One of the first things people notice when looking from downtown Boise to the top of Table Rock is that the peak is close--less than three miles.
Other than Camelback Mountain in Phoenix or Twin Peaks in San Francisco, there may not be a better urban hiking experience so close to a major city in America. Mind you, the 3,652-foot peak is no Mt. Borah, but this unique piece of geography delivers the goods when it comes to picturesque vistas.
From the crest of the flat-topped mountain, vistas extend south and southwest on clear days to the Owyhee Mountains nearly 50 miles away. Looking north, the forested ridgeline of the Boise mountains seems close enough to touch.
Hikers can create a diverse four-mile, 900-foot-gain loop hike and escape the crowds by integrating several non-motorized trails. There are a few steep sections, but they only last a quarter mile or so. The route weaves between lichen-covered boulders, transitions through sagebrush, circles around Table Rock and descends an open hillside with superlative views. If you plan on being at the top of Table Rock at sunset, you will be in for a memorable treat when the sun sets.
From the trailhead, ascend on the Tram Trail (No. 14), 1.2 miles to a junction with the Table Rock Quarry Trail (No. 17). Continue straight as the trail veers left and travels on the backside of Table Rock to a parking area near the peak's apex. Cross the parking area and continue northwest to the edge of the peak, perched 1,000 feet over the downtown skyline of Boise. After enjoying the remarkable views, descend on the Table Rock Trail (No. 15), passing several placards with information on the geological history of the area.
Turn left on the Table Rock Trail (No. 16) to a junction with the Rock Garden Trail (No. 16A). Turn right and the trail immediately splits; take the left fork (No. 16B) and descend back to the Tram Trail. Turn right and hike back a half-mile to the trailhead.
There will be many intersecting trails, both unsigned and signed, which can be confusing. The Ridge to Rivers trail map does not list all of these intersections. However, it is difficult to get lost as the open terrain and looming Table Rock always give you a reference to your location. Avoid the trails during winter months when temperatures rise above freezing--they are likely to be muddy and can be easily damaged.
The trailhead is reached from the intersection of Warm Springs and Broadway avenues, by driving east on Warm Springs 2.1 miles to the Warm Springs Golf Course. Turn right and park in the large parking area. The trailhead is on the opposite side of Warm Springs.
Scott Marchant is the author of three hiking guidebooks for Central Idaho, as well as the upcoming The Hiker's Guide to Greater Boise. Visit hikingidaho.com for more info.