Homegrown Adventures in Southwestern Idaho

From the grapevine-striped hills of the Sunnyslope Wine Trail to stretches of scenic highways, easy access to the great outdoors and a rich agricultural heritage, Southwestern Idaho is ready with homegrown adventures. This adventure takes us from the superior green spaces and cultural hub in Boise, then heads west to the Nampa/Caldwell area for eclectic farmers’ markets and wine tastings.

Ag-venture in Caldwell/Nampa

Photo courtesy of McIntyre Family Farms

Towns like Caldwell and Nampa sprung up in the late 1800s along the Oregon Short Line Railroad, which connected Wyoming to Oregon through Idaho. Wild and rustic, Caldwell also has the distinction of being the home of once-Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg, who was assassinated by a bomb explosion at his home in retaliation to  his severe anti-union views and suppression of labor protests. 

The construction of irrigation canals and waterways provided the foundation for agriculture, which still largely supports the neighboring economies today, and you can take part in that persistent agricultural history. Both towns have stellar, locally focused farmers’ markets—Nampa Farmers’ Market (April–October) and Caldwell Farm to Fork Farmers’ Market (May–September). Downtown Caldwell has invested in revitalizing much of its urban center, restoring Indian Creek, which was encased in an underground tunnel. Now, it’s a central feature, along with walkable blocks, public art and local boutiques and restaurants.

Caldwell’s AgVenture Trail begins downtown and takes you to local farms and orchards, where you can pick fresh produce, meet farm animals and dine on farm-to-fork meals. Some of the stops on the AgVenture Trail coincide with the Sunnyslope Wine Trail. 

Nearby hikes: If hiking trails are more your speed than wine trails, 35 minutes from Caldwell you’ll find Jump Creek Falls trailhead. The trail is pet- and family-friendly, as a tight half-mile out-and-back trail to the falls. At the end, find a 60-foot waterfall at Jump Creek. The fall boasts vibrant rock walls that rise hundreds of feet above the canyon floor. The trailhead also has several fire rings and picnic spots.

SunnySlope Wine Trail — Vineyards with a View

Ste. Chapelle, Idaho’s oldest continually operating winery. Photo courtesy of Sunnyslope Wine Trail

Hop on the road and take a tour of the wineries in Idaho’s Snake River Valley. According to the Idaho Wine Commission, Southwestern Idaho’s four-season climate, ancient volcanic soil and abundant water supply make it an ideal place to grow grapes and make wine. The Sunnyslope Wine Trail represents the densest concentration of wineries within the region. Seriously, you can’t pop a cork here without hitting a winery: 

Stop 1

As farmers first and winemakers second, the Alger family’s Huston Vineyards harkens back to Southwestern Idaho’s rich agricultural history. Huston Vineyards’ Chicken Dinner Wine Series (named for the legendary street that borders the vineyard) has an impressive lineup of awards. Try a wine flight from the cozy tasting room.

Stop 2

Proudly anti-pretentious, Free Dog Wines proclaim, “Wine should not be hard!” Likewise, the brand name is inspired by the owner’s elderly dog, Tess, who was abandoned as a puppy. Try the excellent Albariño at one of their complimentary wine tastings. 

Stop 3

Williamson Orchards and Vineyards has been in the family since the early 1900s, and, over the course of four generations, their repertoire has expanded to wine grape varietals. The tasting room is a farmhouse full of family antiques and stunning views of the Owyhee Mountains. A glass of the Harvest Moon Red with a DIY charcuterie board will not disappoint. 

Stop 4

Two wineries, one stop! Ste. Chapelle is Idaho’s largest and oldest continually operating winery. The Ste. Chapelle tasting chateau evokes the famous French medieval gothic chapel of the same name. Its neighbor, Sawtooth Winery, sits astride the vineyards just a short distance below. Ste. Chapelle has a dangerously drinkable Soft Huckleberry wine, and Sawtooth’s outstanding Classic Fly Series Dry Riesling is a perfect sipper for enjoying panoramic views of the Snake River Valley from their tasting room.

Sawtooth Winery Tasting Room. Photo courtesy of Sunnyslope Wine Trail

Biking Boise

No Southwestern Idaho experience is complete without a cruise on the Boise River Greenbelt by bicycle. The Greenbelt is a 25-mile tree-lined pathway that follows the north and south sides of the Boise River through the heart of the city. It provides scenic views of wildlife habitat, access to Boise’s riverside parks and some fun stops along the way:

Boise Comic Art Festival, boisepubliclibrary.org
  1. Fuel up for your ride at Push And Pour, a coffee shop with decor Inspired by the owners’ passion for skateboarding and set up in a renovated autobody shop.  
  2. Tour Telaya Wine Co. and taste local wines on a shaded patio overlooking the Boise River.  
  3. Kayak or surf Boise Whitewater Park, which uses wave-shaping technology.  
  4. Catch free, live music and grilled lunch on the outdoor patio at the Sandbar Patio Bar & Grill and stay the night at the on-site Riverside Hotel.  
  5. Check out the beer garden at Payette Brewing, where you can play a game of bocce or grab a quick bite from a local food truck.  
  6. Stop by 8th Street, an area of Downtown Boise closed to vehicle traffic and the enviable center of Boise’s nightlife and dining scene. The street is lined with restaurants, lounges, open-air patios, sports bars, late-night eateries and tap rooms.  
  7. Finish your day there, or continue on and take a walk on the wild side at Zoo Boise.  
  8. For glimpses of wildlife—like foxes, deer, mink and herons—take a stroll through the MK Nature Center. GreenBikes are available for rent from any of the stations scattered throughout town. There is some etiquette to keep in mind while cruising the Greenbelt, including yielding to pedestrians and keeping off unpaved paths.

Christie Porter
Christie Porterhttps://christieporter.com/
Christie Porter is the managing editor of Salt Lake Magazine. She has worked as a journalist for nearly a decade, writing about everything under the sun, but she really loves writing about nerdy things and the weird stuff. She recently published her first comic book short this year.

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