The Chinese philosopher Confucius is renowned for his wisdom and is credited with the saying, "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." Certainly, this little quip rings true when people skirt the edge of Mountain Home and head north on Hwy. 20 to the alluring Wood River Valley. Many people don't realize that a gorgeous, short hike to the top of Teapot Dome is less than five minutes off the paved road.
With a crest rising to 4,713 feet, Teapot Dome is sandwiched between the Mt. Bennett Hills and Mountain Home. The flat-topped butte dispenses panoramic views in nearly all directions, including south across prairie and desert to the entire front range of the Owyhee Mountains, and north to the much closer 7,438-foot Bennett Mountain and Mt. Bennett Hills.
A few things to note: First, there is no established trail to the summit. However, the open landscape makes off-trail route-finding relatively easy. Second, there are many small rocks along the hike, so be sure to wear sturdy hiking boots. Last, there is no shade. This is an excellent hike in mid-spring, when the yellow-flowering arrowleaf balsamroot blooms and contrasts with the nearby rhyolite cliffs.
Near the trailhead, notice the striking ryholite cliffs to the right. To the left (west) of the cliffs is a gully that you will ascend. This is the easiest route to the top of Teapot Dome. Teapot Dome is further west of the cliffs and is not as impressive when viewed from the parking area.
Begin the hike by walking across the open field toward the gully to the west of the cliffs. Pass below power lines and make a moderate elevation gain. There may be cattle in the open field. At a half mile, you will be at the base of the gully. On the right of the gully is a tiny trail, directly below the ryholite cliffs, but it is easier to walk on the left side. Ascend nearly 400 feet. This is the steepest segment of the hike, to the top of the ridge at eight-tenths of a mile. At this point you will be behind the ryholite cliffs, and the expansive views are striking.
To your left (northwest), you can see the prominent small cliffs surrounding Teapot's summit. Walk along the open ridge and veer toward the cliffs' right side (north) for easy access to the summit. This is an interesting walk as you hike through an understory of various grasses, sagebrush and lichen-covered rocks. As you cross the ridge, look for deer and antelope in Teapot Basin (north of the ridge) and on the open hillsides. Raptors often soar overhead, too. On the rocky summit, walk to the southern edge, where you will find a 3-foot rock cairn and a fine perch to enjoy the sensational views.
--Scott Marchant is the author of the upcoming release The Hiker's Guide Greater Boise