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Boise Parks and Recreation: Exploring the Foothills
Part of our Monday Morning Fitness Routine is to take a hike in the Boise Foothills. The beauty of the Foothills trail system is that, no matter your ability or energy level the day of the hike, you can pick from a large variety of trails to fit your needs. You can hike alone, with partner(s), with your dog, or even ride your mountain bike. (Just yield to pedestrians!).
Besides the cardiovascular benefits, the trails offer other great features:
- Hikers and bikers are friendly and courteous.
- Dog owners are getting pretty good about picking up the poo.
- The sagebrush isn't that interesting to me, but the cliffs, caves, streams, and wildlife are.
What this Article Covers
- How to prepare for your hike
- Where to get a good map
- What to bring on the hike
- Where to find trail recommendations
- How to customize your route
- What to watch out for on the trail
- Cautions when hiking with a dog
- A trailhead map you can download to your smart phone
A Good Map
When I started hiking the Foothills, I had the advantage of having family who had spent some years exploring, and they know the trails well. But, if you're starting from scratch, know that the Foothills covers 80,000 acres and includes 130 miles of trails between the Boise River and the Boise Ridge; so, a good map and compass would be smart (although you also usually encounter a friendly person or two who is willing to point you in the right direction). You can purchase a map at most local outdoor and bike shops, but I would print out this map: Boise Foothills Map (for free!) to carry along with you.
This map is great. It details:
- Road and trail usage: Multi-use, 4WD; Multi-use, motorized; Pedestrian only; Multi-use, non-motorized; Dog on-leash
- Map scale: so that you can determine how long the hike is. But, be aware, hiking 1 mile up hill is nothing like walking one mile on a flat road. I suggest you take your normal length walk, and for hiking purposes, cut it in half to determine time to allot for the hike. So, for us, we can normally do a fast 4 1/2 mile walk on the Greenbelt in one hour, but it takes us that hour to hike 2.25 miles in the Foothills.
- Trail etiquette and laws so that everyone can enjoy the area
We normally just park and go, but beginners should consider the following to get the most enjoyment from the hiking experience:
- Good walking or hiking shoes are important to me. I bought some of the new 'barefoot' walking shoes, and I love them (I've never loved a fitness shoe before due to rubbing and blisters.) The exception to the good shoe advice is, of course, my niece Rachel who does the whole hike in her flip flops with no problem.
- If you're tackling a lengthy hike during the hot part of the year or the hot part of the day (we generally start around 8:30am during the summer and later in the fall), you should probably bring a water bottle. For our one-hour hike, we keep water in the car to drink as soon as we finish, but if the hike was any longer, hotter, or more remote, I would carry water with me.
- Also strongly suggested is sunscreen, as there is very little shade in the Foothills.
Beginner to Expert Advice
See the Ridge to Rivers website for trail recommendations based on difficulty, including beginner and family-friendly trails to expert trails.
Customize Your Route
My hiking group, over the years, has tackled various trails, some harder than others. But the one we traditionally tackle on Monday mornings is described here: We park at the archery range/dog park area on Mountain Cove Road. We walk up the road to the trailhead (marked on the map below). We start hiking on the Toll Road Trail (no real toll charged) then veer off to the right onto the Cottonwood Creek Trail to cross over a (usually) water-filled stream, which water seems to encourage poison ivy to grow on its banks (single file everybody!) We then veer to the left to conquer the (in my mind) dreaded triple uphill stretch of the Eagle Ridge Trail, which then winds around and down back to where we parked. (I love the downhill part!)
This is about a 2.25 mile hike that we usually accomplish in slightly under an hour.
Dogs seem to LOVE the foothills, but to keep you pup safe, check out the following video:
Cautions for Hiking with your Dog
With a little respect (stay on the trails, but don't hike on muddy trails, and pick up your dog's poo) the Boise Foothill program will continue to thrive and be available for all of us to enjoy for years to come.