Nature preserves and trail systems in urban areas are literally a breath of fresh air. The more than 190 miles of trails in the Ridge to Rivers trail system in the Boise foothills just north of the city are a perfect example. With a short drive or bike ride from town, it’s easy to get a nature fix in a native sagebrush steppe ecosystem.
The trails on the Ridge to Rivers trail system range from short family-friendly walks to strenuous treks. And spring is an ideal time to hit one of the trails; wildflowers pop up among the sagebrush and paint the hillsides in shades of pink, yellow and blue.
For an easy interpretive hike, take the pedestrian-only Hulls Gulch Interpretive Trail. This 3.8-mile trail winds through unique rock formations and crosses several bridges as it follows Hulls Creek. Along the way, interpretive signs teach you about the unique natural history of the Boise Foothills and surrounding valley, a fun learning experience for kids.
Mountain bikers, equestrians and even motorized vehicles can use some of the trails in the system; regulations are clearly designated at trailheads and on the Ridge to Rivers website. While hiking on any of the trails in the Boise foothills, there’s a good chance of spotting wildlife. Common sightings include great horned owls, kestrel, coyotes, mule deer, red fox and several species of snakes and lizards.
Hulls Gulch Reserve is a 292-acre site at the base of the foothills, operated by Boise Parks and Recreation. In the Reserve, the Jim Hall Foothills Learning Center focuses on environmental learning. The Center offers a Native Plant Garden, Self-Led Story Trail and a picnic area.
When hiking any of the Ridge to Rivers trails, bring plenty of water; you are in a desert ecosystem. To find more information about the Ridge to Rivers trail system and locations of trailheads, visit ridgetorivers.org. To learn more about the Hulls Gulch Reserve, visit parks.cityofboise.org. To plan your stay in Boise, go to boise.org.