Admit it, theres a little bit of lemming in all of us. We flock to the Foothills trails for our winter hikes, runs and bike rides.
Nothing wrong with that, its a great place to go, but many of the Foothills trails could use a rest in wet weather to avoid damaging them.
There are other overlooked spots in the Treasure Valley worth checking out.
Maybe overlooked is the wrong word, but these areas tend to get less use than popular Foothills trails, and depending on where you live, they can be more convenient to access.
These trails also were selected because theyre suitable in all weather, within reason. You might want to avoid them during a huge downpour or warm weather that thaws the ground.
In all cases, use good judgment, but dont use overcast skies and cold temperatures as excuses to stay indoors. Here are some places to check out:
OREGON TRAIL/BONNEVILLE POINT
The historic Oregon Trail may be the granddaddy of all trails and you can use it from East Boise.
You can go hiking and mountain biking from three different areas ranging from suburban trails among subdivisions to undeveloped sagebrush country.
One trailhead is conveniently located off Idaho 21, and actually, there are two options there. The main trailhead is just off the highway to the east and features a big parking lot and a kiosk that looks like a covered wagon.
The trail heads off to the east across mostly undeveloped sagebrush country with views of the Boise River and the Lucky Peak area. If you want, you can hike or ride six miles to Bonneville Point.
That area can get muddy if its wet, but theres another option. Walk from the parking area across Idaho 21 (you can also drive) about a half mile down East Lake Forest Drive to the Oregon Trail Historic Reserve.
Theres a network of gravel trails in the area. Check out the views from the Whitman overlook, which has benches and interpretive signs.
If you want to get a little farther off the beaten path, take Interstate 84 to Bonneville Point (see directions below) and start your walk or ride from farther down the Oregon Trail. This is more sagebrush country east of Boise where you can follow cement pillars that mark the actual Oregon Trail.
Getting there: The Oregon Trail parking lot is located off Idaho 21 just south of the Boise River. Directly across Idaho 21 from the parking lot is East Lake Forest Drive, which will take you to the Oregon Trail Historic Reserve. There are restrooms there.
From Boise, take Interstate 84 for 17 miles to Blacks Creek (Exit 64). Turn left onto Blacks Creek Road, drive about 3.5 miles and turn left at the sign marked Historical Site and continue a mile to the Bonneville Point site.
DEER FLAT WILDLIFE REFUGE
Check out the nature trail at the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge. The actual nature trail that loops near the visitors center is about a half-mile long, but you can link with other trails nearby that give you almost 3.5 miles of trail.
Dogs are allowed on the refuge trails on leash only.
Theyre all-weather trails and a nice winter hike because youre bound to see wildlife (its a refuge, after all), and the visitor center gives you a place to warm up, go to the bathroom and see the exhibits.
Check out the spotting scope and see what birds are resting on the lake while youre warming up inside.
Visitor center hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The center is closed Sundays.
There also is a gated access road off Schaffers access area off Tio Lane on the east side of Lake Lowell that provides a shoreline hike.
Getting there: To get to the visitor center from Karcher Road take Lake Avenue south and drive about 2.5 miles to the intersection with Roosevelt Avenue.
Turn right onto Roosevelt Avenue. At Indiana Avenue at the top of the hill, turn left into the refuge and follow the road to the visitor center.
For more information and a map, go to fws.gov/deerflat.
EAGLE ISLAND STATE PARK
If youre in West Boise, Eagle or Meridian, this is a convenient getaway for an outdoors break.
The park is located in rural land and features a 5.5-mile trail network that is usable year-round.
Theres ample parking and portable toilets available during winter.
The park is flat and the trails are wide, which makes this a good place for jogging or a casual stroll. You also can ride mountain bikes and horses on the trails. Mountain bikers will get more of a Greenbelt-style ride than a Foothills style.
The trails go by both the ponds at the park and two channels of the Boise River, so theres good opportunity to see wildlife. Ducks and geese are common in the area.
Dogs are allowed on leash only.
If you want to liven up your walk, grab some discs and try out the 18-hole disc golf course.
And if the $5 park entrance fee has held you back in the past, you can now get an annual pass for $10 at your local Department of Motor Vehicles office.
Getting there: The park is about three miles west of Eagle at 4000 W. Hatchery Road, which is located off Linder Road between Idaho 44 (State Street) and Chinden Boulevard.
For more information:
SWAN FALLS DAM
If you thought the Oregon Trail was historic, its practically wet pavement compared with the Snake River, near which Native Americans traveled and wintered for thousands of years.
Its a great place to explore during winter because of its mild temperatures and snow-free terrain.
You have a lot of options from the dam. You can hang out at the park near the dam, hike or drive about three miles downstream to the end of the road, then hike or mountain bike from there.
You can walk or ride your bike across the dam to explore the south side of the river.
Once you leave the dam area, its mostly undeveloped, so you wont find trailheads, developed parking areas and trailheads with kiosks, etc.
But its pretty easy to explore the area and you certainly wont have to worry about getting lost because youre down in a river canyon.
Getting there: From Kuna, go south on Swan Falls Road for about 10 miles to Swan Falls Dam.
GARDEN CITY GREENBELT EXTENSION
Theres been steady improvement of the west end of the Greenbelt. Theres a recently paved parking area on the south side of the river off Glenwood next to the Glenwood Bridge.
A paved section of the Greenbelt continues on the south side of the river for about a mile, then turns to gravel for another mile, so its usable in any weather.
Despite starting in a busy part of Garden City, the path leads into an undeveloped area that makes the city feel far away as youre walking under a canopy of trees in the river bottom.
With the thick vegetation and river nearby, its a magnet for wildlife. Ducks and geese fly up and down the river, and you may spot one of the bald eagles that winter along there.
Eventually, a new bridge is planned across the river so bicycles, which are currently banned from the path on a section of the north side of the river, can ride from Garden City to Eagle.
Getting there: Take State Street or Chinden Boulevard onto Glenwood Street to the Boise River.
Roger Phillips: 377-6215 Twitter: @rogeroutdoors