There is nothing quite like a day of enjoying the backwoods, nature, and the unique wonders of the wilderness. The trails of the Boise National Forest within the Cascade Ranger District wrap and weave from the valley to the mountain peaks and offer delightful scenery and sounds of nature, as well as a few trails that pass by creeks, meadows, and alpine lakes. The charm of a journey through the forest within the early morning hours may present foggy canyons lined in dew-covered grasses with cool air that can make trekking the area trails a bit more pleasant, especially during the warmer months.
The habitat of Idaho's woodlands welcomes visitors to take part in collaborative activities, educational trails, discover new plants, trek to a mountain peak, spot or come across area animals or encounters from a safe distance, and discover neat gems within nature; as well as take time to enjoy the peace and serenity often offered while offered the woods. A neat experience and opportunity that may present when exploring the forest is the chance to come across mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and other rare animal sightings.
The woods and all the beauty that surrounds await! The symbiosis of self-contained miniature ecosystems presents itself throughout the forest with a diverse presentation. Moss growing on a tree, lichens (fungus, alga, bacteria) draped over branches, and the decomposing matter that helps feed growth for new saplings and wildflowers. Thus, highlighting the importance of prudent care of the delicate environment and embracing a greater appreciation for the natural world. Taking care of the wilderness starts with the motto 'leave no trace' as it is essential to consider the bigger picture of ways we can help take care of the forest while enjoying the benefits of trail exploration. Furthermore, some of the best ways to help preserve this biological community of life start with choices such as packing in and out, following posted guidelines, putting out fires ultimately, and staying on the trail.
Trail etiquette includes when and if a trail horse rider appears, to greet the rider in order to satisfy letting the horse know that a person is approaching; and if bicycling or backpacking, stop and let the horse(s) pass in peaceful quiet surroundings so as not to scare the animal, primarily due in part that when a pony gets frightened, generally the instinct is to run away. Additional courtesy might include allowing extra room between backpackers and motorcyclists who may be carrying heavy or bulky packs, extending polite behavior when coming near a campsite, and being aware of the surroundings.
Bear Creek / Warm Lake Trail
A Little over twenty miles from the north end of the community of Cascade and a couple of hours from the greater Boise area, along highway 22 rests Warm Lake, with a host of campgrounds dotting the shoreline. Bear Creek / Warm Lake Trail is situated at the southeast portion of Warm Lake along FH22 (Forest Highway 22), with the trailhead nestled adjacent to Warm Lake Creek. This portion of the forest attracts the attention of a vast population of folks due to the large selection of activity opportunities. Find opportunities for additional area activities, including mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, berry expeditions, nature trips, camping, weekend adventures, off-road vehicle riding opportunities, area hot springs, and water sports. Due primarily to the outstanding commitment to maintain and preserve the area's habitat, the quality, cleanliness, and overall rating of this trail and its surroundings continue to present positive reviews.
Various species of saplings and mature trees lifeline the dirt road with stunning scenic views of the surrounding mountains with mountain grass predominant in the area as the primary ground cover, except for snow in the colder months. Every day will present opportunities to expand knowledge about the diversity of wildlife and ecosystems and offer some interpretive signage with area information.
The collective melody of the forest may present the sounds of buzzing swarms of ladybugs, flocks of birds splashing in the waters at the lake, ant colonies rummaging over leaves, elk herds migrating through the valley, gaggles of geese flying overhead, knots of toads croaking at night, and the rustling winds crashing through the pine tree needles and discovering an Osprey flying overhead, Eagles, and other incredible birds of prey. Area wildlife sightings report moose, elk, mountain squirrels, and coyotes. A few larger animals are known to include deer, beaver, bobcats, and cougars.
Molded into the fabric of the woods, sounds of the creek linger as the water trickles down the hillside, river water crashes across the rocks lining the riverbeds and downed trees, as well as the occasional sounds that the rain makes as it crashes to the ground in a beautiful symphony of cascading water droplets. Furthermore, the uninterrupted sounds of the wild have a way of invigorating the senses into a greater appreciation for the wholeness of the surroundings.
Area campgrounds and activity opportunities
If planning a multi-day trip and wanting to stay near the Donnelly area, the Amanita Campground is a fee-based location that accepts reservations. Amanita Campground is an excellent location for taking breaks before and after trekking the trails and offers trash receptacles and drinking water during the open season. South Fork Salmon River Campground, Ponderosa Pine Campground (includes tent campsites), Shoreline Campground (trailer parking, group sites, picnic shelter, tables, campground rings, boat ramp), Picnic Point Campground (tent-only campsites, water access, tables, fire rings), and Warm Lake Campground (twelve individual sites & tents only sites) are a few campgrounds that might be of interest if planning an overnight stay. The seasonal North Shore Lodge also calls this area home and boasts private cabins, a cafe, grocery store, and meal bar, with rentals available.
Area bodies of water
If a full day of adventure is in the plans, consider bringing water toys, a boat, kayak, paddleboard, fishing pole, canoe, and oars for an afternoon atop the water at Warm Lake for a multi-adventure packed day.
Big Creek Summit Trail
Big Creek Summit Trail, not to be confused with Big Creek Loop Trail near May, Idaho, is not for the faint of heart, breaching 7962 ft above sea level, and the requirement of a knowledgeable and experienced outdoor enthusiast; the vagueness of the unmarked trail requires the use of a compass, in addition to steep trekking ascents, trail without tread, and inconsistent trail. Bring along the Gold Fork Rock topography map, check forest service reports and weather advisories, pack accordingly, and be sure to tell someone where the route is and when the expected return time will be. The unmarked trailhead is accessible from the community of Cascade along State Highway 55, continuing about half a mile to the junction at Forest Highway 22 (Warm Lake Highway), along the north side of the road, near a few dispersed campsites, parking may be limited. The approx. 3.3 +/- mile trail ends and connects with Forest Service Road 497A.
The trail begins within a meadow beaming with tall grasses and some wildflowers, depending on the time of year. Along the path, several ridges will present themselves, as well as a few drainages, creeks, and streams, not to mention views down into the valley below.