Since I was spending Memorial Day weekend at my
uncle's house in Fairfield, and had the Soldier Mountains
at the doorstep, it only made since to find
a peak in that range to ascend. Having already climbed
Smoky Dome and knowing that Iron Mountain was a 20
mile hike, I discovered Peak 9467, which fit into my
time allotment and seemed to be in a scenic area. Locals call this peak Boardman Peak, which I will use going forth.
From the maps, I ascertained that Boardman Peak was
accessible, a real peak (more than 300 foot of prominence), and should provide a
challenge. The peak sits just west of Boardman Pass,
on the high divide that contains Iron Mountain and
Smoky Dome. Two trails get near the peak, the Bremner
Trail passes the southern base of the peak and the Sheep Trail passes its east flanks. I was able to find the trailhead for the
Sheep Trail (which goes to Boardman Pass from near the
Ear Creek Corrals) and it turned out to be a well
built, well treaded, and well maintained trail. I got the name Sheep Trail from signs along the trail, but my uncle referred to the trail as the Coyote Trail.
Boardman Peak turned out to be very worthwhile. It
commanded great views of Iron Mountain, Smoky Dome,
and much of the alpine-like north side of the Soldier
range. The summit ridge was a mess of rock fins,
towering snow drifts, and twisted pine trees. Both
sides dropped off quickly, with the southside a grass
and brush covered slope down to forests and the north
a talus and snow covered dropoff down to a alpine
basin. In view were Trinity Mountain, Steel Mountain,
Castle Peak dozens of miles north, and even
Quicksilver Mountain in the Owyhees a hundred miles to
the southwest. The Pioneers to the east were seeing
snow at the time and not visible.
Doing this hike reminded me of two things... The
Soldier Mountains are an incredible wonderland that
are mostly ignored by hikers for whatever
reason. The road access on this hike is superb , the
views incredible, and the trail a highway by Idaho
trail standards. If this trail was in the Sawtooths,
it would see hundreds of hikers each weekend.
Time: 5 hours (2:45 up, 45 min. on top, 1:30 down)
Length: 9.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 4000 feet (3400 feet gain with 600 feet of gain on return)
Class (difficulty): 2
From Highway 20, turn north (left if coming from Boise, right if coming
from Fairfield) at virtual mile marker 144.2 on 800 W.
Follow 800 W for 1.9 miles to 200 N. Turn left. Follow
200 N for 2.7 miles and turn right onto 1800 W. Drive
1 mile and pass a large parking lot. Just past the
parking lot, turn left onto the road signed "Chimney
Creek/Ear Creek Corrals". This road is dirt, but free
of rock, so accessible by cars. Follow the road for about 8.5
miles to the Ear Creek Corrals. Just past the Ear Creek Corrals, the road banks
left. At 9.5 miles you reach the trailhead, which consists a registration box (empty) and message board (nothing posted on it). The Sheep
Trail is the right fork heading north, not the road continuing west.
From the trailhead, follow the Sheep Trail heading
north and immediately ford a creek. You will see a
small corral on your left. Just after the creek and
corral, the trail forks, take the left fork. The
trail heads northwest, then descends down to the South Fork of Lime Creek, which it crosses at 1.4 miles. After crossing the creek the trail heads north onto the a beautiful ridge with small granite
towers. On this ridge, the views start opening up
around you. Eventually the trail side cuts this ridge
as it angles toward Boardman Pass. Gain the ridge above you at some point before Point 8492 and make your way to the saddle just north of that point. From that saddle, either follow the ridge to Point 9231 or angle across to the saddle between Boardman Peak and 9231. From the saddle, follow the
ridge westerly to the summit of Boardman Peak. I'm not sure
what this looks like in the summer, but it was a
mellow walk atop huge snowdrifts in May of a low snow year.
Pictures: Click on the pictures below to see the full-size version.