle back over to the Foothills Learning Center and retrace your tracks on Owl's Roost back to Camelsback Park. 

Steve with Quinn in the backpack on the Five Mile Creek Trail. 
3. Five Mile Creek-Orchard Gulch - This is a moderate to strenuous loop hiking or running along Five Mile Creek, climbing over a pass, and then descending Orchard Gulch in the east foothills. Distance: 5.35 miles. Hiking time: 2.5 hours; Elevation gain: 1,149 feet. Drive up Rocky Canyon Road 2.5 miles to the Five Mile Creek Trail junction. Go slow and watch out for Robie Creek runners and mountain bikers. Park by the trailhead. It's a beautiful hike up Five Mile Creek on a singletrack trail. There are several creek crossings; some have bridges. Look for animal tracks. It's about 1.5 miles to the Orchard junction (signed). Go right and climb to a small pass, where you'll drop into Orchard Gulch. Follow the trail down several switchbacks and hike back to Rocky Canyon Road. It's 1.2 miles of gradual downhill on the dirt road back to the Five Mile Trailhead.

4. Sage Creek - This is a cool hike out in the Owyhees near Succor Creek State Park. Follow the driving and hiking directions in this blog post. It's 2.5 miles out and back to explore Sage Creek. It's a beautiful redrock canyon with balance-rock formations and several areas with volcanic tuff layers that are chalky white and green. There is no official trail. Just walk up the canyon and enjoy the scenery. Very kid friendly.

5. Hike to Three Fingers Mountain - Three Fingers is an easy hike to the top of a basalt-capped mountain in the big wide open country of the Owyhee Canyonlands. Distance: 2.4 miles out and back. Hiking time: 1.5 hours. Elevation gain: 833 feet. Rated easy to moderate. The hardest part of this trip is getting to the trailhead, and that's not too hard. A 4WD rig is recommended. Follow the directions in this blog post,  which provides driving directions to the trailhead, and also directions on the hike. This hike is located near Succor Creek State Park, so if you feel like taking your car-camping stuff, by all means, do that and stay overnight at the park. There is a rest room in the park and more hiking nearby. This one is also kid friendly.
A couple of announcements for next week: 

1. I will be talking about my new edition of Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home at Idaho Mountain Touring next week during First Thursday. The event starts at 6 p.m. IMT will have beverages and snacks on hand. I'll give a brief presentation, and I'll be glad to sign copies of Boise Trail Guide and Owyhee Canyonlands available for sale at IMT. 

2. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers are hosting a major national meeting in Boise April 12-15. On Friday, April 13, they'll host "Beers, Bands and Public Lands," featuring local breweries and live music in the Grove. There are more than 1,000 people coming to the their North American rendezvous, so it should be a fun time in the Grove. It costs $20 for the brewfest. See BHA Rendezvous web site for more information. 

Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

10 bomb-proof ideas for outdoorsy fun, spunk and adventure on Spring Break

Option #1 Take a ski vacation! This is Jackson Hole, a mountain that makes you feel very small. 
Option #3 Climb one of the Boise Grand Slam peaks. This is Mt. Kepros, the summit off in the distance.  
Option #4 - Go see Shoshone Falls, ski Pomerelle, hit the hot springs and live it up in the Magic Valley. See below.  
Hi all,

It's been a wet March, so it's nice to look forward to sunshine next week in SW Idaho. That's the weather forecast -- blue sky and sunshine for most of the week! Just in time for Spring Break! If you're thinking of staying close to home, the weather looks favorable for spring skiing, hiking, biking or running in the foothills, or heading out to the Snake River canyon or the Owyhee Canyonlands to go camping and exploring.

Temperatures will still be on the cool side -- with highs in the mid-50s and lows near freezing in the valleys. So be sure to dress warm!

Here are 10 outdoorsy ideas to keep you occupied and entertained during Spring Break:

1. Spring skiing should be great at BogusBrundageTamarack and Sun Valley after all the fresh snow that fell in the past week. Brundage is offering FREE skiing to kids 7-14 who might want to sign up for a free lesson with rental gear, a lift ticket and lunch. Open to only 25 kids per day, and the kids need to be residents of Valley County.

2. Take a ski vacation to Grand Targhee, Jackson Hole or Alta, Solitude or Snow Basin in Utah. All of the recent snow should make for excellent conditions at any of those areas.

3. Get a jump on hiking and bag one of the peaks in the local Grand Slam. Try Cervidae Peak or Mount Kepros. Both are rated advanced and strenuous. All four of the Boise Grand Salmon Peaks are featured in my new edition of Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home.  It's a tough, steep hike.

4. Do a home run weekend in the Magic Valley - Go see Shoshone Falls (water flows should last through April), have a top-shelf dinner at Elevation 486, ski Pomerelle and then hit Miracle Hot Springs on your way home and top it off with dinner at the Snake River Grill in Hagerman.

Hiking or camping at Leslie Gulch should be fab. Huck likes the view. 
5. Go camping in the Snake River Canyon or in the Owyhees, close to home. Here are five destinations that are sure to please, including Succor Creek State Park, Leslie Gulch, Bruneau Dunes State Park, and Celebration Park.

6. Try a new loop in the Boise Foothills. One of my favorites is the Five Mile-Orchard Loop or the Five Mile-Watchman-Three Bears Loop. Click on the links to see a description and photos. Good for hiking or biking. The hikes are moderate to strenuous, and the loops are rated advanced for biking. Great for running, too (rated strenuous).

Bruneau Canyon! (Courtesy Visit Idaho) 
7. Go see the Bruneau River canyon or double-up and visit the Bruneau Dunes on the way there or the way home.

8. Dust off the road bike and go for a ride. Here are seven rides to try in Boise for various ability levels. All of the rides are from my Boise Road Cycling Guide, the only guide to road biking in the Boise area.

9. Head into the mountains and go backcountry skiing, snowshoeing or xc skiing in your Hawaiian shirt. Try Pilot Peak, Sunset Mountain, Stargaze Yurt, Gold Fork, Banner Ridge, Copper Mountain, Bull Trout Point, Ponderosa State Park or Bear Basin.

Go for a hike on the Five Mile Creek trail in the Boise Foothills.
10. Take a hike in the Owyhees. One of my favorites is the Wilson-Reynolds Creek Loop, which includes touring the beautiful redrock Reynolds Creek canyon and hiking the China Ditch Trail. See my Owyhee Canyonlands book for 55 hikes and bike rides in the Big Wide Open.

Have a wonderful Spring Break!
- SS

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hit the slopes or the mountains for St. Patty's Day! Lots of fun things to do!

Dress up for St. Patty's Day! (courtesy Liftopia) 
(Courtesy Liftopia) 
You get the idea! 
Hi all,

Last weekend was sunny and warm, and this weekend will be cool and wet. Don't turn your back on winter yet!

Brundage Mountain, Bogus Basin and Sun Valley all got fresh snow this week, and there's more freshies on the way through Sunday this weekend. My recommendation this weekend is to hit the slopes for fun St. Patrick's Day activities or go xc skiing, snowshoeing or snow biking at your favorite mountain getaway. The snow conditions are stellar everywhere! See my latest "Idaho Daily Snow" ski report.

In the Boise Valley, the trails might be muddy and wet with storms forecast Friday-Sunday, so my feeling is you're better off going to play in the snow.

Here's the lowdown on St. Patty's Day activities, Saturday, March 17:
  • Bogus Basin - Dress up like a leprechaun and get a free ride on the Glade Runner mountain coaster. Bogus has received 7 inches of new snow over the last 36 hours. Should be great skiing and riding up there. Bogus will be doing a grand opening of the Double R Ranch BBQ Smokehouse at 11 a.m. You can imagine what's on the menu, and it's located on the Bogus Creek Plaza, outside the main lodge, next to the cozy fire pits. Live music runs from 3-6 p.m. They'll even have free S'mores by the fire pits 4-6 p.m. Free demo skis will be available to try for Bogus season pass holders. Green beer all day long at the Simplot Lodge. To cap it all off, there's a Pot O’ Gold Treasure Hunt -- find the hidden pot of gold on the mountain and win a free 2018-19 season pass.
  • Brundage Mountain - They've receive 2 inches of fresh snow in the last 36 hours, and they're supposed to get more in the next several days. You can start the day by participating in a Treasure Hunt on the ski mountain. You'll be looking for seven Shamrocks hidden in the trees and snow. Winners get a "pot of gold" bag of prizes.

    Then, after lunch at Smoky's Bar and Restaurant, you can try your hand at cabbage bowling. You chuck a cabbage at a set of bowling pins (Guiness cans). Winners get fun prizes. That event starts at 1 p.m. on the deck outside Smoky's. They'll have live music from 2-5 p.m. with Kayleigh Jack, an Idaho musician who plays guitar, violin and mandolin, and she can sing! Sounds fun! 
  • Tamarack Resort - They've had 4 inches in the last 48 hours, with more to come. The 4th annual Brewski event will be happening at Tamarack on Saturday, from 3-6 p.m. inside the Canoe Grill. Tickets cost $15, and it will sell out (only 200 tickets will be sold). The fee covers beer-tasting and a commemorative tasting glass. Participating breweries include Payette, Salmon River, Broken Horn, Crooked Fence, Powderhaus, Sockeye, and County Line Brewing. Live music will be provided by New Transit. Rip some nice long top-to-bottom runs and work up a thirst! Should be a blast!
  • Pomerelle Mountain Resort - Dress up for St. Patty's Day and revel in what is expected to be the deepest powder to come this weekend. A foot to 18 inches of new snow are forecast to fall at Pomerelle between now and Saturday. They'll be celebrating St. Patty's Day with hidden Shamrocks on the mountain, and Pot of Gold challenge. Guess how many pieces of gold are in the pot, and the winner takes the pot of gold. 
  • Pebble Creek Ski Area - I doubt many would drive all the way to Pocatello to see it, but I had to laugh upon seeing that Pebble Creek hosts a St. Patty's Day Monster Dummy Jump event. You build a ski dummy, send it off a big jump on skis or a snowboard, and watch it crash and burn. That'd be pretty hilarious! Top prize is $100. Entry fee is $15. No propulsion devices, no incendiary devices, gravity only. No obscenities. Ha! 
Here's hoping you have a great weekend! 
- SS 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

New, 3rd edition of Boise Trail Guide is HOT off the press! Volunteer to plant bitterbrush for IDFG

On top of Mt. Heinen, part of the Boise Grand Slam, with Joanie, Judy and Jack  
Hi all,

Under the banner of shameless self-promotion, I must tell you about the brand new, third edition of Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. 

Whenever I run out of book stocks, I not only order a new printing of the book, I update the guide based on anything that's changed in the field -- in this case, the Pioneer wildfire certainly roared through some of the trails, and the Crow Inn sadly closed -- and add new trails that have come online.

So the latest edition of Boise Trail Guide has 5 new routes. The new editions are ... two new Greenbelts and Parks trails -- Esther Simplot Park, and Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve, a 44-acre beautiful birding area in the midst of West Boise with hiking/running trails. I added one new route in the Moderate Mountain Trails section, two out-and-back routes via Peggy's Trail. And in the Strenuous Mountain Trails section, I added the full route descriptions and maps for all four Boise Grand Slam Peaks. Now you can see how to climb Mt. Kepros and Mt. Heinen as well as Mt. Cervidae and Shaw Mountain/Lucky Peak. I guess I had to hike all four of the peaks before I could put them in the book. Last year, I finished the slam, and I'll tell you, it's totally worth it!

Where to buy? Boise Trail Guide is available for sale on my web site,, Bandanna Walking and Running in downtown Boise, Idaho Mountain Touring, Boise REI and all have copies of the new book. I will be getting more books distributed to more retailers with time.

We are blessed! Think about how amazing it is that I can publish a book with 95 places to go hiking and running in Boise or within an hour of our capital city. There are tons of trails to explore in the Ridge to Rivers Trail system, BLM lands to the south and in the Boise National Forest to the north and east. People who have bought the book tell me they love having more choices for their hiking and running destinations. Many get stuck in a rut, doing the same routes over and over again. Venture outside your mold and learn about new places to go with Boise Trail Guide.

All of the routes provide travel time for hiking and running. Each route has a description and map, with driving directions and details about what make the route appealing or unique.

The new edition is a little more compact and light because the printer used nicer paper that's thinner than the old paper stock, and the trim size is slightly smaller than 5.5" by 8.5", standard guidebook size. I think you'll like it!

Volunteers plant shrubs to benefit wildlife and the integrity of the soil and watershed. 
Join up with a Idaho Fish and Game volunteer shrub-planting event! 

Idaho Fish and Game has three opportunities in March. They need volunteers plant bitterbrush and sagebrush seedlings for wildlife on March 10, 17 and 24.  Meet at 9 a.m. at the MK Nature Center in Boise on those dates. Alternate meeting locations at the planting sites are available at 9:30 a.m. for volunteers that want to meet at Hilltop Summit.

It's fun to participate in service projects like this. You're doing something to enhance habitat for wildlife, and you'll meet new interesting people. Plus, you'll get plenty of exercise planting all of the seedlings.

Planting locations are located near Highway 21 in the Boise River Wildlife Management Area, home to 6,000 to 8,000 wintering mule deer.  These deer utilize the area during the winter for shelter and feeding in a landscape typically devoid of the deeper snows in the higher mountains, where they spend their summers. Over 4,000 acres of this important wildlife landscape burned in the 2016 Mile Marker 14 Fire.

Sagebrush and bitterbrush play an integral role in the habitat on this landscape, providing shelter from winter storms for wildlife. Shrubs are the main food source for mule deer during the winter.  Due to their deep-rooted nature, the shrubs provide erosion protection for the foothills as well. They also are important habitat for birds and other wildlife species.

RSVP to Michael Young at IDFG:; Questions? Call 208-327-7095

By the way, the skiing and riding is great right now everywhere! I recently took over an online blogpost called "The Idaho Daily Snow," which provides a detailed weather/snow/ski report 5 days a week for the state of Idaho, based on the latest weather data from multiple sources. It also provides details on the latest events at all of Idaho's ski resorts. See my latest post here
- SS