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Overlooking Boise, Table Rock weaves together history, recreation and controversy


This story is an excerpt from our new book Boise: City of Trees, available for purchase NOW! Order here.

High up in the foothills and accessible through a 3.7-mile hike is Table Rock. 

The Boise landmark is a natural formation made up mostly of sandstone. From the top, visitors get a breathtaking view of the city. And from below, people in the City of Boise can catch a glimpse of the rock and the 60-foot-tall cross that sits atop. 

The area is known to be sacred ground for the Northern Shoshone, and ancient artifacts have been found over the years.

In more recent history, Table Rock has become a popular place for mountain bikers and hikers to recreate, where people hang out and a place to watch the sunset. 

Built in the late 1950s by the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Table Rock cross has long been the center of both controversies and a symbol of togetherness. The controversy largely surrounds the issue of the separation of church and state. The State of Idaho sold the small strip of land the cross sits on to the chamber group in the early 1970s for $100, making it a small pocket of private land.

In the late 1990s, well-known Illinois atheist Rob Sherman spoke at Boise State University and called for the cross to be taken down. Soon after, more than 10,000 Idahoans showed up at the capital and demanded the cross be saved.

Larry Butler, a local truck driver, fought hard to keep the Table Rock monument and used donated lumber to create and hand out 7,000 small crosses for awareness. Sherman eventually stopped fighting to take down the cross.

Controversy aside, this is one of Boise’s most popular hikes that starts near the Old Idaho Penitentiary and ends with a stunning view that overlooks the city. 

This story is an excerpt from the forthcoming book Boise: City of Trees, due out this fall from David R. Day and the BoiseDev team. You can pre-order now.

Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson is a BoiseDev reporter focused on Meridian and McCall. Contact her at [email protected].

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