Spring: Station Creek
Of all the hikes we wrote about last year, the one that generated the most positive feedback from readers was Station Creek — a hike that begins in Garden Valley and is a terrific mountain experience that’s available in the spring.
“It’s all single track and beautiful forest,” said Leo Hennessy, the non-motorized trails coordinator for Idaho State Parks and Rec who recommended the hike. The trail begins alongside its namesake, a tiny creek that you hear more often than you see. It winds up into the hills, crosses the creek (you might have to step in the water) and puts you on a ridge overlooking the Garden Valley area.
We saw two elk, including a calf; a couple of butterflies and a woodpecker last spring. The official trail is 2.1 miles (1,249 feet of gain) but it doesn’t stop at that point. You can continue up the trail another 2 miles to the top of Bald Mountain, which adds another 1,500 feet of climbing.
To get there, take Idaho 55 north from Boise to Banks, then turn right on Banks Lowman Road (Highway 17). The trailhead is on the left, across the highway from the Forest Service ranger station. A parking lot is accessible via a dirt road just before the Boise National Forest sign.
Summer: Fourth of July Lake
Fourth of July Lake is an easily accessible destination just outside the White Clouds Wilderness. It’s a terrific hike for kids — challenging enough to feel like a workout and short enough to avoid “are we there yet?” syndrome.
The reward is a stunning view of the western edge of the White Clouds. The turnoff for Fourth of July Creek Road on the east side of Highway 75 is about 10 miles south of the turn for Redfish Lake. You’ll have to endure 10.4 miles of rough, one-lane, gravel road to reach the trailhead, which has a large parking area (and needs it).
The trail to the lake is 1.77 miles with 615 feet of elevation gain. There are a couple of water crossings that require stepping on rocks or balancing on a log — a fun twist for the kids.
Fall: Dry Creek
One of the highlights of hiking in the Boise Foothills is finding the beauty that you’d never know was there otherwise. Fall is a perfect example.
In the places where creeks bring snowmelt to the valley in the spring, you can find pockets of trees turning a variety of colors in October. The yellow blooms of rabbit brush and purple blooms of aster add additional scenery.
“I think it makes it sweeter that you have to go looking for it,” said Sara Arkle, who is the Foothills manager for the city of Boise.
Dry Creek is a great place to seek out color. It’s 2.35 miles to the confluence of Dry Creek and Shingle Creek, with about 250 feet of climbing. There’s another 210 feet of climbing on the way out. That’s a good turnaround spot — or you can keep going. The trail runs 7.3 miles from its trailhead along Bogus Basin Road.
Winter: Stargaze Point
Stargaze Point sits north of Idaho City at 6,682 feet, on a wind-swept nob with 360-degree mountain views. The snowshoe hike is about 1.5 miles one way from the Beaver Creek parking lot along Idaho 21 that is part of the Idaho City Park N’ Ski system.
The trail is well-marked and features an elevation gain of about 800 feet. “I think it’s one of the prettiest places on the Boise National Forest,” Hennessy said.