This is the latest in our “Discover the Boise Foothills” series of blog posts exploring different trails.
Previously: Introduction, Hillside to Hollow (and rare plants), Corrals (and dog issues), Watchman (and the multi-agency Foothills partnership), the Hulls Gulch owls, Peggy’s Trail (and private landowners), Table Rock and Castle Rock (and the history of that land), Polecat Gulch (and the trail ranger program), Around the Mountain.
Stack Rock is one of the coolest destinations in the Ridge to Rivers trail system.
But for years, hiking there in a reasonable amount of time has required insider knowledge. Even now, the shortest route to Stack Rock — the one that re-opened this month after a nearly yearlong closure — doesn’t appear on trail maps because it doesn’t officially exist.
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All that could change beginning next year, when the Ada County Highway District and Boise National Forest plan to build a trailhead parking area for the Trail to Stack Rock that would turn what once was an unauthorized trail across private land into one of the premier hikes in the Valley.
Last Wednesday, at least 20 people were seen on the trail from 1 to 5 p.m.
“I loved it,” said Sarah Hodge of Boise, who hiked to Stack Rock for the first time last week. “I love how almost all of it you’re just surrounded by trees, and the trees are covered in moss, and there’s a little bit of flowers, and the amount of butterflies I see right now just makes me happy because that’s how you know everything is doing really well.”
The new trailhead would make Stack Rock accessible to many more users. The goal is to improve safety, provide more parking spots and add the Trail to Stack Rock to the Forest Service’s inventory, which would place it on the Ridge to Rivers map and allow for trail maintenance and signs on the short portions that cross public land. Most of the Trail to Stack Rock — a connection from Bogus Basin Road to Eastside trail that gets users halfway to Stack Rock — is managed by the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley across three private landowners’ property through revocable easements acquired in 2013.
The trailhead is part of a $4.6 million ACHD project to improve Bogus Basin Road from milepost 9 to milepost 16.2 (the upper half of the road), slated for construction in 2018. The trailhead would be funded through the Federal Lands Access Program, built by ACHD and maintained by Ridge to Rivers, said Stephaney Kerley, the ranger for the Mountain Home District of the Boise National Forest. Ridge to Rivers is the partnership between the city of Boise, Ada County, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and Idaho Fish and Game to manage the Boise Foothills trail system.
Until the new trailhead is built — it hasn’t been fully approved yet — the Trail to Stack Rock can’t be included in the Forest Service’s trail system, Kerley said. Hikers and bikers park in a pullout along Bogus Basin Road that fits about 10 cars but is on a blind corner.
“It’s not a place we’d put a trailhead for our standards,” Kerley said. “... It’s not designed for any type of use.”
The new trailhead likely will be built on the opposite side of the road (the right side as you’re driving to Bogus Basin) and a little farther up the road than the pullout people are using now. The trail would be re-aligned to match. Recreationists would need to cross the road to reach the trail but they’d do so at a place with better visibility.
The Trail to Stack Rock originally was created by users. The previous district ranger tried to close it in 2006, Kerley said, “yet the public keeps opening it.” That’s where the Land Trust entered the picture — striking a deal with the private landowners to create a sanctioned trail on their property.
The conundrum is that the trail begins and ends on small pieces of Forest Service land — and the Forest Service won’t allow signs or maintenance on those portions unless they’re officially part of the trail system.
So while the majority of the Trail to Stack Rock is well-marked, the top and bottom aren’t. One pair of hikers last week missed the turn to the parking lot on the way back from Stack Rock and added miles to their trip. And the lower section on Forest Service land has a couple fallen trees across the trail.
“We have enough markers in place that we believe it should be pretty clear,” said Tim Breuer, executive director of the Land Trust.
Trail to Stack Rock begins just past mile marker 13 on Bogus Basin Road and covers 2 miles before connecting to Eastside, a Ridge to Rivers trail that begins at Bogus Basin. Using Trail to Stack Rock (also known as Entrance Exam), it’s 4 miles from the road to Stack Rock.
The alternative is to start at the top of Eastside, creating an 8-mile one-way hike to Stack Rock. That’s twice the distance — and out of reach for most hikers.
Stack Rock Reserve, owned by the city of Boise, features an extensive trail system around the landmark rock formation.
“To get to Stack Rock (on foot), this is it,” Breuer said. “It’s the direct access to Stack Rock.”
The Trail to Stack Rock closed last summer because of logging on the private land. The landowners are trying to deal with the same problem that Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area has identified among its trees — a killer combination of dwarf mistletoe and bark beetles. The trail briefly re-opened last year but was closed again until June 9 of this year. The logging is ongoing, so trail users are asked to be cautious and yield to machinery.
Trail users also need to stay on the marked trail, which is primarily old logging roads.
The owners considered keeping the closure in place for another summer, Breuer said. Last summer, many people used the trail anyway.
“I knew we wouldn’t succeed in keeping people out,” Breuer said. “After some discussion, I think the owners realized it’s to their advantage to allow us to get it open and guide people because people were wandering all the way down those logging roads with no markers and they were going all over the place and getting lost. And they were not purposely being annoying, but they were just trying to find Stack Rock and they couldn’t.”
Return visitors this year will notice a changed landscape along the part of the trail on private land because of the logging activity. Part of the trail was re-routed, too. With the signs in place, there’s only one spot that might cause directional problems. At the end of Trail to Stack Rock, trail users reach a T intersection with Eastside. There’s nothing indicating which direction to turn (go left). On the way back, you need to turn right to return to your car. If Trail to Stack Rock were a Forest Service trail, there’d be a sign in that spot. But since it’s not, the Land Trust isn’t allowed to put one there, Breuer said.
The Land Trust expects traffic on the trail to increase with Bogus Basin investing heavily in its summer activities, which open July 1. The new trailhead likely would boost traffic, too. The elevation is over 5,700 feet at the trailhead.
“It’s been fairly limited and kind of hard-core groups that would come up and do this,” said Julia Rundberg, the development and communications manager for the Land Trust. “As you throw in the (mountain) coaster and concerts, it will just be interesting to see how that changes and makes all of this accessible.”
Hodge had considered hiking to Stack Rock for a couple years. She went with her two border collies after friends backed out. The trail was “pretty easy to follow,” she said.
“It’s beautiful,” she said while sitting atop a rock pile overlooking the Treasure Valley. “I can see how this would be a really fun place to watch the sunset.”
How to hike to Stack Rock
▪ The parking area is on the left side of Bogus Basin Road, a little past mile marker 13. It’s right on the edge of the road, wide enough for about 10 cars. (Don’t park in the nearby gated dirt driveway.)
▪ Trail to Stack Rock begins at the parking area. You won’t see many markings until you get to private land. Then it’s well-marked. You won’t actually see Stack Rock until 1.85 miles in. At the 2-mile mark, you’ll hit a T. The only sign says Eastside trail in both directions. Turn left.
▪ At 2.4 miles, you’ll hit the junction with Sweet Connie (toward town) and Freddy’s Stack Rock Trail. Take Freddy’s.
▪ At 3.1 miles, you’ll reach a fork. This is a loop that goes around Stack Rock. For the shortest route to Stack Rock, take a left.
▪ At about 3.85 miles, you’ll see Stack Rock through the trees and then you’ll see a marker for Freddy’s. There’s a user-built trail that veers to the right. Take that about a 10th of a mile and you’ll end up at a rock outcropping. Climb on top for a terrific view of Stack Rock and the Treasure Valley.
▪ If you go back the way you came, it’s an 8-mile round trip with 1,100 feet of elevation gain (about 550 feet each direction). On the way out, make sure you turn right at that Eastside trail sign (the T you turned at earlier).