Happy Hiking: Homestead Trail

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Many people have asked me how I decide where to go while on my road trip in VANgo.  Generally speaking, I’m going in search of 70 degree weather, wildflowers, and fall color in autumn.  Today, in the second week of May, I found those wildflowers at Homestead Trail.

Homestead Trail is located only 7 miles from Boise in the Boise National Forest, better known as the Boise foothills on the outskirts of the city.  The trailhead is found in a residential neighborhood.  The area very much reminded me of the foothills surrounding Golden, CO, though not as crowded.

The Hike Up Homestead Trail

The 4.2 mile roundtrip hike begins on a dirt road.  As the road climbs 920 feet, the path narrows, though the trail is wider than a single track.  Normally, I don’t like walking up a road with no shade in desert type conditions.

The Homestead Trail, however, was quite beautiful.  Lupine, yarrow and mule’s ear blanketed the rolling green hills.  A smattering of pink phlox also lined the trail. As we made our slow climb, we passed less than a dozen people and took in some views of the city.  It was a nice, quiet Monday morning. 

At the top of the hill, Homestead Trail connects with another trail and road, as there are a network of trails through the foothills.  While I had intended to return the way I came, I saw I could make a loop. 

at the top of homestead trail

The Descent

It would be fun to have a slight change of scenery, but I was nervous about leaving some of the wildflowers behind as they were specific to certain hillsides.  I risked it and descended a single track trail for much of the way, which I enjoyed.  There weren’t as many wildflowers on this path, but still several.

It slowly widened and clearly had been used by a tractor or something based on some large tire tracks. In the end it seemed to be an undesignated trail.  I ended up at a locked gate and barbed wire fence.  The fence had been separated by other trail users, so I slipped through and back onto the Homestead Trail.

Camping on Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway

Regardless, Annie and I had a nice hike on Homestead Trail before heading up Highway 21, aptly named Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, to find some camping in the cooler mountains.  Unfortunately, much of the dispersed camping, at least on Grimes Creek, has been closed due to inconsiderate campers.  I’ve heard this is happening in Colorado too.  What a shame!

I eventually found the Grayback Gulch Campground, just southwest of Idaho City.  The campground, mostly shaded by ponderosa pines, is operated by the forest service.  It has about 20 designated sites, cell service, several pit toilet bathrooms, and some water spigots. 

vango at grayback gulch campground

While nice enough, I was hoping for some solitude.  So far there have been barking dogs (sometimes Annie included), chainsaw operations by campers wanting firewood, and some playful children. It is a pretty good location though, and one of the few with cell service, so I will stick around for a few days before I continue toward Sun Valley, Idaho.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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