(This is the 12th story by this journalist in an occasional series revealing “Hidden America” — worthy travel destinations unknown by most Americans.)
Boise is a fun, easy-to-get-around city that is often missing on travelers’ vacation itineraries. Those travelers do not get to see, walk on or bike the unique Boise River Greenbelt. It’s a 25-mile tree-lined pathway that follows the north and south sides of the river through the heart of the city and provides scenic views, wildlife habitat and pedestrian access to many riverside parks.
The parks and lands adjacent to the Greenbelt are called the Ribbon of Jewels. The ribbon consists of 10 parks, a nature preserve and a river trail.
Julia Davis is the city’s oldest park and cultural heart. Its 89 acres are home to Zoo Boise, the Idaho State Historical Museum, the Boise Art Museum, the Idaho Black History Museum and a science center. The park also includes a big rose garden, horseshoe pits, tennis courts, bocce courts, picnic pavilions and a playground. Paddle boats can be rented for navigating a pond and canals.
Another park, Esther Simplot, has 55 acres, including about 23 acres of ponds suitable for fishing, wading and swimming. The park offers trails, docks, boardwalks, shelters, grassy areas, a playground and restrooms.
Ann Morrison Park is nearly three times larger. The 153-acre park includes a large fountain, a playground, tennis courts, lighted softball diamonds, soccer and lacrosse fields, a disc golf course, a volleyball court, bocce courts, an outdoor gym and a picnic pavilion.
The Greenbelt, according to Visit Idaho, the state tourism office, links more than 850 acres of parks and natural areas along the Boise River. The City of Boise celebrated 50 years of the Greenbelt in 2019.
Visitors can see songbirds, ducks, Canada geese and great blue heron year-round and bald eagles in the winter, Visit Idaho says.
“Wildlife viewing is best in early morning or late afternoon as sunset approaches,” the tourism agency says. “There are several developed sites and overlooks adjacent to the Greenbelt for wildlife viewing.”
A helpful Greenbelt guide is available from the Southwest Idaho Travel Association, a tourism marketing organization. It pinpoints 21 “favorite spots” for sightseeing, outdoor activities and food and drink. Coffee shops, restaurants, breweries and wineries are, among other businesses, next to or near the Greenbelt.
The Greenbelt “is hands down one of the best hidden gems in southwest Idaho,” the tourism organization says. “There is so much to see and do on the Boise Greenbelt that to cover it all would take years!”