Thursday, November 4, 2021

Revisiting hiking trails that shine during shoulder season - Sage Creek and Orchard-5 Mile Loop

Wendy enjoys the quiet walk in Sage Creek canyon in the Owyhee Canyonlands.

Hi all, 

Revisiting trails that you love is kind of like getting re-acquainted with an old friend.

For Wendy's birthday, we zipped out to Sage Creek on Wednesday in the Owyhee Canyonlands for a delightful afternoon. Sage Creek canyon is close to Succor Creek State Park. It's accessed by a well-graveled all-weather road. So it's a cool, off-beat place to go in late fall, winter and spring.

I discovered Sage Creek canyon when researching my Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook some years ago. It's a moderate walk into a scenic, incised canyon that's chock full of geologic other-worldly shapes and features. It's always a treat to visit the canyon in my book.

Towering reddish-orange rhyolite spires, fins, caves and phallic-type rocks jut into the sky as you're walking up the draw. You'll see darker and more recent basalt rock features along the way as well.  

Wall of blonde volcanic ash in Sage Creek canyon.

Lots of cool geologic features to explore.

But several miles into the canyon from the trailhead, you come to a unique area that's full of volcanic rock and ash flows. The ash flows are blond-colored, green and chalk-colored, and they're very erosive ... you can carve off outside layers with your fingernail. There are some balance-rock features in the area as well.

To just sit there and observe all of those features is quite breath-taking. Be sure to bring a lunch and plenty of water and snacks. Allow for 3-4 hours to explore. 

It's about 4 miles or so to explore the full interior of Sage Creek while you're climbing along the creek-bottom on a general incline. It's an easy kid-friendly, out-and-back hike even if you go only a couple of miles into the canyon. If you have plenty of time, you can try to cover the whole canyon experience. The upper canyon ends when you approach the McIntyre Ridge Road.

Huck flushed a couple of chukars in the canyon.

How to get there:
Take I-84 to the ID 55 exit in Nampa, heading west toward Marsing. After about 5 miles or so on ID 55, turn right on Chicken Dinner Road to Homedale Road. Go left on Homedale Road and follow that into the town of 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 about 12 miles to the unsigned right-hand turnoff for the Sage Creek Trailhead. There is a lone scrubby cottonwood tree at the turnoff. If you have a 4WD rig, follow the primitive two-track road over several creek-crossings to the trailhead .9 miles from the Succor Creek Road. Or just park and hike that portion. Either way works. 

You may need muck boots or just your hiking boots for the hike. If it's wet and the creek is running with water, you'll want your muck boots. Yesterday, our hiking shoes worked well. 

Selfie with Steve and Wendy on the descent into Five Mile Creek canyon.

Another good shoulder-season hike in the Boise Foothills
is to do the Rocky Canyon-Orchard Gulch-Five Mile Creek loop. This is a moderate to strenuous 5.5-mile hike in the NE Boise Foothills. The trails are pretty sandy, and once winter comes, they become covered with ice or snow, and still hikeable. 

Wendy and I hiked that loop last Sunday, and the leaves were still golden in many places ... but that will change in the coming weeks as fall transitions to winter. 

Getting there: Take Shaw Mountain Road by Fort Boise to Rocky Canyon Road, and follow Rocky Canyon Road to the end of the pavement. Go up the dirt road about about four miles to the trailhead for Five Mile Creek. Park.  

Hike uphill on Rocky Canyon Road for a long mile to the trailhead for Trail #7 in Orchard Gulch. Follow that trail about 2.5 miles to the junction with the connector trail over to Five Mile Creek. All of the climbing is done now. Hike down to Five Mile Creek Trail, go left and return to the trailhead and your vehicle. Hiking time is 2.5-3 hours.


BBSEF Ski Swap is this weekend, Nov. 5-7! The giant ski equipment and clothing sale is being run for the 70th year!!! Opens at 1 p.m. on Friday at the Expo Building Fairgrounds. Entry fee is $5. 

The Land Trust of the Treasure Valley is looking for volunteers to plant sagebrush and other plants in the Harrison Hollow area on Friday at 10 a.m. Sign up here

- SS

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