When Boise residents consider the many wonderful amenities of the City of Trees, the Boise River Greenbelt is always near the top of the list.
Following the meandering path of its namesake, the Boise River Greenbelt is a 25-mile path, nearly all paved, that connects the community like a vital artery.
The City of Boise maintains the 25-mile portion of this path that makes up the greenbelt, but it connects to a much longer system of paths and trails that stretch almost 50 miles from Lucky Peak Dam to Eagle, ID. Like branches from a tree, walking paths and trails split off from the main greenbelt and connect Boiseans to their picturesque city.
Throughout all four seasons, the greenbelt is beloved and well-used. In the spring and summer, families bike together and visit the “Ribbon of Jewels”—the 10 expansive and lush parks that sit on the shores of the Boise River.
In the fall, trees along the greenbelt turn brilliant shades of orange, yellow, and red, inviting you out for a walk or a run with a crisp autumn breeze and the satisfying crunch of leaves underfoot.
During the winter, the greenbelt offers a clear path for outdoor recreation and an opportunity to explore during nature’s quiet season. Residents and visitors use the greenbelt year-round for walking, running, cycling, in-line skating, and accessing the river for fly fishing and outdoor recreation.
This tree-lined trail inspires community volunteerism and connectedness, whether it’s as a safe and beautiful path for downtown bike commuters, a place for friends to meet for a walk, or the location of your next head-clearing run.
The Boise Greenbelt’s Remarkable History
When you see how seamlessly the greenbelt fits into the surrounding scenery of river, towering cottonwood trees, and parks, you may feel like it’s been there forever. But in the 1960s, much of the Boise River shoreline was unclaimed and unkempt. Raw sewage, trash dumping, and years of neglect had robbed the community of the serenely quiet river and instead made it into an eyesore.
In 1963, a consultant hired by the City of Boise suggested a “green belt” designed as a continuous stretch of public lands to reclaim the river. Despite opposition, City Council member Gordon Bowen was entirely smitten with the idea and wouldn’t let it go.
Today, it’s hard to imagine anyone questioning Bowen’s vision of parks instead of garbage, and his and other early greenbelt supporters’ legacy has turned the Boise River into a community treasure.
Through various means of acquisition including purchase and donation, the City of Boise slowly made parcel by parcel of land into public parks. As the greenbelt grew, volunteers and grassroots groups became enchanted with the idea and pitched in.
Over three decades, the Boise River Greenbelt went from being one of the first in the nation (it was one of only two in the 60’s) to an example that is frequently mimicked by other cities.
Activities and Attractions on and Along the Greenbelt
There’s more to do than just walk or run the greenbelt. As the greenbelt and surrounding parks continue to be developed, Boiseans can take advantage of activities and attractions close by.
Attractions on the Greenbelt
Zoo Boise: The Zoo sits on the greenbelt in the middle of Julia Davis Park. The greenbelt makes it easy to walk or bike to the zoo or take a stroll after your visit to see more animals like ducks, geese, and squirrels.
Boise Art Museum: The Boise Art Museum is also accessible via the greenbelt in Julia Davis Park. BAM hosts regularly rotating exhibits and events.
Idaho State Historical Museum: The Idaho State Historical Museum sits next to the Boise Art Museum and is undergoing extensive renovations in 2018.
The Discovery Center of Idaho: Ready to get a little nerdy? The Discovery Center is the perfect place to escape the weather and learn about science, innovation, and invention.
Boise Whitewater Park: You don’t have to head to the coast to catch a wave. The Boise Whitewater Park sits along the greenbelt near Esther Simplot Park and gives you a chance to enjoy water sports right in the heart of Boise.
Bethine Church Trail: Intentionally left unpaved, this 1.6-mile section of the greenbelt has been set aside for quiet walking and running. Benches look over the river and invite contemplation. It’s a great place to see Boise’s wildlife up close.
Scavenger Hunt: Want to get some outdoor exercise and learn about Boise history at the same time? The City of Boise has created a fun scavenger hunt along the greenbelt full of historical treasures. Get to know your city better with the Scavenger Hunt Clues and map.
Fishing: Idaho Fish and Game regularly stocks the Boise River and ponds along the greenbelt, making it a favorite destination for fly fishing and dropping a line. You’ll see people in waders enjoying the quiet and families fishing from bridges all along the river.
Outdoor Gym: Courtesy of BodyBuilding.com, you can mix up your workout along the greenbelt with the outdoor gym at Ann Morrison Park.
Parks: Of course, the beloved parks along the greenbelt offer countless activities. Disc golf, sand volleyball, tennis, public pools, playgrounds, and more fill the parks along the greenbelt with things for everyone to do.
Birding: The Idaho Birding Trail is accessible via the greenbelt and guides you through the riparian habitat along the river. Bird-watching enthusiasts may even get a glimpse of Bald Eagles from the greenbelt.
Greenbelt Etiquette and Safety Tips
It’s important to be a good citizen when you visit the greenbelt, adhering to common safety and etiquette rules. Here are a few you should follow while visiting the Boise River Greenbelt.
- Stay only on designated trails and avoid eroding the river bank.
- Obey all posted signs, especially ones that signal a path closure due to flooding or construction.
- Pedestrians have the right of way at all times. Cyclists and skaters must be aware of pedestrians and pass on the right
- Pass safely on the left and signal your intention to pass. For instance, call out “on your left” or use a bell to alert pedestrians of your presence.
- Walk no more than two abreast.
- Dog owners are responsible for keeping their dogs on a leash and for all sanitary cleanup.
- Respect the local wildlife and don’t harass or scare animals or birds.
- Maintain a reasonably safe speed while cycling or skating.
The Boise River Greenbelt is just one of the many reasons we love calling this place home. You’ll find beauty, wildlife, relaxation, and activities no matter how you enjoy this Boise gem.