"The Hulls Gulch Trail offers a quiet escape from the city below and a chance to learn about the unique natural history of the Boise Foothills. This is a good place to think, or not think, and to reconnect with the natural world."
Those fitting words are included on a sign at the upper trailhead to the Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail, aka the Hulls Gulch Interpretive Trail — one of the gems of the Ridge to Rivers system in part because of the unusual combination of a remote feel and vehicle access.
The upper trailhead is at nearly 4,900 feet of elevation, one of the highest access points in the system. The lower trailhead is about 1,000 feet below. You can walk the upper loop, which is 2.2 miles with nearly 500 feet of elevation gain, or hike round trip from either trailhead, which is about 6.5 miles with 1,000 feet of gain.
But you can't bike the trail — it's a rare pedestrian-only route in the Foothills. Dogs are allowed, but there's not much shade, there is abundant poison oak and the creek usually dries up in June — factors to consider before bringing your furry friend.
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Along the trail, signs will teach you about the history of the Treasure Valley, fire ecology, riparian areas, invasive weeds and wildlife.
Perhaps most striking are the signs about Lake Idaho, an ancient lake that filled the Treasure Valley with water millions of years ago. The lower portion of the Hulls Gulch Interpretive Trail was the shoreline. "Lake Idaho existed for 6.5 million years," according to one sign. "Where did it go? Geologists aren't certain ... ."
Several signs tell of invasive weeds and fire threats, like the 8th Street Fire that ravaged the Hulls Gulch area in 1996.
"Wildfire burns more of the sagebrush ecosystem every year than any other kind of place in the United States," a sign says. "It is only half the size it used to be, because of wildfires, invading plants and other factors."
But if you'd rather keep hiking than stop to read, the Hulls Gulch Interpretive Trail still will give you a lesson in nature. The bird chatter is incredible. Butterflies dance around you. And the views of the city far below provide a pleasant reminder of how far away you've been able to get for a couple hours.
Getting there: Take 8th Street north out of the city. From the Foothills Learning Center parking lot, it's 2.5 or 2.7 miles to the two parking areas at the lower end of the Hulls Gulch Interpretive Trail. Or, drive 5.5 miles past the FLC to the upper trailhead. If you do the upper loop, travel counterclockwise. That will lead you downhill on the steep stretch and uphill on the mild, longer stretch.