Around the Mountain trail at Bogus Basin
Bogus Basin is a Boise-area winter wonderland, drawing thousands of visitors each month to ski, snowboard and tube. In the summer, those same slopes and cat tracks are home to hiking trails that offer panoramic views of the Treasure Valley from impeccably groomed paths.
The mountain recreation site has ramped up its summer offerings in recent years, offering visitors the chance to rock climb, bungee jump or ride the Glade Runner, a mountainside roller coaster. Its miles of hiking and biking trails include Around the Mountain, which circumnavigates Shafer Butte and has been called the top mountain biking trail in the state.
If you’re looking for a bit more solitude than the popular Around the Mountain route offers, a string of nearby trails will offer you sights to rival ATM’s — without all the traffic.
Both treks start out the same way: Take Bogus Basin Road north from Boise for 16 miles. Park near the Simplot Lodge and head southeast to the Deer Point trailhead. You’ll quickly hit the shade of the forest, where you’ll find wildflowers, mossy trees and temperatures several degrees cooler than the valley below.
After about a mile, you’ll hit a well-marked junction where you can take Around the Mountain to the right or head left to continue on Deer Point. For the road less traveled, stay left. Deer Point continues for another mile, winding under the Deer Point Express and Showcase chairlifts that avid skiers and snowboarders will recognize.
Despite an elevation gain that’s challenging at times (you’ll climb about 700 feet over 2 miles), Deer Point is a pretty moderate route that’s in great condition. It reaches its end at the Elk Meadows Junction nestled between the Deer Point mountain and Shafer Butte. This is a perfect spot to take a quick break — there’s a picnic table overlooking the rows of mountains to the east.
From the junction, you have two options if you hope to head to Shafer Butte’s 7,590-foot peak: Cabin Traverse on the front of the mountain or Elk Meadows, a mostly flat mile-and-a-half path along the back of the mountain. This was the real draw for me, and the views did not disappoint.
Elk Meadows snakes through a variety of terrain on the far side of Shafer Butte. The initial stretch of the trail takes you through sandy terrain dotted with bright red Indian paintbrush. Around the Upper Nugget ski trail, you reach the meadowy section of the path before heading back into fragrant Ponderosa pine woods.
This section of trail is both the easiest (only 232 feet of vertical gain over 1.5 miles) and most scenic. On clear days, you can see the Sawtooths in the distance. But even in the haze, the layers of blue mountains are breathtaking.
Elk Meadows Trail ends on the back side of Shafer Butte at yet another junction. The leftmost route leads to Lodge Trail, which offers access to the mountain’s peak. A short stretch up Lodge Trail, you’ll take yet another left onto Pack Trail, a steep, zig-zagging path that was still dotted with snow in late June. The elevation gain on this short portion of Pack Trail is no joke — about 500 feet of gain over less than a mile — but know that the view from the top is worth feeling a little winded.
Winter recreationists who’ve taken the Pine Creek or Superior express lifts will recognize the spectacular panorama. To the south are Deer and Doe points, with Boise and the flat expanse of the valley beyond it. To the north, you’ll see Mores Mountain.
From here, you could return to the base of the mountain by backtracking down to Elk Meadows or Cabin Traverse for an out-and-back of about 10 miles, or attempt to loop back down to Simplot Lodge via Tempest or Lodge trails.
My hiking buddy and I opted to backtrack down Pack Trail and continue on Lodge down to our starting point. However, construction near the end of Lodge Trail forced us to detour by the Pioneer Lodge and complicated our route. We ended up on Morning Star — one of a few trails reserved only for downhill mountain biking — and fortunately were able to hop off onto Bogus Basin Road before any bikers came whizzing down. Morning Star offers a fun series of switchbacks for intrepid bikers, but there’s really no comparable option for those on foot.
We returned to the lodge via Bogus Basin Road, but the best option for hikers is to take Lodge until it links up with Sunshine or Pioneer trails. Both veer east to meet Bogus Creek Trail (you’ll link Sunshine to Bogus Creek via Shindig), ultimately returning you to the base area.
The upside to the unplanned detour? We got a glimpse of the mountain’s summer wildlife, including a velvet-antlered male deer and a vibrant mountain bluebird, the avian symbol of Idaho.