Once I got done exploring Freak Alley and the Capital City Public Market, It was time for me to head over to the Old Idaho Penitentiary area and hike up to Table Rock. Boise’s table rock is Boise’s most recognizable landmark (other than maybe the State Capitol Building) located just outside of the city and it and the 6 story cross that sits atop it (which is illuminated at night) can be seen from downtown downtown Boise and the surrounding area.
While researching this part of my trip I found out that there is some interesting controversy surrounding the Table Rock Cross. Table rock and the surrounding land is owned by the State of Idaho. When the cross was erected in the 1950s the land itself was considered part of the Idaho State Penitary (which is located at the start of the hike) and controlled by the department of corrections. The Junior Chamber of Commerce decided to start a fundraiser which resulted in the massive cross being built upon table rock. Twenty years later in the 70s fearing a challenge that the cross being on state land violated the separation of church and state the Department of correction sold a small portion of the land surrounding to the Cross to the Junior Chamber Commerce for a nominal $100. Since then there have been a few challenges made to the legality of that land deal, but none have ever reached the point where a court has decided on it and the cross remains towering over table rock.
I started my hike at the Old Idaho Penitentiary. This is the most common place to start the hike, however, it is not an easy hike. Round trip the hike is just about 4 miles and you will have an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet as you climb to the top. As an inexperienced hiker this did not sound too terribly difficult to me at first, however, the elevation gain is not well spread out through the hike. The hike starts and ends with an extremely steep incline and there is absolutely no shade to be had on the trail. I found myself having to stop to catch my breath several times. That all being said the hike was worth it. The views you get as you climb are stunning and t here is a sense of accomplishment when you get to top and are able look down on the entire city.
If you want to take the easy way out there is a significantly easier way to access Table Rock which would have you drive up most of the elevation gain and park about 1/4 of a mile from the peak. Having that easier access makes Table rock an ideal spot for things like wedding and graduation photos.