Hiking & Trails

Mountain wildflowers are blooming, and you can find them on these Boise-area hikes

The heat of the summer sun has finally started to dry things out in the Boise Foothills, but flora fans still can find colorful blooms just a short drive from the Treasure Valley.

Local botanist Barbara Ertter will wrap up her Treasures of the Boise Front wildflower walk series on July 9 with a hike in the Upper Dry Creek trail system. Join in for a guided trek along the trail, or use this list as a guide to set out on your own.

Boise-area wildflower hikes

Mores Mountain: About an hour from Boise, Mores Mountain is just past the peaks that make up Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area. According to the Forest Service, there are three trail offerings in this area, limited exclusively to travelers on foot.

Hikers can choose between the mile-long Mores Mountain Interpretive Trail loop and a 2-mile loop around the mountain. There’s also a one-mile extension spur from the 2-mile loop.

The Forest Service website features a checklist of flowers to watch for on the trails, organized by time of year and color. In July, expect to find bright yellow woolly sunflower, clusters of white chokecherry, a field of blue-purple lupine and multiple varieties of penstemon.

“A perfect little rock garden,” says Wintauna Belt, recreation specialist at the Mountain Home Ranger District, which administers the Mores Mountain trail, about 60 minutes from Boise. And it’s natural. Growing here are Coville’s Indian paintbrush (red), arrowleaf balsamroot (yellow), and a splash of taper-leaved penstemon (purple). Bruce Whiting bewhiting@idahostatesman.com

Bogus Basin: Multiple trails wind around the Bogus Basin area, offering a new perspective for skiers and snowboarders accustomed to seeing the peaks covered in snow.

Link the trails together for longer loops or choose shorter spurs for a quick jaunt.

“One option is to take the chairlift up and walk back down,” Ertter said. “My personal favorite for maximum diversity is to start at Pioneer Lodge and then take a loop around Shafer Butte that includes the Face Trail and Elk Meadows.”

Elk Meadows, which takes hikers and bikers along the back of Shafer Butte, is already dotted with bright-red Indian paintbrush and blue taper-leaved penstemon. Check out Deer Point, Pioneer, Lodge, Face and Around the Mountain trails to see even more variety.

Martha Brabec, who works for Boise Parks and Recreation as a Foothills restoration specialist, said to keep an eye out for mountain kittentails, scarlet gilia, bittercherry and goosefoot violet.

Where to find more wildflowers — and ensure they’ll bloom in the future

The key to finding good flora is to pay attention to altitude, Ertter said. That means areas around McCall, Stanley and Sun Valley may still have flowers waiting to bloom.

“By July and August, you also have the entire Central Idaho mountains beckoning!” Ertter said in an email.

Additionally, wildflowers emerged in early July at the lava fields of Craters of the Moon, Boise State Public Radio reported. According to the BSPR article, more than 750 species of flowers should be on display all month, some of them endemic to the lava fields.

While you’re looking for blooms, be sure not to disturb the plants. Some tourists trampled flowers during California’s spring super bloom, but Ertter said it’s simple to be a good steward and still enjoy the flora.

Indian paintbrush are among the many wildflowers you’ll find hiking the Elk Meadows trail and other routes through the Bogus Basin area. Nicole Blanchard nblanchard@idahostatesman.com

Ertter says the No. 1 rule is not to pick the plants (unless they’re invasive species, such as bachelor’s button). Stay on trails as much as possible, and watch your step if you have to leave the trail at all.

Finally, remember that you’re one of hundreds or possibly thousands of people who will view the wildflowers — and the impact of each person really adds up.

“We like to think our individual choices don’t have that much of an impact (on the environment),” Ertter said. “But they do.”

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