Exploring Boise National Forest: A Guide

BOISE | Boise National Forest is located less than a two hour drive from downtown Boise, Idaho. It’s a great place to visit for those looking to explore the great outdoors. This guide will give you an overview of what Boise National Forest has to offer. Read ahead for some of the best places to visit and things to do.

Created on July 1, 1908, from part of Sawtooth National Forest, Boise National Forest covers and area of 8,918.07 km2 (2,203,703 acres). It’s the site of several mountain ranges, sagebrush steppe and spruce-fir forests. In the forest, you’ll find over 250 lakes, steams, and rivers.

There are a lot of recreational activities on offer in Boise National Forest. Visitors can camp at over 70 campgrounds, rent a cabin, go rafting, and fish. There’s around 2,100 km (1,300 miles) of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, and opportunities for offroad vehicle adventures.

Plan Your Stay

Depending on where you enter the forest, you’ll have a different suite of activities available to you. If you’re heading in from Boise, you’ll pass by either the Idaho City Ranger District and Office, or the US Forest Services Ranger Station on Lowman Road. Stop in, grab a physical map (mobile phone reception can be patchy in the forest), and have a chat with the staff about anything you should particularly be aware of at the time.

Passes And Permits

While Boise National Forest is free to enter and drive through, you’ll need to research whether any passes or permits are required for the activities that you want to do. Most areas require the payment of a Standard Amenity Fee, which is a few dollars. You can purchase these online, or in cash at each site. This is for things like parking at picnic areas, developed trailheads, and destination visitor centres.

Other activities, like camping, boating, shooting, and rock climbing, require different passes. Be sure to do your research before you arrive.

Enjoy The Scenic Byways

While driving into and through the forest, you’ll be wowed by the diverse landscapes and scenery along the byways. Driving from Boise, via Idaho Falls, you’ll follow the spectacular Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway. The other two scenic byways are the Payette River Scenic Byway and Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway. Take the time to appreciate the drive, and set aside time to stop as there are lots of activities along the scenic routes.

Trails

There’s 2,100 km (1,300 miles) of multiple-use trails in Boise National Forest. You can walk and cycle on all of them, and many are open to motorised vehicle recreational activities such as motorbiking and ATV riding.

For hikers, there’s a diverse assortment of trails of varying altitude, length, and difficulty. Some of the most beautiful and popular hikes are the Crooked River Trail, Freddy’s Stack Rock Trail, Adelmann Mine, Lucky Peak Loop Hike, and the Mount Heinen Hike.

If you’re after something easy and relaxing, more of a walk than a hike, check out the Bonneville Hot Springs Hike.

Water Activities

Swimming, paddleboarding, fishing, boating, rafting, and kayaking are just some of the water activities that you can engage in while visiting Boise National Forest. Be it relaxing in a lake, or navigating white-water rapids, you’ll find something to match the level of thrills that you’re seeking.

Deadwood Reservoir, Anderson Ranch Reservoir and Warm Lake are great spots for motorised boating and relaxing on the beach. If it’s non-motorised boating you’re after, Sagehen Reservoir is a great options.

For swimming, check out the relaxing Kirkham Hot Springs. If it’s fishing you’re into, then the various forks of the Payette River, Boise River, and South Fork Salmon River all provide ample opportunities to catch fish like salmon and trout.

Winter Fun

There’s no shortage of winter activities for those visiting Boise National Forest when the snow hits and the temperatures drop. Snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and downhill and cross-country skiing are just some of the activities on offer.

One of the most accessible and popular areas is Bogus Basin. It’s partially located in Boise National Forest and just north of Boise. At Bogus Basin, you’ll find 10 ski lifts, 90 named runs, 81 hectares (200 acres) of night skiing, and over 37km (23 miles) of groomed Nordic trails.

For a winter stay, you can hire a cabin, or even stay in a Mongolian-style yurt.

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