While the weather's good: Explore the Silver City Sawpit Mountain Loop

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October can bring some of the best weather for hiking in Idaho, and right now, we’re enjoying some spectacular fall days with crisp mornings and warm afternoons. There’s still time to get out and enjoy a hike in the mountains before colder winter weather is sure to come in November.

Among all of the hikes that we tackled for my guide, “The Owyhee Canyonlands — an Outdoor Adventure Guide,” an 8.5-mile trip that circumnavigates Sawpit Mountain in the Silver City area stands out as one of my all-time favorites.

I’d recommend getting out and trying that hike while the beautiful fall weather holds. The trip requires a two-hour drive (one-way from Boise) to Silver City with a high-clearance vehicle. The hike took my partner Wendy and I about 4.5 hours at an average pace. I rated the hike strenuous. Be sure to wear bright colors since the fall hunting seasons are happening in that area. (You can also do a shorter loop.)

The appeal of the Sawpit Mountain Loop is multi-fold:

Unique setting

You get to start/finish in the quaint historic ghost town of Silver City, where the hotel on main street may or may not be open for a beer after the hike. The historic structures and vacation homes up there are fun to explore just by walking around the dirt streets.

Excellent scenery!

You’ll hike along Jordan Creek on the way up through aspen groves, junipers and pines. At the top of the hike, you’ll see big views of the Owyhee Mountains and the Delamar Mine area. And then you’ll see more fall colors in Sawpit Gulch on the way back to Silver City.

Great workout

You’ll climb about 1,800 vertical feet while circumnavigating Sawpit Mountain.

The views and scenery along the way make the trip super enjoyable. You’ll barely realize that you’re working during the uphill part of the climb, especially as you reach the top of the hike, with such huge views all-around.

Be sure to pack a lunch, carry plenty of water, and bring a cooler full of post-hike drinks and snacks.

There are a number of areas where you could self-support camp outside of Silver City, so that’s a possibility if you’re a hardy fall camper. Dress warm!

Getting there

From Boise, take I-84 east to the Franklin Road (City Center) exit in Nampa. Go south and follow Franklin into downtown Nampa. Follow signs for State Highway 45 to Murphy and take 12th Avenue south, which eventually turns into Highway 45. Travel several miles south to the Snake River crossing. Turn left at the Y-junction for Idaho 78 and head for Murphy. About five miles past Murphy, turn right at the signed junction for Silver City. It’s about 20 miles to Silver City. The first half is paved, and then it turns to an uneven, rocky dirt road. Allow two hours travel time from Boise. As you descend into Silver City, turn left at the ATV parking area and drive into town. Follow Jordan Street past main street, and continue along Jordan Creek to a BLM parking area. The hike starts and finishes here.

On the way up Jordan Creek, you will encounter several areas where the property is posted “No Trespassing.” Be sure to stay on the main road.

Detailed directions

To start, hike upstream along Jordan Creek.

Mile .7: Make note of Sawpit Gulch and make-shift horse corral. This is where you’ll drop out on the way back.

Mile 1.1: Cross the creek and then cross back, continue hiking up the draw.

Mile 2.4: Bear right at Y-junction and climb.

Mile 2.8: Cross branch of Jordan Creek and ignore faint trail going uphill. Stay on the main trail.

Mile 3.0: Come to old log landing. Bear right on ATV trail and climb a steep grade.

Mile 3.7: Go right at Y-junction and continue climbing to the top of the ridge.

Mile 4.2: Reach the top of the mountain at 7,950 feet. Great lunch spot on top. Look around, take pics and enjoy the views.

Mile 4.3: Stay on the east side of the fenceline and follow the ATV trail along the fence out on the hump of Sawpit Mountain.

Mile 4.6: Bear left at Y-junction and climb to the top of the next knob on the ridge.

Mile 4.7: At the top of the knob, stay on trail next to fenceline.

Mile 4.9: Cross ranch road. Stay on trail next to fenceline.

Mile 4.95: Come to grand vista overlooking Sawpit Gulch, Sawpit Mountain and the countryside surrounding Silver City. Go check out views but return to trail next to fenceline.

Mile 5.3: Drop down steep ATV track and then bust into a saddle meadow. Stay on the trail next to the fenceline.

Mile 5.45: Come to rocky point where trail fizzles. Drop off point to faint cow trail running along the ridge spine. Follow that through the trees.

Mile 5.5: Pop out at 3-way road junction. Go right and descend into Sawpit Gulch. It’s a steep rocky jeep trail to begin with, but it smooths out farther down the draw.

Mile 6.9: Come to Y-junction. Go right and keep descending along the creek.

Mile 7.3: Cross creek and then cross back

Mile 7.8: Come to junction with Jordan Creek Road at the horse corrals. Go left and return to the BLM trailhead.

Mile 8.4: Arrive at BLM trailhead.

Steve Stuebner is a contributor to Idaho Press Outdoors and the author of more than 10 outdoor books. See his weekly outdoor blog at http://stuebysoutdoorjournal.blogspot.com.

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