Ridge to Rivers: Exploring Boise’s Foothills Trail System
Posted by Lisa Kohl on Tuesday, March 19th, 2019 at 1:25pm
The Ridge to Rivers system is an interconnected labyrinth of trails, paths, and roads with the postcard-worthy Boise foothills as their backdrop.
Over 190 miles wind through these foothills, giving walkers, hikers, runners, bikers, and riders a chance to experience the calming beauty of the outdoors just minutes from downtown. The Ridge to Rivers Trail System cuts through some of Boise’s most stunning terrain and offers panoramic views of the city.
Maintained by a full-time staff, Ridge to Rivers trails are well-groomed and receive heavy use all four seasons of the year.
In 2016, the City of Boise collaborated with the Ridge to Rivers staff and management to create a 10-year plan for growth and sustainability. This plan included input from all kinds of trail users, including hikers and runners, equestrians, dog owners, and mountain bikers.
With the input of the community and an actionable plan in place, the Ridge to Rivers system continues to improve year after year, providing something truly remarkable to Boise residents.
A 'view from the top' -Ridge to Rivers Trail System.
Run, Hike, Ride, Bike: Enjoying the Ridge to Rivers Trails
There are several popular areas to enjoy on trails, whether you’re looking for somewhere to run off your dog’s energy, a morning workout, an afternoon wildflower walk, or a mountain bike adventure. Some are suited better for different activities, but many of the areas are multi-use, meaning you’ll likely encounter plenty of people doing all types of pursuits. Here are a few of the most popular trails and areas.
Camel’s Back and Hull’s Gulch Reserve
Boise residents have concerned citizens to thank for the Hull’s Gulch Reserve area that sits nestled on the edge of the North End neighborhood. In the 1990s, community activism spared Hull’s Gulch from development and the area became a treasured part of Ridge to Rivers.
Some of the most popular trails include the short-but-rewarding hike at Camel’s Back Park which features scenic views of downtown Boise at the summit. The trails around Hull’s Gulch Reserve and Camel’s Back aren’t extensive (around three miles total), but they’re a gorgeous area to experience the foothills, with quiet streams, groves of native trees, and plenty of endangered rare plants.
Military Reserve area trail near the North End's Fort Boise Park.
One of the most extensive parts of the Ridge to Rivers system is the 474-acre wildlife and recreational use reserve known as Military Reserve, so named for its former use as a military practice ground. Military Reserve is well-loved by dog owners for its extensive off-leash trails, making it the perfect place to take Fido for a run.
East End residents also enjoy the central location of Military Reserve—some trailheads have an access point only a few miles away from residential areas. Because Military Reserve is a recreation and wildlife reserve, it’s an ideal location to scout out local animals such as deer, birds, and even coyotes.
A local favorite and iconic part of Ridge to Rivers, the Table Rock area tempts mountain bikers and hikers who are looking for a challenge with a picturesque reward.
The plateau top of Table Rock is easy to spot from the East and Southeast neighborhoods of Boise, and several trails offer a steep ascent to the summit where you can view much of the Treasure Valley for miles.
Mountain bikers, hikers, and runners favor this area for challenging trails, and it’s an ideal place to catch the sunset or 4th of July fireworks.
When temperatures hit the triple digits in the summer, many hikers, runners, and mountain bikers head up to the Bogus Basin area and take in the mountainous beauty of the Schafer Butte trails. These trails are much different than the rest of the Ridge to Rivers system in that they’re higher in elevation, making them cooler in the hot months.
For many Boiseans, the hour drive to the trailheads is worth it in exchange for mountain views, a forest of shady trees, and wildlife encounters.
Ridge to Rivers Trail Etiquette and Helpful Tips
Take the Happy Trails Pledge online and join the mission to promote kindness and mindfulness in the Ridge to Rivers Trail System.
When using Ridge to Rivers trails, there are a few things you should know. Common trail etiquette and safety knowledge will help make sure the trails are a great experience for all users.
Know Common Trail Courtesies
The Ridge to Rivers website has extensive information about trail etiquette, so check it out before you leave. General trail etiquette includes commonsense courtesies such as nodding and smiling while passing other users, stepping to the side while taking a break to let others pass, and letting people know when you’re about to pass them from behind.
Whether you’re a biker, a runner, a hiker, or an equestrian, you should know right-of-way rules for the trails (which you can read in detail on the Ridge to Rivers website). Know what your responsibility is and how to stay safe and courteous before you hit the trails.
Help Keep Trails Maintained
Particularly during the wet fall, winter, and spring months, wet trails can be a problem. When trails are wet, they’re prone to erosion with use. This can be particularly problematic during the winter when the temperature is above freezing and the ground melts just enough that trail users leave deep footprints and tire ruts.
To avoid contributing to trail erosion, check trail conditions at the regularly updated Ridge to Rivers Facebook page. If it’s wet outside or above freezing in the winter, err on the side of caution and plan your outdoor activity on the Greenbelt or elsewhere. It’s also important to only use designated trails and stay on trails at all times to avoid trampling native and rare plants.
Respect Area Wildlife
One of the most attractive parts of using the Ridge to Rivers trails is the wildlife you’re likely to encounter, from big game on some of the higher elevation trails to birds and rabbits. Some of the flora and fauna you’ll see in the foothills don’t live anywhere else, including species of native plants that are in danger of dying out.
This reality makes staying on trails and respecting wildlife even more crucial. Never chase or let your dog chase an animal in the foothills, particularly in the lean winter months when deer and other wildlife need to conserve their energy. Enjoy the beauty of the wildlife around you and help preserve it with respectful appreciation.
From cabin fever relief in the winter to early morning cool-down hikes in the summer, and from autumn color to spring wildflowers, the Ridge to Rivers trails are a Boise treasure. How will you take advantage of this local gem?
Lisa Kohl is a top Idaho Realtor and creator of WeKnowBoise.com. 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. Whether buying or selling a home, we provide full-service real estate solutions dedicated to helping our clients achieve their goals.
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