This is the latest in our “Discover the Boise Foothills” series of blog posts exploring different trails.
This week: Around the Mountain
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). Posts can be found at IdahoStatesman.com/hiking.
Boise’s favorite winter playground is a popular summer destination in part because of a trail built by Ridge to Rivers in 2013.
The aptly named Around the Mountain wraps around the backside of the ski mountain, providing sweeping views of the Treasure Valley and the mountains to the east, including the Sawtooths when it’s clear.
It’s rated the No. 1 mountain bike trail in the state by MTBProject.com.
But quickly, it has developed a fan base among runners and hikers, too. The 7-mile trail is the centerpiece of a loop from Simplot Lodge that covers 9.5 to 10.5 miles, depending on the route chosen.
“There’s just something about circumnavigating the entire Bogus Basin,” said Lynne Wieland of Boise, an avid mountain biker and skier. “It’s neat to be riding it and think, ‘Here I am on Paradise ... Hi, Wildcat.’ There’s really something special about being able to ski the entire mountain, the whole 360 degrees, in the winter, and now we can do the same thing in the summer.”
Why is the trail so appealing? Cooler weather and terrific views, for sure. But there are other reasons, depending on the user perspective.
Patrick Cusick of Boise began riding Around the Mountain (ATM for short) before it was finished because he was so eager to experience it. He appreciates the trail’s construction, which was done with mountain bikers in mind. The project cost about $100,000.
“The construction and the design were really well thought out,” he said. “You can appreciate that they took a lot of time and got it right.”
That’s particularly important to mountain bikers, who want manageable climbs and descents that flow down the hill. The recommended direction of travel is counter-clockwise from Simplot Lodge in part because of the way a key section of Around the Mountain was built.
“They’ve built berms where you can let off the brakes and let the bike track and get some good grip through those turns,” Cusick said. “But climbing out on those sucks. It’s very steep for climbing. They’re not made to be climbed on.”
The trail includes enough technical elements, like that downhill section and occasional rocks, to keep the interest of better riders. But the challenges are sporadic enough for the trail to suit most riders.
“It’s not so difficult that a strong beginner can’t go ahead and have a go at it and have a lot of fun,” Cusick said. “There’s really a little bit of something for everybody on it.”
The trail’s popularity has created the inevitable conflicts between user groups. On a recent weekday late morning/early afternoon, hikers and runners outnumbered bikers.
Cusick said he rides with two bells on his bike and yields to foot traffic as etiquette dictates. But he has watched from afar as bikers zipped down Around the Mountain at high speed with hikers in front of them.
“It’s really crowded now,” he said. “I have to say, ATM really feels like it was designed for mountain biking. ... There are more hikers than I anticipated.”
Trail runner Stephanie Heimberg of Middleton worries about the conflict with bikes, too. Her solution: Go early.
She notices an influx of mountain bikers around 10 a.m.
“My favorite time to run that trail is in the early morning,” she said. “You start at 6 o’clock, you come around the corner, the sun is coming up — it’s beautiful. You can see all the way out to the Sawtooths. For me, it’s an easy trail, it’s not technical, there’s not a whole lot of big rocks or stumps or anything like that. You can get out there and run and go off to your happy place.”
Nearly half of the climbing while doing an Around the Mountain loop comes from the opening mile on the Deer Point trail, which is necessary to access ATM, and the final half-mile, which is a cat track. The 6.5 miles in between rises a little more than 500 feet and drops a little less.
“There’s not a lot of up and down to it,” Heimberg said. “That’s part of the reason I like it.”
Loop trails are a popular option for hikers, who often travel in and out on the same trail — primarily going uphill one way and downhill the other.
Around the Mountain allows for a loop hike of 9.5 miles or more. The only extended hilly stretches are on the trails you need at each end of ATM that connect to Simplot Lodge: Deer Point on the way up and one of several routes coming back down.
“This is a good distance, and it’s cooler on the hot days,” Arlene Bell of Boise said.
Around the Mountain route
Around the Mountain is a 7-mile trail but you’ll need to add a trail at each end to form a complete loop from Simplot Lodge at Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, for a total of nearly 10 miles. The preferred routing is to depart from Simplot and go counter-clockwise. The route:
- Take the Deer Point trail that begins near the main ski lift. This is the most difficult uphill section you’ll encounter. It’s about 1 mile and 326 feet of elevation gain to the junction with Around the Mountain.
- Follow Around the Mountain as it traverses the hillside on the back side of the ski area. It’s single track for 6.5 miles with 534 feet of elevation gain. A middle stretch of 3 miles or so makes for a pleasant run because it’s flat, downhill or slightly uphill. The final half-mile of Around the Mountain is a cat track with 155 feet of elevation gain.
- It’s decision time at the top of the hill near the Morning Star chairlift. Most bikers will take Morning Star, a 1.7-mile, twisting descent of 600-plus feet that has been signed for downhill bike travel only. The recommended route for hikers and runners is the Pioneer trail, which is the least popular for bikers, to the Bogus Creek trail. That’s about 1.6 miles. Other options for foot traffic include Sunshine/Shindig/Bogus Creek (about 1.3 miles) and Brewer’s Byway/Shindig/Bogus Creek (about 2.5 miles).
Morning Star now bikes-only
Bogus Basin has designated Morning Star trail as a bikes-only, downhill-only route for safety reasons. The trail is the traditional end to the Around the Mountain loop. Morning Star has become the most popular bike trail at Bogus, General Manager Brad Wilson said.
“It’s just not conducive to hiking and biking and equestrians,” Wilson said.
The restriction was designed primarily with weekends in mind because that’s when the chairlift is running. Signs are planned to direct hikers and runners to other trails for their descent to Simplot Lodge.