Outdoors Blog

On the Trail: A 3,000-foot climb from Boise to mountaintop

Hikers begin the descent from Lucky Peak to Boise — 3,000 feet below.
Hikers begin the descent from Lucky Peak to Boise — 3,000 feet below. ccripe@idahostatesman.com

Twice a month, we’ll spotlight a trail. Suggestions? Email outdoors@idahostatesman.com

When I moved to East Boise in September, I immediately set my sights on climbing the peak that looks like it’s just a good walk up the hill from my house: Lucky Peak (aka Shaw Mountain).

Then I looked it up. And put the 10-mile round trip and 3,000-foot climb off until spring.

So when Kris Vonderahe of the Idaho Hiking Club posted his intention to hike Lucky Peak on Sunday, I figured it was time. I’d spent the winter and early spring eyeballing the antenna that marks the top of the mountain as I drove around town — trying to figure out how something that looks so close could be so difficult to reach.

The hike went that way, too. The beauty of being able to see a peak as you climb is you know you’re headed in the right direction. The trouble is that half the time it seems to get farther away.

Lucky Peak can be reached through several trail combinations. We started at the Homestead Trail (No. 12) that leads from Harris Ranch into the Foothills. About 2.1 miles later, you walk through a gate at the intersection with the Lucky Peak Trail (No. 8) and turn left. Both trails are wide and get some mountain-bike use. They also have portions with a loose surface that can cause slipping.

The Lucky Peak trail is open to motorized vehicles from May through October.

Near the top, hikers have formed a narrow footpath that emerges on the right side of the main trail. It cuts about a mile off the hike each way but is a demanding climb: 510 feet of elevation gain in a half-mile. Even so, that seems to be the most popular route.

The Homestead Trail is a pleasant workout or walk with a dog (on-leash only), with about 950 feet of elevation in those 2.1 miles. The Lucky Peak Trail is more severe, with 1,550 feet of elevation gain in the next 2.4 miles. Then there’s that closing stretch.

The payoff is sweeping views during the hike and particularly at the top. You can see Bogus Basin, Downtown Boise and much of the rest of the city, Table Rock, the Boise River, Lucky Peak Lake and a snow-capped mountain range to the east.

The long, challenging hike is used as a training ground for backpackers and peak baggers who want to prepare their bodies for the rigors of climbing a mountain like Borah Peak (5,262-foot climb in 3.5 miles). It can’t, however, simulate the altitude issues of those hikes.

An important note: The Homestead and Lucky Peak trails require dogs to stay on leash year-round because they’re in the Boise River Wildlife Management Area. The only water source is a creek near the beginning of the hike, so be sure to pack plenty of water if you bring a dog.

Other potential starting points, also with on-leash requirements, include the West Highland Valley (No. 11) and Highland Valley (F) trails. Both feature longer routes to Lucky Peak with slightly less elevation gain.

▪ Stats: The route we took was 5.1 miles each way, for a 10.2-mile round trip. The total elevation gain from the Homestead trailhead is 3,067 feet. Lucky Peak sits at 5,904 feet.

▪ Getting there: From the corner of Warm Springs and Eckert, go east on Warm Springs and north on Council Spring Road.