It’s as much fun for outdoor-loving dog owners as their furry friends: open spaces and trails where everyone can run free. Fortunately for Boise-area adventurers, a vast majority of the Foothills trails are controlled off-leash, and hikers with dogs can choose to romp around in sagebrush land, rocky canyons, and forested mountains from the Boise city limits to Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area.
Even with all these options, however, hiking in off-leash areas isn’t a wide-open free-for-all in the Foothills; there are some rules to follow. Dog owners must have a leash at all times and the dogs need to be under voice control and no further than 30 feet away. Dogs aren’t allowed to chase wildlife, trample sensitive plants, dig and cause erosion, or tangle with other dogs and trail users. And it goes without saying that owners need to pick up after their canines.
Also keep in mind that as the weather turns colder and wetter in Boise, there are a few precautions to take to keep trails in good conditions. Try to hike or ride early in the day when trails are frozen hard; if they're muddy, stay off of them (are you leaving tracks? Best to turn back.). Also, stay on trails as much as possible: Walk or ride through short stretches of mud, as leaving the trail kills vegetation and leads to trail widening. (Check daily trail conditions at Ridge to Rivers to know whether you
should be on the trails during winter months.)
But even with the changing weather, there are plenty of goods worth getting after, according to local dog owners. “Best of the foothills would be the top, Bogus Basin. It gets you out of the cheat grass and snakes,” says hiker Jackie Nefzger. ” Aaron English, another active local, likes “anything at Table Rock”, the prominent sandstone table-rock shaped mountain in the Foothills with a number of trails looping the area.
Here, more intel on the best dog-friendly trails in Boise (which are equally awesome for their adventure-loving owners).
The Table Rock area, which is accessible off Warm Springs Avenue near the old State Pen, has a variety of trails through steep and rocky terrain with great views of the city. It’s one of the largest trail systems on the Boise Front and is popular with dog owners. The Tram Trail No. 14 is pedestrian only so there are no conflicts with mountain bikers. It takes off from a trailhead near the Warm Springs Golf Course and climbs 1.2 miles all the way up to the Table Rock Quarry Trail No. 17, which is a great way to loop around through trails below cliffs and across a sagebrush flat. Table Rock Trail No. 15 is a main artery for the area. It takes off from the Old Penitentiary to the top of Table Rock. From there, trails connect to the Table Rock Loop No. 16, and the Table Rock Quarry Trail.
This 460-acre natural area close to downtown has a variety of trails. One of f the more popular ones are Central Ridge Trail No. 22, which can be combined with a number of trails in the area. It also makes a great loop on a ridge with excellent views of Downtown Boise and is beautiful for catching the sunset. The Cottonwood Creek Trail No. 27 goes through a riparian forest area of cottonwood and sagebrush. The Ridge Crest Trail No. 20 links Cottonwood Creek and Freestone Creek drainages and gets hikers even higher in elevation in the Boise Foothills.
The best place to start is at the main trailhead parking areas off Mountain Cove Road.
Shafer Butte/Bogus Basin
Although it’s a 16-mile drive from Boise to the ski area, it’s worth it for some of the best dog hiking around. Views from the mountain are fantastic, and the temperature is usually 10 degrees cooler than in the city. (Remember that in July when Boise is a hot, hot 100 degrees.) The mountain area is between 6,000 and 7,000 feet in elevation, unlike the valley floor at about 2,800 feet, making it ideal on fall days.
There are close to 30 miles of high elevation trails in the Shafer Butte area. Trails differ significantly from the rest of the Ridge to Rivers system in the Boise Foothills because they are located in the mountainous forests and meadows above Boise. Trail No. 98, which is called the “Around the Mountain Trail,” is 6.4 miles and features a panoramic view all around Shafer Butte. On some days hikers can get a view of the Sawtooths, but the Owyhee Mountains, west of Boise, are always within sight. The trail is reached by taking the following routes: Trail No. 91 the Deer Point Trail, No. 97 the Morning Start Trail, or via Pioneer Lodge. Get there by driving up Bogus Basin Road.
Also up Bogus Basin Road but closer to Boise is the Miller Gulch Trailhead. About a 3-mile drive from the start of Bogus Basin Road, the area’s trailhead has restrooms. Trails here provide excellent running for dogs and expansive views of the Foothills, the Boise Front, and the city. Lots of links to other trails also provide options to drop back down into town a variety of ways.
Parts of the historic Oregon Trail can be hiked with dogs on a high desert rim at Bonneville Point overlooking Boise Valley. It’s about 30 minutes east out of town off I-84 at the Blacks Creek exit (exit 64). The trailhead and kiosk offer lots of information on the Oregon Trail, but what’s more important is the wide open spaces for dogs. The trail follows the original ruts of the Oregon Trail from Bonneville Point back to Discovery Park along the Boise River and connects with the Greenbelt.
A City Outing
Don’t have time to get out of town or into the Foothills? Boise’s Ann Morrison Park goes to the dogs with its seasonal [off-leash program](http://
The east side of the park is open to off-leash through Feb. 28 and is actually a way to control the turf damage and a rather fowl issue as a result of hundreds of geese that settle in the park during winter, whose droppings do serious damage to the terrain. It’s a win-win (woof-woof?) for everyone: The dogs get a lot of exercise chasing geese and keeping them (and their harmful droppings) out of the park. Dogs are allowed off-leash from the park’s fountain to the east border of the park.