Outdoors Blog

Corrals Trail ‘lovely’ for dogs, who are Foothills lightning rods

Most Boise Foothills trails allow dogs to walk off-leash — a policy that is popular but also can be troublesome.
Most Boise Foothills trails allow dogs to walk off-leash — a policy that is popular but also can be troublesome. ccripe@idahostatesman.com

• This is the latest in our “Discover the Boise Foothills” series of blog posts exploring different trails. On many of those trips, we’ll be joined by an expert who can provide some perspective on the land that has become one of Boise’s most popular and valuable assets.

This week: Corrals (and dog issues).

Previously: Introduction, Hillside to Hollow (and rare plants)

I was told I’d encounter the first of the prickly Foothills dog issues upon arrival in the parking lot for my Corrals hike.

That was almost true.

Instead, it happened a few seconds before the parking lot at the pullout alongside the road that many use to access Corrals. Two women let their dogs out of their cars and allowed them to cross the road off-leash. I stopped when I saw the women; I didn’t even see the dogs initially.

Incidents like that are one reason Ridge to Rivers recently unveiled a proposal to require dogs to stay on leash for the first 200 feet of trail at certain locations. Now, they are required to be on leash until they reach the trail.

But like many dog regulations — on-leash rules in general, dog waste left behind and off-leash dogs out of control — that rule often is ignored and is difficult to enforce. It’s even more difficult to fix because of the impassioned feelings on both sides.

“We do hear from both sides — there’s not a lot of in-between that we hear about,” said Jerry Pugh, the community programs coordinator for Boise Parks and Rec. “That’s why we’re trying to strike that balance — make sure that we offer up a good range of opportunities to go run their dogs and run them legally while respecting the folks that don’t want to see them out there, that are afraid of dogs.”

greta on the bank
My dog, Greta, did a little off-leash exploring during a break along the creek. Chadd Cripe ccripe@idahostatesman.com

The Foothills are a haven for dogs. Of the 190 miles in the Ridge to Rivers system, 166 are designated for off-leash use. And despite dog owners being a minority of users (28 percent) surveyed during the master-planning process, there was overwhelming support for off-leash policies (80 percent wanted the status quo or more off-leash trails).

Dogs are required to stay within 30 feet of their owners in the Foothills and within voice control even when off-leash. Owners also are expected to pick up their dog’s waste. Violations of either of those policies could result in $25 fines, which cost almost $85 after court costs are added. But the city only has two animal control officers to enforce those rules and they prioritize education over enforcement.

The biggest issue, by far, is dog waste — a hot-button topic that Foothills manager Sara Arkle is determined to solve. She wants businesses and community groups to sponsor poop pickup days.

“If you’re angry, there is every opportunity to organize a dog-poop pickup,” she said. “Consider it a community effort. We do have a problem with dog excrement in the Foothills. It is a community problem and there is a community solution.”

At least a couple times on my Corrals hike, I encountered poop in the middle of the trail.

The on-leash buffer zones proposed for some popular trailheads are designed in part to prevent dogs from running off and doing their business without their owners noticing.

“We’re going to make some strides in outreach,” Arkle said. “There are people who just don’t know. And we have to find a sweet spot with enforcement that needs to be just enough so that people are aware of the regulations but not too much.”

Some have suggested a $10 ticket, Arkle said, but that doesn’t work because of the court costs.

After waste, the second-biggest Foothills dog problem is those off-leash in parking lots.

“Because they go after other dogs who are on leash or they run out in front of cars,” Arkle said. “And people talk about other dogs jumping on them. ... Nine years in the Boise Foothills, I have had just a handful of interactions that have been unpleasant. It’s hard, because those are the interactions that stick with you. You don’t remember a run that was perfect as well as you remember a run where you encountered an angry person or an ill-behaved dog.”

Once I started the Corrals hike with my 3-year-old German shepherd, Greta, I didn’t encounter any problems with other dogs. Most of the users we saw had dogs with them but kept them in control. One dog got ahead of her mountain biker masters and came up to Greta, who was on a leash, but they got along fine.

tired dog tight crop
This dog beat its mountain bikers to the top of a hill on Corrals Trail. Chadd Cripe ccripe@idahostatesman.com

The Corrals trail begins along Bogus Basin Road. I started at the Miller Gulch Trailhead, where an access trail leads to Corrals — a wide trail that is a former road. That made it easier to walk with an on-leash dog than single track. The beginning of the trail features some steep sections and a plateau with views of Downtown Boise and the Foothills. Eventually, it drops into the canyon created by Crane Creek. After 1.75 miles, you come to a gate. Just before the gate, there’s a shady spot under the trees with easy access to the creek for a quick drink or a cooling dip for your dog.

“It’s a lovely place to take a dog,” Arkle said.

Corrals break
This shady spot is a nice place to take a break on the way up Corrals Trail. Chadd Cripe ccripe@idahostatesman.com

Continue through the gate for more canyon hiking along the creek, then climb the hill to the intersection with Scott’s trail. That’s a 2.87-mile hike with 830 feet of elevation gain from the parking lot. Stay on Corrals for a quarter-mile more to reach a terrific view of the city. We made a U-turn at that point and returned the way we came for a total of 6.27 miles.

However, you also could stay on Corrals, turn right on Bob’s, turn right on Highlands (or Urban Connection) and turn left on Corrals for about a 9-mile loop. Interactive map here.

Getting there: Go north on Bogus Basin Road. The first parking lot on the right as you wind up the mountain is the Miller Gulch Trailhead. The access trail there feeds into Corrals. Or, you can park in the pullout on the left before the parking lot and begin directly on Corrals.

Coming next week: Daniels Creek (Peggy’s Trail) — and the property agreements that have made the Foothills trail system possible.

• • • 

A few notes on dog enforcement:

— Dogs must be on-leash across the city except on designated Foothills trails or in one of the city’s 12 off-leash areas. Some parks have no-dog policies, like Marianne Williams (except on the Greenbelt) and Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve. The fine for dogs off-leash is $25, which becomes nearly $85 after court costs.

— The fine for not picking up after your pet is the same — $25, but close to $85 after court costs.

— If you receive multiple fines in a calendar year, the price can escalate.

— The fine for an unlicensed dog is $10 plus court costs.

— The city has two animal control officers who patrol the parks and Foothills on a random schedule. “Our instruction to them has been kind of take an education-first, enforcement-second approach,” Pugh said. “... Not everybody loves dogs, so we’ve got a responsibility to make sure folks are following the rules as much as we can.”

— Technically, dog owners can be fined for allowing their dogs to play off-leash in the Boise River within the city limits. “That’s at the discretion of animal control officers,” Pugh said. “If it’s somebody they’ve repeatedly talked to, they may cite them.”

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