Let’s face it, Boise is a mainstay on those chic lists that call out the best urban areas to live if you’re into outdoor pursuits. But there’s truth in the hype. You don’t have to leave town to enjoy an adventure. So while everyone else is planning to make the Labor Day rush into the smoke-filled haze, you can get gnarly without leaving the city limits.
STAND-UP PADDLING ON THE BOISE RIVER
Boise is a paddling town. And thanks to SUP, anyone can — and should — do it. Kids, moms and even grandmas can stand, paddle and enjoy water time on stable beginner boards. There are lots of easy places to learn — from ParkCenter Pond to Quinn’s Pond to Lucky Peak. But the quintessential Boise adventure is floating the river from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park, now enhanced thanks to stand-up paddling. Arrange a shuttle and make haste.
Safety first: Life jackets are a must. Leave the leash at home and watch your fins over the cement weirs.
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THE BIKE EXPEDITION
This is a must-do in the City of Trees, especially with the varying forms of bike carriers, trailers and rentals available today. Leave your house packed with kids, fishing gear and sunscreen — the essentials to enjoy a day out. The Boise Greenbelt is your gift from the city to explore every fishing hole or pond you pedal by. And your kids can chase anything from rainbow trout to bluegill and bass using flies or old-fashioned worms.
Or, just go for a swim. Try the old pump houses near Warm Springs Golf Course, where you’ll find some of the deepest pools on the river and a slow, gentle current.
Safety first: Don’t forget life jackets any time you’re in or around water.
LONGBOARDING THE GREENBELT
It’s kind of weird, but Boise is a surf town, too. It was bound to happen. Before “whitewater park” was a phrase here, a serious green wave formed at 36th Street on the Boise River during high water each spring. Now the area is packed with surfers taking advantage of the permanent wave.
That ethos has spilled over to land. Get your hipster on and try longboarding the Boise Greenbelt, which offers miles of scenic pavement to cruise, especially for skateboard newbies. Any access point from West State Street to Warm Springs Avenue will do. No one is currently renting longboards in Boise, but the Boardroom (208-391-7741) has an excellent selection, and Craigslist is a good site to surf for affordable used rides.
Safety first: Control your speed by sliding one foot on the pavement. Fear not, the worn-down shoe sole is a hipster’s badge of honor.
CAMEL’S BACK HILL SPRINTS (OR WALKS)
Camel’s Back Park off of 13th Street in Boise offers one of the easiest access points to workout nirvana — good for quick calorie-burners at lunch, in between shifts, or while the kids enjoy a play date. Simply arrive — perhaps as part of a bike expedition — and start sweating. If you think you’re ready, tear up the face of the beastly dirt trail to the top of the ridge. If you can run the entire way, you’re an animal. Now you have access to a hike along the Boise Front, or simply walk down to the park and repeat. (You’re in certifiable Ironman shape if you make 10 laps.) Don’t feel like crushing your soul? Simply walk to the east end of the park near the tennis courts and take the trail up the ridge.
Safety first: It’s important to keep your bearings. If you are on a numbered street and facing the Foothills, you’re looking north.
THE ULTIMATE CLASS V CAFE ROUTE
Let’s assume you’re doing this on a bike, you’re starting with breakfast and it’s a Saturday morning. Your options are many. Begin at Moon’s Kitchen on Idaho Street or Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro on Capitol Boulevard. Be sure to bring a bike lock so you can browse the Capital City Public Market after breakfast. Aside from the staple of farm-fed goodness, fuel up on Boise’s Best Kettle Korn (my favorite). You’ll need a quick detour to Camel’s Back to burn the Class V off this route because up next is lunch at Parrilla Grill in Hyde Park. Another reason Saturdays rule? Chase your burrito with a beer at 13th Street Pub and Grill, taking in the afternoon college football slate on television. Cap it off with dinner on the patio at Bittercreek Ale House on 8th and Idaho.
Safety first: If you complete each stop on this route and try the Camel’s Back option Sunday, things could get ugly.
Joe Carberry is a Boise native who got his start in journalism at the Idaho Statesman. A longtime magazine editor, he now works as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated, Outside and other publications.