Special Hike Report: Boise and Bogus Basin

Hike report by Leigh Ann

From June 25 – June 30, my husband John and I were in the Boise, ID, area. We chose Boise because we wanted to do something memorable for our 25th anniversary, and I’d never been to Idaho. We divided our time between walking around the downtown-Boise State U. area and hiking on trails in Bogus Basin, which is north of town. I think Righteous Basin is a better name.

The weather for the first few days was completely clear and the sky was so dark it looked like the underside of a turquoise bowl. In the pictures where the sky is darker than the land, that’s not the camera being weird. The dark blue persisted once some clouds came in a few days into our trip. High temperatures were — and remember that it was a dry heat, so you didn’t sweat, you just grew salt crystals — 94 to 104 degrees, depending on the day. It was surprisingly not oppressive. And for a week or two before we arrived, Boise had gotten an unusual amount of rain. This meant the grasses and wildflowers were unusually lush.

In the town itself, there are lots of trees. Boise’s town planners long ago decided it would be a good idea to have 25 miles of walking and biking paths through woods, parks, and other green spaces along the Boise River, and some of the pictures show how green it is. Boise has a population of about 600,000, which is half the state’s population. There were many pride flags, interesting art, a memorial park to Anne Frank that is in the picture where John is reading the memorial, a great farm-to-fork restaurant, and an excellent boutique hotel (Inn at 500 Capital Street) that was also friendly and affordable.

Heading away from town to the north you get to sagebrush steppe hills, which were astonishing. We saw at least 15 kinds of grasses and many kinds of wildflowers, some of which are in the pictures of a low altitude (appx. 3,000 feet) trail we hiked in Bogus Basin on our first day there: the ironically named Dry Creek Trail. We made up names: art deco green spire grass, iridescent ponytail grass, fluffy chartreuse waterfall grass, blue wavy grass, mauve bushy top grass, and so on. We couldn’t walk more than 10 feet without stopping to look at more grass.

Farther up in the hills, above about 5,000 feet, is where the pine forest starts. John and I did most of our hiking here, specifically on Freddy’s Stack Rock Trail. This is a 12.5-mile lollypop-shaped trail that has lots of views but surprisingly little elevation change. It snakes along many hills, each of which has two microclimates. On the north-facing slopes are pine and hardwood forests that are refreshingly shady. These get enough mist that club moss grows on the pines, which look like Muppet trees. On the south-facing slopes is sagebrush steppe with expansive views. Stack Rock is a large formation at the far end of the round part of the lollypop. If you pull in on the nobbier part of it in the picture, you can see a guy free soloing it. It’s bigger and a lot taller than it might seem.

John and I would go back to Boise, especially at the time of year we went. This is because we’re more into hiking than downhill skiing, which is also a big deal there.