Hiking & Trails

Places to unleash your dogs (and kids) over winter break

Hawke DeCamp tosses a ball for her excited dogs at Ann Morrison Park, which has a no-leash area in the winter.
Hawke DeCamp tosses a ball for her excited dogs at Ann Morrison Park, which has a no-leash area in the winter. Special to the Idaho Statesman

The sandy shoreline of Lucky Peak Reservoir is like the Bonneville Salt Flats for active kids and dogs that look like they are trying to set new land-speed records running across the vast, wide-open terrain.

They can romp on the 100-foot-deep shore from the sagebrush foothills to the waterline, which is low this time of year after being depleted during the irrigation season.

“We like to get the dogs out,” said Mike Jones, who walked the shoreline just east of Turner Gulch boat ramp with his family on a mild Sunday afternoon.

His two dogs raced across the sand, jumped in the reservoir and burned a whole bunch of calories.

As another round of holiday breaks approaches, check out these places close to home where you can forget everything for a couple of hours and let the kids and canines get untethered exercise.

Lucky Peak Reservoir

The reservoir, 7 miles east of Boise, has plenty of open space. It’s only 17 percent full.

The reservoir’s contours stretch as far as the eye can see and offer hours of hiking. In fact, it’s not uncommon to spot hard-core trail runners getting in shape on the sandy soil and pebbly terrain.

And don’t forget the miles of sand. Sand castles, anyone? Kids can comb the beach and hunt for treasure that boaters might have dropped overboard when the reservoir was full.

For the most part, the reservoir’s shoreline is the place for wide-open romping.

You’ll need to wait until you get on the dried reservoir bed to unleash your pooch. Dogs need to be leashed in the developed recreation sites and trailheads near Lucky Peak Dam, the Barclay Bay and Turner Gulch boat ramps and in the main Springs Shores unit of Lucky Peak State Park.

Things to know: Although there is a lot of sand, there are muddy spots. The water is extremely cold so limit your dog’s swimming unless it’s a veteran hunting dog. Watch the kids around the water, too. There are deep drop-offs. Keep kids and dogs off the ice. It’s never safe at Lucky Peak. The wind can be constant at the reservoir so dress in layers with a good wind/rain shell, hat and gloves.

Getting there: Turner Gulch boat ramp is the closest access point. It is across the dam at the end of the road. Don’t park on the boat ramp because boaters are still using the reservoir. Park in the main parking lot and head off on a shoreline contour and go around the first bend, traveling up reservoir. The shoreline opens up around the bend.

Another access point is Spring Shores Marina, which is about 15 miles out of town past the dam and reached on Idaho 21 across the High Bridge. The turnoff (marked “To Atlanta”) is to the right on the road that goes to the upper parts of the reservoir.

Spring Shores is part of Lucky Peak State Park and has a large parking lot and a huge beach.

Ann Morrison Park

The 153-acre park smack in the middle of Boise goes to the dogs in winter.

“It’s been awesome,” said Hawke DeCamp of Boise, who was running her three dogs off-leash at the park on a recent Saturday afternoon.

The east side of Ann Morrison Park becomes a seasonal off-leash area from Nov. 1 to Feb. 28 to help address problems of long-term damage to the grass and health concerns created by hundreds of wintering geese.

Dogs are allowed to run loose from the fountain to the east border of the park. Signs are posted and there is a map showing the off-leash boundaries (find the link on this story at IdahoStatesman.com).

There’s a playground in the area where kids can play, too. So both kids and dogs have a good time.

Getting there: The easiest access to the park is off Americana Boulevard.

Things to know: Pick up after your dogs and keep them under control even though they are off-leash.

Bonneville Point

An Oregon Trail historic area, Bonneville Point, is about 21 miles east of Boise and is in wide-open spaces with grand views of the city and the Snake River Plain.

It’s a great place to get out with your dogs and a place where kids can learn about Oregon Trail history by reading the interpretive displays at the kiosk at the trailhead. The site is accessible by wheelchair on a concrete sidewalk.

Things to know: The trails and roads are dirt, so avoid them in muddy conditions. There’s no sense in taking home muddy paws and shoes. The area is on an open sagebrush plain and is usually windy. Dress in layers and have a hats, gloves and proper wind/rain jackets.

Getting there: Bonneville Point can be reached on Interstate 84 by driving 17 miles east of Boise to the Blacks Creek exit and turning left on Blacks Creek Road for 3.5 miles. Turn left again at the sign marking the spot. It’s a mile up the hill.

Table Rock

The Table Rock area, accessible off Warm Springs Avenue near the Old State Pen, has a variety of trails through steep and rocky terrain with great views of the city. It’s one of the largest trail systems on the Boise Front and No. 1 in the minds of dog owners.

Hikers have several options. Table Rock Trail No. 15 is the main artery for the area. It takes off from the Old Penitentiary to the top of Table Rock. It’s a strenuous workout for dogs and dog owners. From there, trails connect to Table Rock Loop No. 16 and the Table Rock Quarry Trail.

Another trail popular with dog owners is the Tram Trail No. 14, which is pedestrian only, so there aren’t conflicts with bikers. It takes off from a trailhead near the Warm Springs Golf Course and climbs 1.2 miles to the Table Rock Quarry Trail No. 17, which is a great way to loop around through trails below cliffs and across a sagebrush flat.

Things to know: Trails can be muddy in the winter, so avoid them. When you or your dog leave footprints, turn back. In winter, trails can be used when they are frozen and that means good hiking in the mornings before 11 a.m. Also, pick up after your dog.

Getting there: Warm Springs Avenue from Broadway Avenue is the primary access.

Celebration Park

If you really want to get out in the wild and enjoy some desert canyon scenery with the dogs and kids, this area south of Nampa is only about an hour away.

The Snake River Canyon can be a sheltered getaway on cold December days. The floor of the canyon is about 700 feet below Boise Valley and a lot milder than Boise.

A daylong outing in the canyon, which is part of the Snake River Birds of Prey Natural Area, offers miles and miles of hiking for the kids and running for the dogs. Trails are easy to follow and some are dirt roads.

The boulders will wow the kids for sure. Hike either upriver or downriver from the park. For an adventure, cross the nearby Guffey Bridge and hike the opposite side of the river.

The park has fire rings and picnic tables in the middle of fields of huge basalt rocks so don’t leave without having a picnic. Restrooms are available.

Things to know: Dogs need to be leashed at Celebration Park but can run loose on trails in the area. Keep dogs under control and don’t let them disturb birds and wildlife. Celebration Park is along the Snake River, which has strong currents and cold water. Watch your kids and dogs.

Getting there: Getting to the park can be complicated depending upon what direction your coming from. Follow the link on this story at IdahoStatesman.com for a map and driving directions.