Boise Places Worth Seeing

Table Rock Overlook - The Best Place to Look Down on B-Town

Unlike the US Bank Building and the other tall structures of downtown Boise, Table Rock can be seen from almost anywhere in Boise and even some parts of the outlying communities of Meridian, Eagle, and Kuna. At night it remains visible, or becomes even more so, due to the lighted and ever-controversial sixty-foot cross that was erected up there by the local Jaycees in 1956.

I dare say that Table Rock is the Boise area's signature landmark, and only Shafer Butte can come close to rivaling it. Shafer Butte, however, is at least twenty road miles away from town. Table Rock looms right above the city, the view is better from there, and you can get up on top in a fraction of the time.

There are two ways to get up to Table Rock: the less-hard way, and the hard way.

The less-hard way involves driving your car through inhospitable neighborhoods of the filthy rich and then over a stretch of gravel road. You used to be able to drive all the way to the top, but there's now a gate about 1/4 of a mile or so before the top. That's why this is the less-hard way instead of the easy way; you still have to get off your duff to get up to the top. From what we hear, the State plans to open the gate for special events such as the Fourth of July and Dirk Kempthorne's birthday, but that's about it.

The gate is undeniably the result of those darn teenagers taking advantage of Table Rock's long tradition as a make-out and drinking spot, the result of which is lots of shattered glass, unsightly rubbage, and unplanned pregnancies. How the gate prevents any of those from happening is a mystery to us. The lazy teens now toss their empty containers in the area around the gate, despite the nearby trash can, and the rest of the teens take the short hike and now do their drunken fornication without the menace of approaching headlights. Oh, to be a teenager again.

Going the hard way up to Table Rock means hiking, biking, skipping, sauntering, cartwheeling, or any other means of human-powered conveyance. Popular trail routes start behind the Bishop's House (next to the Old Idaho State Penitentiary) and across from Warm Springs Golf Course. It's a steady uphill climb the whole way, but children over five and most adults can hack it in an hour or so. If you're coming up from the Bishop's House area, you'll pass right by someone's private vineyard, which accompanies an Italian villa-style home. Like I said, there are some filthy-rich folks up in them thar hills.

On the final switchback you can take a little side trip and get a close look at the big concrete B, which is supposed to be white but is often painted other colors by groups of high school kids wanting to show off their school spirit. A little farther up from the B you'll see the rock formations that make up the bottom of the overlook, and these always have some nice graffiti carved into them and spray painted on them. If you follow the base of the rock formations around to the north side, you'll find a neat little cave where a lot of the aforementioned drinking and fornicating probably takes place every Saturday night.

After you get to the top of the big flat rock we know as Table Rock, you'll notice the view to the west is nice and that the plateau is littered with a buttload of antennae, mostly in two clusters. Yep, the natural beauty up on top is marred a bit by all those metal monstrosities, but at least you have KRAP-FM and free Spanish-language TV. If you walk over to the rocky overlook, there's a nice, wide concrete bench for you to sit on and take in the view of Boise, the Treasure Valley, the Boise foothills, and the Owyhee Mountains.

The overlook area also features Boise's first religious controversy of the last ten years, known simply as The Cross. Yes, before we had the Ten Commandments Monument controversy and our most beloved crusader Brandi Swindell, we had a public debate over whether The Cross should stay on top of Table Rock and its public land. However, unlike the Ten Commandments Monument, which was wholly on public property in Julia Davis Park, The Cross is supposedly anchored on a 4-foot patch of ground bought by the Jaycees for $100 in 1972. So on top of the rock it remains, keeping us safe from the terrorists, swine flu, and good fashion sense.

Remember to be careful when you're around the overlook, because it can be a dangerous place for children, the curious, and those not so nimble on their feet.

Place worth visiting: Table Rock Overlook
Where: Boise Foothills

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Hours: Dawn to dusk, 365 days a year
Cost: Free
Website: Ridge to Rivers
Fun fact: You can see metropolitan Kuna from there!