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A Leslie Gulch Adventure

Updated: Jul 23, 2022

This guest post comes from Chris Chalmers, a web developer and proud dad. All photos are his.

This April, I took my family to Leslie Gulch in the Owyhee. It's a 2-hour drive from Boise and makes for a nice day trip, especially if you pack a lunch and plenty of water.

We took the unassuming McBride Creek road from Highway 95, after passing through the town of Marsing and crossing the majestic Snake River on the way. At first, the well-graded dirt road passed through unremarkable rangeland.

But soon after crossing into Oregon and turning on Leslie Gulch Road, we found ourselves in a canyon with awe-inspiring rock formations on either side. They were all shades of red, orange, and tan and looked like fantastic sandcastle spires made by giants.

As soon as the canyon walls came into view, my two sons and their two friends immediately clambered to get out of the car and go exploring. We parked at the Juniper Gulch trailhead, which is one of the first stops you see, long before the Slocum Creek campground or the boat ramp at Owyhee Reservoir.

Juniper Gulch starts out following a dry creek bed as it winds between rock banks. The river has carved shallow caves into the overhanging rock and makes for fun scrambling. April is not too hot yet, but the shade in this first part of the hike was definitely welcome.

After about 3/4 of a mile, the trail emerges from the creek bed and up onto a central ridge. Here, the views opened up to a rocky wonderland of honeycomb formations and twisted spires.

As the trail climbed, my boys scrambled all around the rough, carved rock on either side of the trail. I was grateful that I had just gotten them sturdy hiking shoes and pants at our favorite outdoor consignment shop, Boise Gear Collective. Pro parent tip: kids go through a lot of gear, either because they outgrow it, lose it, or wear it out. This shop is the best for quality outdoor equipment for a family like mine.

My son discovered a rock formation that looked like a giant hand holding up its index finger. Soon, all the kids were finding rocks that looked like faces, animals, or anything else they could think of. Kids have such great imaginations.

As we got toward the end of the trail, the canyon walls became steeper and full of caves, the boys' favorite part of the whole trip. There were so many little nooks and crannies to climb around in. They ran from one to the next, popping in and out like ground squirrels. It was hard to get them to leave when it came time to head back down the trail.

The hike back down to the car was surprisingly quick: all the wonder and surprises of the way up had made the trail seem long, but it was actually only about a mile and a half. Before we knew it, we were back on the road and headed home, ready for a stop for dinner on the way.

Marsing has a great pizza restaurant called the Spot. We got a pizza to go and brought it down to Marsing Island Park, where we could eat at the picnic tables and watch the Snake River drift by on both sides. It was the perfect end to a perfect day of adventure in the Owyhee.

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