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Boise’s Best Trail Hikes for All Skill Levels

Posted by Lisa Kohl on Thursday, December 23rd, 2021 at 11:57am

Best Boise days hikes and trails

With more than 200 miles of trails surrounding the city, it’s no exaggeration to say that Boise is a haven for hikers. It’s also a great way for families to explore the rugged beauty of our high-desert ecosystem. Below, we highlight some of the best trails in and around Boise, from easy paths that double as great nature walks for kids, to challenging day hikes. All you’ll need to pack is your sense of adventure, sunscreen, and plenty of water.

Mountain Cove

Difficulty: Easy
Length: 2 miles, 175’ elevation gain
Estimated time: 45 to 60 minutes (location)

Mountain Cove is the most accessible trail in the Military Reserve trail complex, which is located in Boise’s East End neighborhood. The mostly flat trail parallels a creek and culminates in a beautiful cottonwood grove that is especially gorgeous in the fall. It’s also fairly straight, making it easy to see and avoid oncoming mountain bikers and runners. For this reason, the trail is a great option for families with young kids.

It’s also a popular beginner trail for kids first learning to mountain bike, and connects to many other trails of various difficulty levels.

Mores Mountain Loop

Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 1.9 miles, 766’ elevation gain
Estimated time: 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes (location)

This hidden gem is treasured by people who want to lose themselves in a hike without worrying about a ton of other hiking and mountain biking traffic. Given its location on the north side of Bogus Basin, and the fact that the trail doesn’t connect with any other trails, it’s often less used (and thus more tranquil) than other hikes in the area.

Mores Mountain Loop is a great hike for children, who will enjoy stopping to collect large mica flakes or to admire blooms of Indian Paintbrush on the side of the trail. As a bonus, the trailhead is close to the Shafer Butte campground and picnic area, making it easy to turn a short hike into a day-long family adventure.

Dry Creek Trail

Difficulty: Hard
Length: 13.8 miles, 3,149’ elevation gain
Estimated time: 7 to 8 hours (location)

Located about a 15-minute drive up Bogus Basin Road, Dry Creek is one of the area’s most scenic hikes. The trail begins by winding through red sandstone cliffs before dropping down into a tree-lined valley with several great spots for picnicking. If you’re observant, you can spot the remnants of a few old homesteading properties along the trail.

Despite its name, Dry Creek has water almost year-round, and the trail includes several creek crossings, making it an ideal hike for dogs. However, due to steep drop-offs in some areas, this hike is not recommended for young children.

Harrison Hollow Trail

Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.8 miles, 286’ elevation gain
Estimated time: 45 minutes to 1 hour (location)

Located at the base of Bogus Basin Road, this is a quick and convenient hike for families. As an off-leash trail, it’s also incredibly popular with dog lovers, so if you have a well-mannered pooch, bring him along! The wide, graveled trail begins with a flat stretch before tapering to a single-track for the hill portion. While it’s a short trail, it connects to several others on the hill’s ridge, making it easy to extend your hike if you and your family feel up to it.

Best of all, the trailhead is located right behind Highlands Hollow Brewhouse, so you and your family can pop in for a drink and a snack after you’ve worked up an appetite.

Stack Rock Trail

Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 8.2 miles, 1,263’ elevation gain
Estimated time: 4 to 5 hours (location)

Although it’s about a 25-minute drive up Bogus Basin Road to reach the newly-redesigned trailhead, the hike to Stack Rock is worth it. This trail has it all: huge boulder outcrops to explore, shady forested sections, and excellent lookouts that display the beauty of the foothills and expansive Treasure Valley. Because of this, it’s a very popular trail – especially with out-of-town visitors.

It’s a longer hike and the elevation gains are very gradual, making it a suitable trail for older kids. You just might not make it to the iconic Stack Rock your first try (or two).

Table Rock Trail

Difficulty: Hard
Length: 3.4 miles, 994’ elevation gain
Estimated time: 2 to 3 hours (location)

Perhaps Boise’s most iconic hike, you can access this trail behind the Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise’s East End neighborhood. While this popular hike is not for the faint of heart – it includes a fairly steep climb the entire way up – the views are worth it. As you ascend, you first get a bird’s eye view of the Old Pen, and sweeping views of Boise beyond.

To avoid some of the crowds, consider taking the offshoot Table Rock Quarry Trail, which joins with the main trail about three-quarters of the way up. The Quarry Trail adds another 0.7 miles to your hike but includes gnarly rock formations and cliff features you won’t otherwise see.

Corrals Trail

Difficulty: Easy/moderate
Length: 5.4 miles, 495’ elevation gain
Estimated time: 3 to 4 hours (location)

This hike is great for big groups of differing skill levels, as it is a double-track for the first two miles, with a very gradual incline and panoramic views of the Treasure Valley. When you reach the gate about two miles in, the trail converts to single-track and the elevation gains become more noticeable and challenging. Families often turn around at the gate.

Many people access Corrals from Bogus Basin Road – there’s a wide dirt pull off that can accommodate about ten cars. However, if you continue another .25 miles up the road, you’ll see the Miller Gulch parking lot, which connects to Corrals. This trail adds elevation (about 300 feet) and distance (0.7 miles) to your hike. The upside is that you don’t have to cross busy Bogus Basin Road, which is especially nice if you are hiking with dogs, large groups, or small children.

Be aware: it’s not unusual to see large herds of sheep or cattle grazing in this area during spring and fall, which is often a delight for kids but can be an irresistible challenge for some dog breeds.

Hulls Gulch Trail

Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 12.6 miles (including both upper and lower trails), 813’ elevation gain for lower trail; 2,246 elevation gain for upper trail
Estimated time: 6 to 8 hours (location)

Hulls Gulch is many peoples’ first introduction to Boise’s foothills trail system. Lower Hulls Gulch is great for families with older kids, but because of its popularity and heavy bike traffic, hiking with younger kids is discouraged (for a nearby kid-friendly hike, see Owls Roost below).

The trail has a gentle incline that parallels the creek running through the gulch. A mile up the trail, eagle-eyed observers may be able to spot several rusted old cars that are mostly submerged in sand, due to years of flash floods.

From lower Hulls Gulch, more adventurous hikers can access the upper Hulls Gulch trail, which is a more challenging hike. The upside is, the upper trail is only open to foot traffic, which makes it ideal for those who want to avoid mountain biking traffic. You can also access the upper trail by driving up 8th Street and parking at the parking lot.

Hulls Gulch is the lifeline to many other connecting trails – its many options will keep you entertained and exhausted for weeks on end.

Cervidae Peak

Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 4.4 miles, 1,883’ elevation gain
Estimated time: 3 to 4 hours (location)

Located outside of Boise near the Lucky Peak Reservoir, the peak is named after the deer that call the area home and can often be spotted from the trail. The hike is also popular with bird watchers, as it is near the migration route that many birds, including raptors, annually follow (the Intermountain Bird Observatory has a banding station nearby that is open to the public).

While the hike is difficult, the payoff is incredible views of the Boise River and Lucky Peak. However, with no shade and no water access, this hike is not recommended during the hottest part of the summer.

Owls Roost/The Grove

Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.2 miles, 147’ elevation gain
Estimated time: 30 minutes to 1 hour (location)

Owls Roost is a wide, flat trail that connects Boise’s Camel's Back Park in the North End to the Hulls Gulch trail complex, located up North 8th Street. Because of its utility as a connection trail, it is highly-trafficked, so keep your kids close and your dogs leashed. That said, it is a great short hike for families. Trees line the trail, lending shade and owl and raptor viewing opportunities. The trail also parallels a small creek with several small pools that kids (and dogs) love to play in.

Owls Roost features a pedestrian-only 0.2-mile offshoot trail called The Grove. This path is a perfect nature walk for small children, and leads to the Foothills Learning Center, where kids of all ages can learn about the sagebrush steppe ecosystem and all of the plants, animals and insects that call it home.

Polecat Loop

Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 5.9 miles, 991’ elevation gain
Estimated time: 3 to 4 hours (location)

Popular among runners more than mountain bikers, Polecat features a gently-sloping switchback trail that meanders up and over several hills, offering great views of both the city and mountains – as well as the occasional deer sighting and coyote call.

There are two trailheads for the loop: one located at the end of North Collister Drive in the Collister neighborhood in Boise, and the other at North Cartwright Road, which is close to the Hidden Springs planned community.

When you’re done exploring the hikes highlighted below, check out the interactive Ridge to Rivers trail map for other great options, as well as helpful reminders on trail etiquette – for instance, when to give the right-of-way to others and why it’s best to stay off of muddy trails.

Originally published in Sept 2020, updated Dec 2021.

Boise Real Estate Agent Lisa Kohl

Lisa Kohl

Lisa is a top Idaho Realtor and creator of WeKnowBoise.com. Whether buying or selling a home, we provide full-service real estate solutions dedicated to helping our clients achieve their goals. From Southeast Boise to the North End, up to Eagle and west to Meridian, or right in the middle of the Boise Bench and downtown - We Know Boise.

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