Thursday, March 28, 2019

Spring has sprung in the Owyhees! Exploring Sage Creek is a low-key kid-friendly hike

A full-size pickup is dwarfed by the entrance to Sage Creek 
Interesting geologic mix in Sage Creek ... you'll see new quirky stuff around every bend in the canyon. 
Hi all,

The weather looks fabulous for this outdoor activities this weekend! With blue sky and high temperatures forecast in the high 50s to 60 degrees, it should be a perfect weekend to go hiking in the Owyhee Canyonlands.

This week, I'd like to feature a couple of cool hikes in the Owyhees in the Sage Creek area, near Succor Creek State Park. Sage Creek is featured in my guidebook, the Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide. It's a low-elevation destination, with tons of unusual and colorful volcanic rock and ash formations. It's a kid-friendly and family friendly hike.

"Sage Creek is a hidden jewel chock full of spectacular volcanic rock and ash formations in the creek-bottom and on the mountainsides as you hike along the creek," I wrote in the book. "One of the key highlights in Sage Creek is that you'll encounter multiple balanced rock features, some of them obvious phallic-type symbols, as well as spires, cliffs, fins and caves."
My son, Drew, loves hiking in the Owyhees. 
Our guide features a 2.5-mile exploration out-and-back hike, cruising up the bottom of Sage Creek (rated easy for all abilities), and a 6-mile hike up to the top of McIntyre Ridge from Sage Creek (rated moderate to strenuous), with nearly 2,000 feet of climbing. Both of them are great!

How to get thereTake I-84 to the ID 55 exit in Nampa, heading west toward Marsing. Go west on ID 55 and  and Turn right on Chicken Dinner Road, then left on Homedale Road, and go to Homedale. Follow State Highway 19 west of Homedale, and then Highway 201 in Oregon, to a signed turnoff for Succor Creek State Park on the left. Head south on the dirt road. It's 12.1 miles to the unsigned right-hand turnoff  for the Sage Creek Trailhead. There is a lone scrubby cottonwood tree at the turnoff. Follow the primitive two-track road over several creek-crossings to the trailhead .9 miles from the Succor Creek Road.   

Nice rhyolite cliffs with Wendy in the foreground. 
Road access challenge: 4WD high-clearance vehicle is required to reach the trailhead; multiple creek crossings are involved. It's possible, however, to take a 2WD vehicle to the Sage Creek road junction, and hike from there. Add .9 miles to the trip if you start from Succor Creek Road.

Hike #1 - 2.5-miles out and back
Cruise up the creek-bottom of Sage Creek, picking your way up the draw as you like. Hike at least a mile upstream to see the balanced rock features on the mountainsides above the draw as well as many other interesting rock formations. The volcanic ash flows in the area have turned different shades of white, orange and green over time. These formations are very erosive ... you can scratch the ash with your fingernails. Wear shoes that can get wet ... there might be some water in the creek-bottom, and you'll encounter some pools along the way. 

Hike #2 - 6-mile loop
From the end of the road, hike up-canyon and cross the creek to the left side. At mile .2, climb up the left-hand draw. It's a super-cool hike through many rock formations as you ascend the draw. It's about 2 miles to the top of the saddle near McIntyre Ridge. Climb to the top of McIntyre Ridge if you'd like. This area overlooks Succor Creek State Park to the east and Three Fingers Rock and many other features to the west. On the way down, descend the ridge to the left of the draw you climbed up, and enjoy a cool hike down into the draw. You'll pass by the "official" balanced rock on your way into the draw. Turn right at the bottom of the draw, and hike back to the trailhead.

Rhyolite balancing on top of ashflow tuff layer.
Camping notes: You could camp in the bottom of Sage Creek. Quiet spot. Self-support camping. You also could camp at Succor Creek State Park, which has a public rest room, very close by, but that will be much more crowded. If you'd like to explore some other areas, Succor Creek Road connects to Leslie Gulch, Three Fingers Rock and many other areas worth checking out in our guidebook. 

Have fun! 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Gotta plan ahead to visit The Springs in Idaho City! Stay overnight at Inn the Pines

The Springs pool at night (Courtesy The Springs)
The Springs during the day ... please note that the pool is reserved for adults on Wed-Fri each week. (Courtesy The Springs)

Hi all, 

It's a little exasperating how challenging it can be to book pool time at The Springs in Idaho City. I would readily admit that I don't necessarily like to plan ahead that much, but I have learned that if you want to book some pool time at The Springs, you MUST plan ahead! Two weeks or more! That's just the deal! 

Two friends of ours, Greg and Jan, booked a private pool for all four of us at The Springs last week (booked a month in advance), and we also booked rooms at Inn the Pines. We really enjoyed our time up there. 

The private pools are $45/hour, and hotel rooms are about $115/night. They have package deals. 

The snow is deep in Idaho City, too! But it's melting! Consider doing a hike in Charcoal Gulch before soaking. 

We went up on a Wednesday, so I had some work-related things to clear in the first half of the day. Then we got up to Idaho City in time to do a little boot hike on Charcoal Gulch Trail just outside of town before our leisurely soak at The Springs. The snow was brick-hard, so we didn't even need to deploy our snowshoes ... just cruised around on top of the snow in our snow boots. The trail is located next to the Idaho City airport on the south side of town ... try it sometime. 

Our private pool was booked for 4:30 p.m. We showed up at 4 p.m. to hang in the main pool before going into our private quarters. We had a beer and relaxed while the sun began to shine through the clouds for the first time in days. The Springs has pool-side service, so that's a plus in my book. They seem to really emphasize customer service, and that must be why The Springs has become so popular! 

The private pool was a perfect size for 2 or 4 people. It's a little cozy with 4, but if they're good friends or family, it works fine! You have total privacy in that space, so suits are optional. You can bring drinks and food into the private pools. But they will only serve you one drink while you're in the private pool FYI. 

The private tubs are warmer than the main pool ... I would guess they keep them in the 102-103 degree range. It felt just about perfect to us. 

After you've had your private pool session, you can hang in the main pool as long as you want. We were pretty pruned after about 2 hours of soaking, so we back to the Inn the Pines to change for dinner. The locker rooms at The Springs are very nice, BTW, they have complimentary lockers that come with your swimming pass, and nice showers. 

We thought the rooms at Inn the Pines were really nice. The hotel was just built a year ago or so, so everything seems almost brand new. They have cable TV and wifi in the rooms, even though there is barely any cell service in Idaho City, so that's another plus. I had some work-related things I had to send out by email in the morning. That worked without a hitch.  

We had dinner and breakfast at Trudy's Kitchen. We should have had dinner at the Gold Mine or Diamond Lil's, most likely, because they specialize in serving dinner. But Trudy's makes good burgers and has good breakfast. Here's the Trip Advisor rundown for Idaho City restaurants. 

All in all, we heartily recommend soaking at The Springs and staying at Inn the Pines. All you have to do is plan ahead!!! Combining the soaking experience with a fun day of skiing by Mores Creek Summit or at the Idaho City Park and Ski Areas would be the ultimate home run day, in my book. 

In the weeks ahead, it also would be a fun home run day to do the Banks-Lowman drive to see elk down by the road and Payette River, and then hit the Springs in Idaho City late in the afternoon. Stay overnight and relax! 

If you want to soak at The Springs, go online and reserve a time for your group. The reservations system lets you see what's available on a given day online. Pick what works for you! 


On another subject matter, during Spring Break week the lower trails in the Boise Foothills dried out and people were out using the trails in droves! Huge numbers of cars at the trailheads! Just wanted to remind folks to be aware that the the trails could get muddy this weekend if we get substantial amounts of rain. Please pay attention to the Ridge to Rivers web site or Facebook page for the latest updates! 

- SS 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Eight outdoorsy ideas for Spring Break ... fantastic weather coming our way!

These guys know how to do the Spring Skiing thing ... Courtesy 
Hi all,

The weather looks absolutely fabulous this coming weekend and next week in the greater Boise area ... perfect for Spring Break! Especially for those who may be staying close to home.

Here are 8 outdoorsy ideas to keep you occupied and entertained during Spring Break:

1. Spring skiing should be great at BogusBrundageTamarack and Sun Valley. Be sure to wait till it warms up a bit during the day, and then go ski some corn snow. The afternoons look fantastic for skiing in the coming week, with temperatures in the high 30s and 40s for spring snow, sunshine and apres ski parties on the deck. See my daily snow forecasts on

2. Take a ski vacation to Grand Targhee, Jackson Hole or AltaSolitude or Snow Basin in Utah. All of the recent snow should make for excellent conditions at any of those areas. Use the free days on your season passes at partnering resorts.

3. Do a home run weekend in the Magic Valley - Go see Shoshone Falls (water flows should last through May), 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. 
4. 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.

5. Boise Foothills trails are starting to dry out but tread lightly! Check the Ridge to Rivers Facebook page for the latest conditions and recommendations. My book, Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home provides lots of ideas on where to go ... 

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

7. 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.

8. 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 7, 2019

Shoshone Falls is coming to life! Spring is the ideal time to tour Magic Valley waterfalls

Shoshone Falls last weekend as the flows were beginning to come up. (Courtesy Southern Idaho Tourism) 

Looking downstream of Shoshone Falls into the yawning Snake River Canyon. 
Hi all,

Thanks to the bountiful precipitation we received in February, the mountain snowpack situation in
Idaho is totally positive, if not a bit over the top in places (are we tired of back-breaking snow-shoveling yet???). All of the snow ensures that we're going to have a big river runoff season this spring in every river basin statewide!

The Snake River is no exception, with 115-125 percent of normal snowpack at the moment in the Upper Snake region. The Bureau of Reclamation is beginning to release flood-control flows below Milner Dam in the mid-Snake region, bringing mighty Shoshone Falls to life.

Today, about 6,000 cfs were passing over the 212-foot falls, the Niagara of the West. That makes for a breath-taking view!

Road trip anyone? Shoshone Falls Park is open for daytime viewing. I'd recommend going to see the impressive falls as a fun day trip or overnight, weekend trip. Maybe hit a hot springs along the way, go to the Twin Falls Sandwich Company for lunch, or select from this Trip Advisor menu of top local lunch and dinner spots.

Check out this drone video of Shoshone Falls from Reeder Flying Service shot in February 2017 when all of the low-elevation snow came off and flooded the region. This is why you should go!

Remember that there are a number of other waterfalls to experience while you're in the neighborhood. See a local guide for details.

Did you like seeing all the bald eagles roosting in a tree near Wendell this week? Here's how to get there ... Read this post:

If this weekend doesn't work for Shoshone Falls, know that flood-control flows will be coming over the falls for the next couple of months through May, according to the BOR. You can see what they're releasing online at any time (check cfs by Milner Dam). I'd guess that it's going to run strong for the next 8-10 weeks, given the deep snowpack. I'm just guessing ... no guarantees.

Upper Snake teacup shows reservoir contents and outflow (click to enlarge) 
On your way to the Magic Valley, I recommend taking the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway from Hagerman to Buhl and Twin Falls. You can go fishing in that area by Hagerman WMA, stop at one of three hot springs, or visit the Minnie Miller springs and other units of Thousand Springs State Park.  

Also, the Middle Snake is known for kick-ass whitewater boating and some sweet flatwater paddling as well. Contact Idaho Guide Service if you'd like to run the Class 4+ Murtaugh reach of the Snake River during the spring flows. Think big rapids, big roaring whitewater. After the river flows calm down, you can paddle from Centennial Park in Twin Falls up to the brink of Shoshone Falls in the deep Snake River canyon while maybe seeing a base-jumper parachute overhead while passing underneath the giant Perrine Bridge.

Stop in the Visitor Center in Twin Falls on the south side of the Perrine Bridge for information about what to see and do in the region. It's a beautiful building next to the canyon.
Notes: There's a Scoop the Poop event on Saturday, sponsored by the City of Boise. Click on the event page for more information. Dog owners are encouraged to go out and scoop up poop next to our foothills trails from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Please do your part!