The Hike: The trail to Adelmann Mine is one of the most well-known and popular hikes in Boise for obvious reasons – it’s a short drive, it’s not too long or difficult, the scenery is superb, and the destination is one of the most unique you’ll find in the whole state. What most hikers don’t know is that beyond the eerie, intriguing premises of the abandoned gold mining operation, the trail continues, offering an exceptional hike to the summit of Lucky Peak.
At the trailhead, squeeze through the narrow chicane and start walking up the gravel road through the Boise River WMA depot. Be courteous to any employees, especially if they’re moving heavy machinery around. The BRWMA spans east-west from Arrowrock Dam to Boise proper and all the way down to the Danskin Mountains at its southern border, conserving 36,000 acres of critical winter habitat for thousands of mule deer and elk. To maintain this safe haven for cervine animals, all dogs must be leashed.
The first mile is relatively nondescript, rising about 400 feet through tall grass and sagebrush. In 2023, groundwater from the long, wet winter and rain from near-constant thunderstorms kept the grass lush and vibrant through June, but this section of the foothills tends to dry out rapidly in average summer heat. After one mile, the road crosses over two streams and begins ascending the rocky hillsides quite steeply. You’ll wonder how industrial vehicles from a century ago could ever make it up such a slope.
At 1.8 miles, you’ll crest a hill and get a first glance at the main mine building nestled in the gulch ahead. Starting here, the grade gradually tapers off – the steepest part is over. At 2.1 miles, you’ll arrive at an intersection where the spur to the mine splinters from the main trail, and you can choose whether to visit it now, on the way down, or both. Whichever you prefer, it’s a flat, painless quarter mile to the mine with a minor creek crossing that is typically dry by midsummer. This is a great spot to rest, hydrate, and eat a snack.
To continue on to Lucky Peak, head back the way you came to the intersection. Then, instead of going downhill to the left, continue up and to the right on the trail that climbs towards the gate on the ridge. After the gate, the trail hairpins and continues climbing up the side of the hill. The quality of the surface starts to diminish from dirt road to two track. There’s occasional shade from huge snowbrush plants and the quality and quantity of wildflowers both increase. At mile 3.4, you’ll see the mine from above before turning the corner and starting a healthy climb into the pine forest on Lucky Peak’s east slopes.
After 3.5 miles, the trail enters a narrow gulch and becomes much rockier before leveling out in a small meadow. Another small ascent leads to the edge of Lucky Peak’s east ridge, where the forest becomes considerably thicker. Here, the trail widens again to a forest road and flattens out almost completely for just over a half-mile to a gated intersection with the Shaw Mountain Road Trail of the Ridge to Rivers system. The gate is locked to vehicle travel, but there’s a chicane tucked away in the bushes on the left. Hang a left up the rocky trail for the final push to the peak.
At mile 4.8, you’ll reach a false summit as the Intermountain Bird Observatory camp comes into view ahead of you. The trail then curves up to the 5,904-foot summit of Lucky Peak, which has several survey markers and a radio tower. The views of Boise and the Treasure Valley are spectacular from here, especially in the evening when the sun starts to set. If you bring a lunch, this is the spot to eat it.
On the return leg, there is a superb single-track trail that isn’t listed on any other hiking or mountain biking site. To find it, retrace your steps to the false summit opposite the IBO camp. When the trail turns north, look for two wooden steps on the right (east) – turn onto this minor trail, which travels up and over a small hill before descending into a wildflower-ridden section of forest filled with serenading songbirds. While this route is a little overgrown, it makes up for it with serenity and beauty. Once you reach the intersection with the main trail, head south and downhill back to the mine and the trailhead.