Printed on: October 31, 2013
Weather blues? Enjoy all-season trails in southwestern Idaho
By PETE ZIMOWSKY
BOISE -- Weather in late fall and winter can drown plans for hiking, trail running and mountain biking -- if you don't know where to go.
Trail users can always find places in the Treasure Valley and southwest Idaho that aren't overly affected by rain and snow.
"We don't have any trails that I would bill as all-weather," said David Gordon, Ridge to Rivers trails coordinator. "We have a number of trails that have much sandier bases, and thus are decent bets on wet days."
Boise mountain bikers such as Gary Balch ride every day because they know what trails are available. He likes the Boise area because "you can get up on the hills really quickly."
Because of the geology of the Boise Foothills and the Owyhees, with sandy and granitic soils in some areas, you can find trails and drainages that can be hiked and biked throughout winter.
But you'll also find trails where there is a lot of clay, and they can be a real mess when wet. Trails in the Camel's Back-Hulls Gulch area are recommended in wet weather because of the sandy soils that tend to dry quickly, Gordon said. However, he warns that even sandy trails can eventually get soggy and shouldn't be used during very wet conditions.
When the weather gets damp, here are some places that might be good bets for hiking, running or mountain biking.
Toll Road (No. 27A) -- located in Military Reserve, it's an easy trail that is just over a half-mile one way. Get access off Reserve Street in Boise.
Red Fox (No. 36) and Lower Hulls Gulch (No. 29) -- Four miles one-way route; moderately difficult; start behind Camel's Back Park in Boise.
Camel's Back Trail (No. 40) -- Up to 1.4 miles; considered easy; get access at Camel's Back Park.
Combine Red Fox (No. 36), Owls Roost (No. 37), Gold Finch (No. 35) and Hulls Pond (No. 34) -- A loop of about 2.8 miles; get access at Camel's Back Park or off upper Eighth Street.
Bob's Trail -- Located between Crane Gulch and Hulls Gulch, the trail quickly becomes ridable after rain or snow. Get access off Hearthstone Drive in Boise.
Rocky Canyon Road -- It's mostly gravel and you can go up to 6 miles to the top of the ridge, depending on where you hit snow. Get access off Reserve Street by continuing up Shaw Mountain Road.
Eagle Bike Park -- Located at the sports complex off Old Horseshoe Bend Road, the park is a good place for cycling because trails dry out fast, but avoid it right after a storm.
The entire Greenbelt from Discovery Park to Glenwood Bridge is ideal for riding, running or walking in the winter. The pathway from Lucky Peak Reservoir to Eagle is more than 25 miles combining both sides of the Boise River.
The Bethine Church Nature Trail on the south side of the Boise River is 1.6 miles long between the Cottonwood Apartments off ParkCenter Boulevard to the East ParkCenter Bridge. It goes through a 24-acre natural area. Ideal hiking in the winter, but bikes are not allowed.
There's a large, mostly nonmotorized area with a variety of riding or hiking trails in the Wilson Creek region, southwest of Walters Ferry.
The area is recommended for intermediate and expert riders, and bikers should have some good navigation skills because it's easy to get turned around.
Get there from Nampa by going south on Idaho 45 and crossing the Snake River. Go west on Idaho 78 to Wilson Creek Road and south to the parking areas.
Gravel roads off U.S. 95 from Marsing to the Oregon border offer a lot of hiking and biking possibilities in the winter.