Thursday, October 26, 2023

Three Boise Foothills hikes provide elevated views of the city to see fall colors


Hi all, 

An Arctic blast of cold weather hit us this week, plus some snow in the mountains, so it's going to be a chilly weekend even in Boise. 

The cold weather also assists in accelerating the change in seasons and magnifying fall colors in the Boise Valley. For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending three hikes close to home where you can enjoy some fetching views of the City of Trees and the wide variety of colors visible as far as the eye can see! All of these are kid-friendly. 

Hike #1 - Buena Vista Trail, Hillside to the Hollow. Difficulty: Moderate. Start either at the Harrison Hollow trailhead by Healthwise or behind Hillside Junior High along Hill Road. Buena Vista Trail has a very nice and moderate contour as it winds across the outer-front of the Boise Foothills, and it feels like you can reach out and touch the community below. Yet, you're at least 500 vertical feet above the city, so it's a great vantage point! If you do an out-and-back walk on Buena Vista, you'd cover several miles over an hour or so. 

Spring shot of Harrison Hollow looking down at the city.

Hike #2 - Central Ridge Trail, Military Reserve Park. 
Difficulty: Moderate. Start at the Military Reserve trailhead where Mountain Cove Road bends sharply to the right going west into the foothills. There's a large parking area on the right and a trail map. You can start by walking along the Mountain Cove trail along Freestone Creek for about a mile or so. Then, you can turn to the right and climb up on Central Ridge to that initial summit. Then walk south down the backbone of Central Ridge back toward the trailhead. On Central Ridge Trail, it looks like you're going walk right into the State Capitol building and downtown Boise. Kind of a cool selfie opportunity before you drop down to the trailhead. Travel time for this one would be 1-1.5 hours at a leisurely pace.

Great views of the city from Valley View Trail 

Hike #3 - Seaman's Gulch Loop. 
Difficulty: Moderate. Start at the Seaman's Gulch Trailhead off of Seaman's Gulch Road and Hill Road in West Boise. You have the option of hiking a short loop for 1 mile, or you can hike a longer loop for 3 miles with more views. In my Boise Trail Guide, I called this route "Seaman's Gulch Double Loop." The trails contour nicely across the landscape; you never have to work too hard to climb uphill. 

Short loop: Follow the left-hand fork of Trail #110 and climb to an initial ridge. Bear left at the top on Phlox Trail #112. That'll bring you back to the trailhead. 

Longer loop: Follow the same directions to start with, but once you reach the initial ridge, take Valley View Trail #111 as it wraps around the front of the Boise Foothills, super close to the edge of the city. Once the trail loops around the hills, it ties into Phlox Trail on a ridgetop, and you can head back to the trailhead on Phlox. The longer loop is 3 miles and features 500+ feet of vertical gain. Travel time is 1.5 hours. Take your time and enjoy it! 

All three of these hikes and 92 more are featured in my Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. The book is available at, Idaho Mountain Touring, Boise REI, and Rediscovered Books. 

Melissa Dawn will be giving away a free copy of Boise Trail Guide on 94.9 FM The River tomorrow (Friday) morning at approximately 7:40 a.m. Tune into my radio gig, and you can call in to win the book.

Have a great weekend! 
- SS 

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Last blast of gorgeous fall weather this weekend! Time to get after it!

Payette Rim Trail in McCall 

Hi all,

We've been blessed with gorgeous fall weather recently, and my main outdoor tip this week is to get out and ENJOY IT NOW! 

The weather is making a sharp turn next week toward colder and potentially winter-like conditions in the mountains. So this weekend is the time to capitalize on an outdoor outing, whatever works for you! 

I rode the Payette Rim Trail loop this afternoon in McCall to soak in the colors and enjoy a ride that always gets my heart, lungs and legs pumping! The aspen trees and the tammies are turning golden simultaneously right now, so that's a pretty sight to see in the fall low-angle sunlight.

Tammies glowing everywhere! 

After climbing for the first half of the ride, you drop into a singletrack trail that winds along through a series of flattish tree-lined benches above Payette Lake. Today, the sun had warmed from 38 degrees F in the morning to 70 or 75 at that moment. Pure blue sky above the Payette Crest Mountains and a mirror of that cobalt blue sparkled below on Payette Lake and Little Payette Lake.

As I descended on the rocky, snaky singletrack, the tammies and aspens were most brilliant approaching Bear Basin. Those colors should hold through the weekend. 

There's the moose. 

I jumped a bull moose on my ride today! That was a charge! A big black moose, but only a 2-year-old or so, didn't have a big rack. I flushed it out of the woods as I came down the trail. It ran across the trail and doubled-back to look at me like critters often do. We stared at each other for a few minutes and then he wandered off. Glad I didn't run into momma and her calf!         

Fetching views of Payette Lake from the trail.

All of the hiking and mountain bike trails in the greater McCall area would be a great call this weekend, as would be the Ridge to Rivers Trails in the Boise Foothills, Wilson Creek in the Owyhees, the Sawtooths in Stanley or the Wood River Trails in Ketchum.

You will encounter rocky features on the Rim Trail. 

A few Outdoor notes: 

  • Chemical treatment to eradicate quagga mussels on the Snake River in Twin Falls has run its course, and now the Idaho State Department of Agriculture and partner agencies will be closely monitoring and testing the water to see if they eradicated the mussels. Some portions of the Snake River below Auger Falls have re-opened. See the ISDA quagga page for the latest information.         
  • The McCall ski swap is this weekend Oct. 20-21 at the Payette Lakes Middle School. 
  • Boise Ski Swap is on Nov. 3-4 at the Expo Center at the Western Idaho Fairgrounds.
  • See my post about Idaho El Nino winters and Idaho Winter Preview on 

- SS 

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Anna Gorin has got Idaho mountain fever! She's up to 160 Idaho summits and counting ... someone to watch!

Alpine Peak, Sawtooth Mountains, with Sawtooth Lake below. (all photos by Anna Gorin)

Hi all,

Anna Gorin has Idaho mountain fever. 

A Boise photographer in her young 30s, she pursues big hikes in the Idaho mountains, bagging peaks at a blistering pace. She might climb three mountain peaks in a week, or even a day. She’s scaled 53 mountain peaks so far in 2023, and in 2021, she notched more than 70 Idaho peaks. Overall, she’s notched over 160 high points in Idaho.  

“I love getting out in nature and seeing beautiful views, plus the accomplishment of climbing to the summit,” Gorin says. “I love the alpine scenery, alpine meadows full of glowing wildflowers, and the snow-capped mountains make my heart sing.”

Gorin is on track to join the lists of the most accomplished peak-baggers in Idaho who have climbed more than 300 high points or more. Who knows, at this rate, she might even reach 500.

“Anna not only has a talented photographer’s eye for composition but also a climber’s eye for finding the best lines up mountains, said Tom Lopez, a prolific mountain-climber and author of “Idaho: The Climbing Guide.”   

Galena Peak - what a view! (Courtesy Anna Gorin)

Like me, Lopez has noticed that Anna Gorin is making significant tracks in Idaho's high country. For my outdoor tip of the week, I wanted to introduce Anna Gorin as someone to watch in the outdoor scene, if you haven’t noticed already! I recommend people pay attention to Gorin’s trip posts on the Hiking Idaho Facebook group. I’ve enjoyed reading about her trips and seeing her scale mountains on trails I haven’t experienced before, despite the fact that I’ve spent the last 40 years trying to cover every square inch of Idaho’s backcountry.

Gorin’s energy for exploring Idaho’s mountains is infectious just by the quality of the photos in her posts (she carries a good camera with her on trips), and the raging enthusiasm exhibited by her friends in her summit photos. She’s got a core group of 10-15 friends who go frequently. They’re clearly in great shape and having a great time, but you know that they felt their thighs and lungs burning on the climbs just like any other human being. But they had the gumption and perseverance to reach the summit.

Being goofy on Gunsight Mountain (Courtesy Anna Gorin)

They’ve also got the gusto to bag new peaks as often as possible, putting in late night drives on the bookends of trips to reach the mountains from Boise.

“I like to vary it between McCall, Stanley, Ketchum and Fairfield, depending on the weather. I enjoy going to see new places.”

Just on the spur of the moment, Gorin said her top 5 favorite Idaho peaks are:

  •      Standhope Peak in the Pioneer Mountains (elev 11,878 feet). “The view from the top was epic!” she says.
  •      Johnstone Peak in the Pioneers (elev 9,879 feet). “Sometimes the smaller mountains have better views of the peaks above.”  
  •      Elk Ridge in the Soldier Mountains (elev 8,551 feet). “It’s so pretty up there. That one has a great effort-to-reward ratio."
  •      He Devil in the Seven Devils Range, Hells Canyon (elev 9,400 feet). She saw mountain goats up there.
  •      Kelly Peak in the Sawtooths (elev 9,321).  “That peak has extensive views of the southern part of the Sawtooths.”

Gorin grew up in Boise. She didn’t really experience the outdoors that much as a kid. Her parents home-schooled her; the family went to Stanley maybe once a year. She went to Willamette University for college, majoring in art. She launched a photography business after returning to Boise from college, and she’s been doing that for over 10 years now. She does portraits in outdoor settings for clients and landscape photography. See more at

Anna knows where to find the beauty of Idaho ... Packer John Mountain with her beau, John. 
She also is dabbling with mountain biking. 

How she got into hiking:
In her mid-20s, Gorin started hiking in the Boise foothills, scaling Table Rock, riding the Boise River Greenbelt, things like that. She joined some meet up hiking groups and 20-30 age groups to meet people to go hiking with. A friend convinced her to climb Mt. Borah, Idaho’s tallest mountain, in 2017. She had climbed Mt. Olympus in 2012, which she recalled being quite challenging. It was her first official peak.

After summiting Borah, she was blown away by the roof-top view. “This is an amazing mountain," she thought. "There’s nothing else higher anywhere around me. This is so cool!”

“I loved that feeling, and that drove me to climb more mountains,” Gorin says.

Trip planning: She uses a wide variety of resources in planning her trips, including hard-copy national forest and topo maps, interactive Forest Service map, Caltopo maps online, Google Earth, Tom Lopez’s “Idaho: A Climbing Guide,” Lists of John, and mountain-climbing notes from John Platt, who was a person cut from the same cloth as Anna, but probably more of a technical climber than she wishes to be.

Climbing ridge tops has rewards in terms of big views. But it's hard! 

She also uses, Summit Post, and more online resources. She spends a lot of time planning trips to understand the challenges ahead; she checks on trail conditions; she checks on weather and snow levels before she goes. She recommends lots of advance planning for a safe journey. But even with all the planning, things can become challenging!

“I also enjoy the puzzle of getting places,” she says. “Sometimes it can almost be like a problem-solving game to figure things out or thrash through the brush while cross-country hiking to find our way to the top.”

Next time you’re online, watch for Gorin’s stunning photography of Idaho’s mountains and trip notes. You might just discover some new places to explore!

-    - SS

Fishhook Point, Sawtooth Range (courtesy Anna Gorin) 

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Fall colors are popping in the Idaho Mountains! Time for a scenic drive!

Aspen groves light up the mountains in Upper Reynolds Creek, Owyhee Mountains. 
Photo taken Oct. 5 by Steve Stuebner. 

Hi all,

Fall colors are popping everywhere in the mountains right now. What better way to enjoy the colors than to take a scenic drive? Better yet, combine the drive with a hike or mountain bike ride to see things more up close and soak in the scenery. 

I recently traveled from McCall to Boise, and the aspen trees are lit up, the cottonwoods are turning yellow, and the shrubs are glowing orange, yellow and red, particularly at higher elevations.

Courtesy Anna Gorin on Facebook. Road to Packer John Mountain in Smith's Ferry.

To enjoy the colors, I'm recommending five scenic drives. Click on the links to see the scenic byway detailed descriptions via VisitIdaho:

1. Payette River Scenic Byway - Take Idaho 55 north to McCall to enjoy fall colors along the North Fork of the Payette River and in the Boise and Payette National Forest. Once in McCall, keep going north on Warren Wagon Road toward Upper Payette Lake and Burgdorf Hot Springs to see even more brilliant colors. Bring a swimsuit and towel to enjoy the natural geothermal hot water at Burgdorf. The hot springs won't be accessible by vehicle much longer until snow shuts the road and turns it into a snowmobile highway. That usually happens in late November. Stop for lunch in McCall -- there's a great sushi place as well as multiple other venues with sandwiches and burgers.

Sawtooth Valley (courtesy

2. Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway - Idaho 21 and the Banks-to-Lowman Highway. I saw full mountainsides glowing red this week from tip to tail near Grand Jean and Lowman.

3. Sawtooth Scenic Byway - The Sawtooth Valley is at a higher elevation and thus, the colors are happening big-time right now. Following Idaho State Highway 75 through Ketchum-Sun Valley and then over Galena Summit into the Sawtooth Valley should be spectacular. Do the big loop by combining the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Highway on Idaho 21 from Boise with the Sawtooth Scenic Byway on the way home, going from Stanley to Ketchum and then back to the Treasure Valley via U.S. 20. Stop for lunch in Ketchum. There are many great restaurants to choose from. I personally like the Pioneer, Whiskey Jacques, and Lefty's.

Wood River Valley aglow (courtesy VisitSunValley) 

4. Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway - Take a big drive from Grand View to Jordan Valley, Oregon on this scenic byway on backcountry dirt and gravel roads. It's about 100 miles and full day's drive to cover the byway. Beyond the BLM online guide, we provide all the details on this scenic drive in our popular guidebook, The Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guideby yours truly and fine arts photographer Mark Lisk. There are restaurants and services in Grand View and Jordan Valley. Make sure you top off your gas tank before venturing off into the Owyhees!

Wendy along Jordan Creek in Silver City.

5. Take a scenic drive to Silver City in the Owyhee Mountains. The aspen trees are turning color in the quaint mining ghost town, located near Murphy. There are places to go hiking and mountain biking in Silver City. Details are available in The Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure GuideTo reach Silver City, go south of Nampa on Idaho 45 to the Snake River and junction with Idaho 78. Turn left to head for Murphy and watch for a signed right-hand turn to Silver City. It's paved road for a while, and then it turns to dirt. Pack a lunch and enjoy the day!

Have fun!
- SS