This hike is a popular destination in Boise and from Scott Marchant’s book The Hiker’s Guide to Greater Boise.
Table Rock Loop
- Distance: 4.1 miles loop
- Total Elevation Gain: 900 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation Range: 2,750 feet to 3,650 feet
- Topographic Map: Boise South
- Time: 1 hour to 30 minutes to 2 hours
- Season: All Year
- Water Availability: None
- Cautionary Advice: During winter, avoid the area when temperatures are above freezing as the trails contain a significant amount of clay and are easily damaged. Be aware of thunderstorm activity while on the Table Rock mesa.
- Information: ridgetorivers.cityofboise.org
- Restroom: No
Table Rock Loop
One of the first things you notice when looking from downtown Boise to the top of Table Rock: this flat-topped mesa 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. Mind you, the 3,652-mesa is no Mt. Borah, but this unique piece of geography delivers the goods when it comes to views.
From the top of Table Rock, vistas extend south and southwest on clear days beyond the plains of the Treasure Valley to the Owyhee Mountains, nearly fifty miles away. Looking north, the forested ridgeline of the Boise Mountains seems close enough to touch. Of course, the mesa’s proximity to Boise keeps the area busy, especially on the weekends. The majority of users approach the peak from the Old Penitentiary trailhead. Use the Warms Springs Golf Course trailhead to escape the crowds and experience a more scenic hike.
By combining several non-motorized trails, you can create a diverse loop. There 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 and open hillside covered with hundreds of boulders. Try to plan on being at the top of Table Rock at sunset; you will be in for a special treat as the sun sets on the horizon.
From the intersection of Warm Springs Road and Broadway Avenue, drive east of Warm Springs Road 2.1 miles to the Warm Springs Golf Course. Turn right and park in the large parking area. The trailhead is on the north side of Warm Springs Road.
Cross Warm Springs Road and gain elevation as the trail veers northeast. The trail passes through a scenic quarter-mile segment with many boulders covered in lichen with shades of gold, black, grey, green and silver. Interestingly, lichens are not plants, but compound organisms: a symbiosis of fungus living with a colony of algae or cyanobacteria – sometimes both. It is estimated that more than 3,600 species of lichen exist in the United States and Canada and approximately 17,000 are found worldwide.
At 0.5 mile, you reach two junctions, one signed, one not. Continue straight through both, traveling north up a broad gulch towards Table Rock. Arrive a signed junction at 0.9 mile at the base of Table Rock. Continue on the Tram Trail, a fitting name as the steep route gains 400 feet to a junction at 1.2 miles with the Table Rock Quarry Trail. Continue straight on the east side of the mountain (look to your left for a couple of footpaths that ascend to an overlook of the Table Rock Quarry) and then veer left on the backside of the mountain. Reach the parking area near the top of the mesa at 1.7 miles.
Cross the parking area, continue west on the dirt road and arrive at the edge of Table Rock, perched at 1,000 feet over the downtown skyline of Boise. After enjoying the remarkable vistas, continue along the southwest rim of the flat plateau and make a steep descent on the Table Rock Trail. As you descend, you will pass several placards with informative information on the geological history of the area. At the bottom of the descent, reach a signed junction. Continue straight to the next signed junction with the Table Rock Loop Trail.
Turn left, heading east through sagebrush. Follow the trail through the first junction and turn right at the next junction with the Table Rock Loop. Within a few yards, turn left and begin a descent on the Rock Island Trail. The singletrack trail quickly comes to a grouping of rocks with great views west and south. From here, the trail switchbacks back down 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 that can be confusing. The Ridge to Rivers trail map does not list all of these intersections as most of the side trails are unauthorized. However, it is difficult to get lost as the open terrain and looming Table Rock always gives you a reference point.
Visit hikingidaho.com or our literature section from the Hiking tab above to learn more.
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