Occasionally Emily and I get these wild ideas. For instance: what if instead of hiking one day and running the next day, we combine our five-mile run with a hike and call it a…wait for it…TRAIL RUN! Sometimes our genius astounds even us. We had a very, very lazy weekend, or probably more aptly put, a very lazy Saturday. If we didn’t have prior engagements Saturday night, I’m fairly certain neither one of us would have put on pants. It was that sort of day.
Emily and I are training for the Eugene Half Marathon at the end of April, and training isn’t going terribly, through I’m sure there’s room for improvement. We’ve slowly been increasing our mileage on our long runs over the weekends; case in point, neither one of us are Runners with a capital “R,” so attempting anything over three miles usually requires a great deal of mental prepping and intestinal fortitude. I grappled between running and hiking on Sunday (we had to do something to make up for not leaving the living room for almost 8 hours), but then had the incredible idea to run up in the foothills! Not only would we get some hill training in, but we could totally count it as a hike (on our way to 100 hikes in 2018!) and if we were slow, well, it would obviously be due to the elevation change.
We are very, very fortunate to live in Boise. I say this all the time, but having lived other places, there really is no place like the City of Trees. One of my favorite things about my city is the fact that the foothills are five minutes from my work and ten minutes from our house. Miles upon miles upon miles of trails through endless rolling hills and mountains means you will never, ever get bored. Hiking to the top of one of the many trails and seeing Boise below, nestled perfectly between mountain ranges, is breathtaking. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve turned to Emily when we’ve ascended a peak and gazed down and exclaimed “wow! We LIVE here!” Whether it’s mountain biking or hiking or running or even just taking your dogs out for a walk, there are trail levels for everyone, depending on how much you want to push yourself.
One of my favorite loops is Shane’s to Three Bears from the Military Reserve. This is an excellent 3-ish, 5-ish, or 7-ish mile loop, so if you’re feeling amazing after three miles but just not feeling the five, there’s an option to go back down sooner. I really enjoy having this sort of flexibility and instantaneous decision making when out running. Emily is also super motivating when she says “fuck yeah, let’s DO the five!” Which is what we did on Sunday. To access the super-cool interactive trail map of the Boise Foothills, CLICK HERE to be redirected to the Ridge to River’s webpage.
We usually park at the Military Reserve at the second parking lot on Mountain Cove Road and start our run there (Google Maps calls this “Cottonwood Creek Trailhead”).
There are three different paths you can take to get to the same spot, but I enjoy taking the Toll Road Trail, because it’s relatively flat and gives you a nice chance to warm up before gasp hills! You’ll run along Toll Road Trail for a little under a mile before taking a left when the trail ends and heading up one of my favorite hills to hate: Ridgecrest.
This is a windy, gradual climb and connects you to a couple of different trails at the top of the hill. I love this hill because it will kick your ass. I hate this hill because it will kick your ass. But it’s a good hill if you’re pressed for time (it’s relatively short) and need to get a run in in a short amount of time.
We opted to continue on after Ridgecrest and took a right on Central Ridge Trail. Central Ridge is a nice incline with stunning views of the mountains. I would estimate it it’s about two miles from the start of your run to where Central Ridge connects with Shane’s.
From Shane’s you can decide to turn around and head down (the 3-ish mile loop) or you can continue on Shane’s to intersect at Three Bears, which is what we decided to do (you also have the option of continuing uphill on Shane’s, which will give you around a seven-mile loop. The hill climb here, though, is something out of a horror film).
Three Bears has the option, when you reach the fork in the trail, to continue to the right and up (for a strenuous seven-mile loop, which I actually LOVE doing on my mountain bike—running, not so much) or you can turn left and it loops back down to the police shooting range.
We opted to head down, because five miles was about our max. Emily led the way down, and that chick can FLY! I was sprinting trying to keep up with her, and my old lady knees were having none of it. I had to walk the last part of Three Bears because it’s pretty much a rocky, curvy decline that will destroy all joints. Probably another reason I enjoy bike riding exponentially more than running in the foothills.
Once you get to the bottom of Three Bears, you can follow the road (or the trail) all the way back to the initial parking area. This run/hike came out to about 5.25 miles, which is a bit shorter distance than we were aiming for, but with the combination of hills and running, we both felt very accomplished.
There are so many trails in the foothills, we will try to touch on every one that we do. They can be very, very intimidating for someone who has never been out to explore (that was me almost seven years ago), but once you’re out and feel comfortable and you’re not worried about getting lost or getting injured or being eaten by mountain lions (I don’t think there are mountain lions, but coyotes are definitely a concern for those of you who let your dogs run off leash), it’s some of the most relaxing and mind-clearing times you’ll spend in nature.