Sam Brockway worked in partnership with Visit Idaho to create this Travel Tip.

Day trips into the outdoors are as integral to my relationship with a place as the food, architecture, or events. In my two years as a full-time Boise resident, I have honed in on my favorite day trips, featuring a staggering diversity in terrain, views, and activities. Though this list is constantly expanding, I know that I have barely scratched the surface of what this beautiful part of the state has to offer. In this piece, I highlight my favorite short trips; these are the types of day trips that I make when I know that I have a couple hours to kill, but can’t be gone all day.

Any discussion of short trips from Boise should start with the Ridge to Rivers trail system. This amazing outdoor resource is an extensive 190 miles of trail that range from creekside strolls with city views to mountaintop climbs without a person in sight. The following are my favorite ways to access this city treasure:

Cottonwood Creek Trailhead Loop

Total Length: 2.5 Miles

Driving Time from Boise: 5-10 minutes

Time of Year: Year-round (though use is discouraged when trails are muddy)

Directions: From the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead on Mountain Cove Road, follow Cottonwood Creek on the Toll Road Trail. After 0.5 miles, turn left onto the Ridge Crest Trail, and follow it to the top of the hill. Turn left on the Central Ridge Trail, and admire one of the best views of the city. Follow the Central Ridge Trail as it descends down the ridgeline, and sweeps you all the way back to the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead.

Hiking notes: This section of trail is wildly popular for walking dogs, jogging, and mountain biking. However, despite the regular use, it almost never feels congested and offers a relaxing walk under the cottonwoods to a sprawling view of the city.

Tips: Bring a flashlight and time your walk to reach the descent on the Central Ridge Trail as the sun goes down for stunning sunset colors and sparkling city lights.

5-Mile Gulch Trail

Total Length: 3 miles out-and-back, or 5-mile loop to Orchard Gulch

Driving Time from Boise: 20 minutes

Time of Year: Early Spring to Late Fall (snow permitting access)

Directions: Drive to the 5-Mile Gulch Trailhead (3 miles after the pavement ends on Rocky Canyon Road) and follow the trail along the dense, mature cottonwoods lining Fivemile Creek. Follow the gradual climb until you reach the evergreens on the ridge, with a beautiful view of the valley, below. Optionally, at 3 miles, you can connect to the Orchard Gulch Trail, and loop back onto Rocky Canyon Road.

Hiking notes: This trail used to be the wagon route to Idaho City, and features an old toll booth about a mile up the trail. The trail is often completely empty and feels as though it is far more remote than its proximity to the city would indicate. The 5-Mile Creek drainage is beautifully lush, and swarming with wildlife (including elk, deer, songbirds, and coyotes).

Tips: Visit this trail for some of the most vibrant fall colors in the Treasure Valley. This can also be a perfect access point to climb into the snowline and play in the snow.

Mores Mountain Loop Trail

Total Length: Three loop options with hiking lengths of 1, 1.3, or 2 miles

Driving Time from Boise: 1 hour

Time of Year: Late Spring to Early Fall (snow permitting access)

Directions: Drive to the Schafer Butte Campground (follow Bogus Basin Road past the Frontier Point Lodge, continue for three miles on the gravel road) where the trailhead begins. For a full 360 degree view from Mores Mountain, including panoramas of the Treasure Valley and the Sawtooth Range, follow the outer loop.

Hiking notes: The gradual 2-mile loop circling the top of Mores Mountain ducks through thickets of fir trees, crosses expansive fields of wildflowers, and offers sweeping Southwest Idaho views in every direction. The trail climbs to over 7,000 feet of elevation, making it one of the easiest ways to explore the alpine zone of the Boise Mountains. The interpretive trail also includes helpful information for plant identification.

Tips: The late spring/early summer wildflowers on Mores Mountain are truly breathtaking. This well-shaded trail is also a welcome respite from the sun on hot summer days.

Sam Brockway is a freelance photographer based in Boise, Idaho, specializing in travel and outdoor photography. He grew up in the small mountain town of Chester, California, where he spent his childhood exploring Lassen National Park. He earned a B.S. in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Barbara, and attended the University of Washington for graduate work in Public Administration and Marine and Environmental Affairs. His lifelong personal and academic respect for wilderness is evident in his authentic depictions of people engaging with the outdoors. Through his growing social media presence, Sam has been able to work with a number of large outdoor gear and apparel companies.

Published on April 5, 2018