Boise, ID: Watchman Trail Loop

Just minutes from downtown, this 9.4-mile loop in the Boise foothills offers a quick escape from the city on one of the newest sections of the Ridge to Rivers trail system.

Escape the bustle of the city on this 9.5-mile foothills loop that's minutes from downtown Boise. The loop connects five trails in the Ridge to Rivers trail network and serves up sweet vistas of the city and the surrounding mountains along the way. From Shane's Trailhead, hike north past parched, sagebrush-dotted foothills on Shaw Mountain Road.
Roughly 2 miles in, the route turns left onto 5-Mile Gulch Trail. Following Fivemile Creek, the trail travels through dense, low-lying vegetation before cutting uphill and turning onto Watchman Trail just past mile 3. After a short climb to a ridgeline with overhead views of 5-Mile Gulch, pick up the Curlew Ridge Trail and head south. Grab endless panoramas of Boise and the surrounding plains as you trek south on the rolling ridgeline toward the Three Bears Trail. After 8.6 miles, savor your last views of the city to the west and the Danskin Mountains to the southeast before swinging a left onto Shane's Trail and returning to the trailhead.
Info: Ridge to Rivers Trail System
-Mapped by Mike Lanza

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 15.1
  • Miles from city center: 4



Location: 43.6234559, -116.1368179

Starting from the parking lot at Shane's Trailhead, head north on the dusty Shaw Mountain Road. The dirt road travels through a valley flanked by sparse brown hills.


Location: 43.6307638, -116.1062086

Turn left onto 5-Mile Gulch Trail @ the 3-way junction. Leave Shaw Mountain Road and head north between rolling hills dotted with arid shrubbery and low-lying vegetation. Expect to come across mountain bikers and runners on this stretch of trail.


Location: 43.6430049, -116.0985053

Continue straight on 5-Mile Gulch Trail.


Location: 43.6467121, -116.0925508

Continue straight on Watchman Trail. Completed in December 2008, the Watchman Trail is the newest section of Boise's extensive Ridge to Rivers trail system. It follows the Fivemile Creek before cutting uphill to link the Three Bear and 5-Mile Gulch trails.


Location: 43.6520958, -116.0919338

After 3.7 miles, the trail cuts left and climbs out of the gulch. Ahead, the trail traverses rolling foothills and offers views of the gully below.


Location: 43.6445538, -116.1100066

Nab sweeping panoramas of Boise from this ridgeline vantage point before swinging left onto Curlew Ridge Trail.


Location: 43.6431718, -116.1108327

Bear left onto Three Bears Trail. Heading south, you'll trace the ridgeline above Curlew Gulch. Although Boise's foothills are relatively barren, the creek drainages are home to a bounty of native flora.


Location: 43.6359509, -116.1143732

Bear right to stay on Three Bears Trail. To the east, savor scenic vistas of the Danskin Mountains.


Location: 43.6280574, -116.1442101

Turn left onto Shane's Trail to complete the last mile of the hike. To the west, catch expansive panoramas of downtown Boise and the seemingly endless plains.