Hike Seven: Around the Mountain (Boise, ID)

I love summer, or I love the idea of summer. Summers mean water sports, camping, hiking, biking…all the things we long to do in the winter as we snuggle under blankets with fires roaring. Then summer actually comes and temperatures in Boise and southern Idaho hit 100+ degrees, and the collective groan from everyone can be heard through the valley (or me yelling “fuck this noise” repeatedly as I ride my bike home from work, sweating so hard my feet keep slipping out of my sandals). It’s hot. It’s so hot my energy level is at practically 0, and I just want to stay inside, AC blasting, longing for the crisp, clean, cool air of fall. It’s so hot my tomato plants have to be watered twice a day; their wilted leaves a constant reminder that the sun is a persistent bastard. Not to mention, our usually quiet and relaxing evening walks through the whitewater park turn from a leisurely stroll to a battle of wits and agility as we have to maneuver through the 900 people who descend on the tranquil little pond, setting up their massive sun shades and chairs and floaty devices—sometimes right in the middle of the walking path—because it’s not like anyone else exists for these people).

Hiking and biking in Boise is difficult in the dead of summer, particularly if you work full-time and the only available hours for recreation are before 8:00 a.m. (ughhhh mornings) and after 5:00 p.m. (holy helllll the heat). I can’t even count how many times Emily and I have both agreed to attempt a bike ride later in the evening (when it cools down to a frigid 95 degrees) only to hit 8:00 and decide, nah, let’s go read in bed. I’m fairly certain I actually gain more weight in the summer than I do in the winter.

Luckily, Bogus Basin recreation area is a quick 30-minute drive from downtown and the temperatures, which sometimes reach 20 degrees cooler than in Boise, offer a sweet, sweet relief from the unrelenting heat in the valley. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you’re Bogus Basin) the word on this once quiet summer recreation area is out, and the mountain trails are often packed with mountain bikers and novice hikers (some of whom ride the chairlift up to the top and then walk down—to each their own, I suppose). One trail that hasn’t seen too much hiker traffic is Around the Mountain, which also happens to be our favorite trail. It’s not that it is an unknown or secret trail that deters hikers and walkers—it’s probably the 9-miles and roughly 2 hours one must dedicate to complete this loop “around the mountain” (clever).

A few years ago, I worked as a staff accountant for a CPA firm in town, and due to the slow nature of the accounting business during the summer (post-tax season, thank god), we would get off work at noon on Fridays for about three months. Every Friday, I would drive up to Bogus and hike Around the Mountain. Rarely would I see another person, mostly due to the time of day but also because generally people aren’t thrilled to carve out a large chunk of their Friday evening to drive 30 minutes, go hiking for 2 hours, and then drive another 30 minutes. I loved it, though. Around the Mountain is one of my absolute favorite trails, so I am going to share with all of you some pointers, and definitely recommend this hiking trail.

Around the Mountain starts at the lower lodge right near the large parking area at Bogus Basin. The area in front of the lodge and surrounding the chairlifts used to be a giant dirt and rock patch, but has since been transformed into a sort of park-like atmosphere, with places for people to set up chairs and sunshades and enjoy picnics or food and beverages from the lodge (as a side note, if you follow Bogus Basin on Facebook, they routinely have small concerts and live music playing up on the mountain).

The trail picks up to the left of the chairlift (if you’re staring directly at the lift), and there are laminated signs fastened to sticks set up to guide you in the right direction. The path winds around the front of the mountain by the new tube slide and under the chairlift (you may find yourself wondering why you didn’t just plow up the side of the hill and pick up the trail elsewhere—I can’t answer that question, but I must be a stringent rule follower, or path follower, because I’ve never just cut up to the trail). Around the Mountain will eventually curve around the right side of the mountain, and stunning views of the valley below greet eager hikers. This part of the path reminds me a bit of hiking in Northern California, at least in the beginning of the summer when the trees and plants are still super green. There are plenty of signs which indicate which direction you should go to continue on the path—you’ll hit your first fork in the trail and you can either head up towards to the top of the Deer Point chairlift, or you can continue on the trail. There is a fair amount of shade on this part of the hike, but it is short lived as the trail eventually curves towards the back of the mountain.

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There are a few spots where the direction of the trail is a bit unclear—where you need to cross dirt roads or over gates; don’t follow the roads, follow the trail. The roads lead somewhere, but I have no clue where. Bogus is fairly good about making sure all their trails are well-marked. The other section where the trail gets a bit muddy is right around the 6-7 mile mark, when you pop out at the other side of the mountain and make your way back down to the lodge. This area used to be well-marked with a sign indicating which direction to go (as the trail merges onto what I think is a service road as well as with another trail), but we either missed the sign or it had fallen over because we ended up getting on another trail which took us uphill above the Around the Mountain trail. It was not super fun to add an extra massive, steep hill into our hike after 7 miles, but we eventually made our way around to the upper lodge (Pioneer Lodge). Having hiked this several times, I knew we had gone the wrong way somewhere when I couldn’t see the chairlift anymore. The trail should take you underneath this particular chairlift and to Pioneer Lodge. If you think you’re lost, just look for the lodge (there is cell phone services, so if push comes to shove, you can type in the lodge and follow the directions back).

I could post photos all day from this trail, but that would take the fun out of all the surprising and breathtaking views along this hike. So for now, here are a few photos below followed by my pointers.

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Beautiful, right? Absolutely worth the 9-miles!

Here are my suggestions if you decide to embark on this trail:

  1. Bring hiking poles. I know, I know, hiking poles are dorky and this isn’t a long walk. Well, hiking poles ARE NOT dorky, and it sure beats a rolled ankle or a sprained knee. There are several areas of this trail that are a bit rocky and unstable, and hiking poles will be a lifesaver. Not to mention, they will prevent (to some extent) your hands from swelling.
  2. Bring lots of water. This should be a given on any hike, but make sure you have plenty of water. Once you’re out on the trail, there are precious few water sources.
  3. If you’re someone who is prone to low blood sugar, definitely bring a snack. There are several areas where you can stop and take in the amazing views while munching on a Clif Bar.
  4. Hats are recommended. The majority of this hike is not shaded, and a hat will save your life. I wear a Buff (because I sweat) under my hat.
  5. Watch out for mountain bikers! I used to wear headphones on this hike, but after almost being run over multiple times by speeding mountain bikers, I decided to just take in all the sounds. This is a very, very popular trail for mountain bikers, so you’ll need to be prepared to pull off to the side several times to allow them to pass.
  6. Lastly, you may think it’s a good idea to take the road from the upper lodge back down to the lower lodge but it is not. Don’t do it! In my mind, I thought the road would be faster than taking the switchbacks down the hill; it was not. Quite opposite, I think we would have added an extra 30 minutes of walking down the road to our hike had a family in a truck not offered to drive us back down.

This trail now also holds extra sentiment, as it is where Emily proposed to me!

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If you’re looking for a beginner-to-intermediate hike during the melting hot days of summer, go check out Around the Mountain, or any of the trails at Bogus Basin.

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