Proximity to the foothills is certainly one of the most coveted perks for residents of the Treasure Valley. Without these subtle gatekeepers looking over us, life in Boise might be pretty sub-par.
While most folks probably know Bogus Basin, Lucky Peak and Highway 55, considerably fewer might be familiar with the roads and trail systems that connect Boise’s North End to the Boise National Forest northeast of town and Sawtooth Mountains just beyond.
With La Nina’s cool, wet stranglehold, Boiseans far and wide are growing restless. But fear not: snow pack on the ridge will clear soon, and one of the very best ways to explore our treasured foothills is on the Boise Ridge Road. Being the only continuous east-to-west route north of Hill Road—with countless spokes running north toward Idaho City and Horseshoe Bend, and south back to Boise—the Ridge Road offers adventurers a versatile and scenic option for exploration; particularly in favorable weather.
No matter what route you choose on the Ridge Road, you will almost always be within 45 minutes of Boise.
My favorite route starts in Rocky Canyon and ends either on Bogus Basin Road or North Eighth Street. An off-road motorcycle, quad or four-wheel-drive vehicle with good ground clearance is recommended for this area, however two wheel drive is adequate for some lower fringe points. A good GPS or hard copy map is always recommended when exploring new territory.
Getting there: Head up Reserve Street from downtown. Reserve Street turns into Shaw Mountain Road before dropping into Rocky Canyon just the other side of Fort Boise. From here, you can actually ride all the way to Missoula, Mont., on dirt roads and two-track (with limited pavement crossings), provided that you are feeling extremely ambitious.
Rocky Canyon Road meanders through the foothills, before skirting the tree line just before Aldape Summit. From here the road gets a little rougher. Head left (west) up from the summit and you’ll be treated to what are arguably the best 360-degree views of greater Boise every half mile or so—continuing all the way to Bogus Basin. There is currently a good amount of snow up this far, so it might be best to wait a few weeks to attempt this trip.
The Boise Ridge Road is the major ventricle for those looking to access the northern reaches of the Ridge to Rivers trail system, or those simply looking to take the road less traveled to Idaho City, Centerville, Placerville, or Horseshoe Bend. For an afternoon of fresh air, you can’t really beat the traverse from Rocky Canyon to the Eighth Street Extension, which will lead you back to Hyde Park in time for dinner and beers on one of the many restaurant/bar patios.
If you choose to venture further west of the Eighth Street Extension, you will end up adjacent to Eagleson Summit, and eventually just south of Deer Point near Bogus Basin. From here you will have to head south to Bogus Basin Road. You can either head back to Boise from this point, or continue further west past the Bogus Nordic Center. Behind Bogus Basin, you can access Placerville, Centerville, Idaho City or Horseshoe Bend from the Boise Ridge Road and its abutting roads. Assuming you don’t get lost, Highway 21 or Highway 55 will get you back to Boise quick.
Excellent trail maps of the area are available through the Ridge to Rivers website.
Total distance is approximately 24 to 75 miles.