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Visit Lucky Peak

silhouette of student releasing bird at night

AMKE sunset release by R. Brady

If you are a large group, please schedule your visit with us in advance. Weekends fill up quickly, so book your spot ASAP. If you are a small group, you do not need to schedule your visit unless you are camping. Everyone is welcome! Contact with any questions

2018 registration will open in late summer.

Schedule an overnight camping trip.
Our main research site is located at Lucky Peak, the southernmost peak on the Boise Ridge. The Lucky Peak station is open daily to the public during migration
between July 16 – October 31.

Planning a visit to Lucky Peak? Here’s what you need to know:

Visitor FAQ’s


From the intersection of Hwy 21 and I-84:, take Hwy 21 North (towards Idaho City). About 3 miles past the top of Lucky Peak Dam, turn left onto Highland Valley Road (about 3/4 mile before you get to The Hilltop Cafe) and  follow this for a total of about 6 miles to our site in the trees just below the radio tower. There are “Bird Observatory” signs at every important intersection. As you approach the peak, there is a gate. Park in the flat area to the right (beside the outhouse) and walk thru the gate and down the road for about 200 meters to our site in the trees.

View Map

Goshawk close up

Goshawk unknown photographer


Although the road is better than in some years, you still need 4WD/AWD higher-clearance vehicles. Taking 2WD vehicles on the road will tear the road up and make it worse! For those without a transportation option, the Golden Eagle Audubon Society also visits Lucky Peak a few times each season and provides carpooling opportunities for those without 4WD. Visit the GEAS website for their field trip information.

Our main banding site is partially handicap accessible. The ground around the banding station is fairly level and sandy, so is accessible to most walkers and wheelchairs with assistance. Hawk watch is not accessible. You may email us ahead of time to schedule your visit so that we can be ready to assist with any access issues upon your arrival at the site. Otherwise, one member of your party may walk to camp and request assistance from one of the crew members when you arrive.

What to Bring

  • Binoculars
  • Bird Field Guide
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat

  • Seasonal clothes—it can be cold and windy on the peak!
  • Treats for the interns – we love fresh snacks, eggs, or backyard garden veggies!
  • Closed-toe shoes for going on net runs and hiking up to hawk watch
  • Camera
  • Snacks

When to Visit

All activities are weather dependent

We do not band in high winds, if it is very cold, or when it is raining or snowing. Check our Facebook Page for the latest updates, and click here to see a weather forecast for the peak.
  • Songbirds

Kids by P. Kolar

Fall Migration banding begins July 16-October 15 from sunrise until 5 hours after sunrise. Click here to see operating times on the day you plan to visit. Please plan to arrive 40 minutes after sunrise if you would like to see the first birds of the morning. You don’t need to arrive that early if you’d rather not. Anytime between 40 minutes after sunrise and 5 hours after sunrise is ok, but the action is usually best in the first half of the morning.
Click here to read more about migration timing and get an idea of what birds you may see during your visit.

  • Hawkwatch and Hawk Banding

Diurnal Raptor activities begin August 25 and run through the end of October from 10am to ~6pm. September and the first week of October are the best times to visit.

  • Owl banding

Banding begins on the night of August 28th and continues until October 28th, but mid-September to mid-October are best. Owl nets are open from sunset to sunrise. If you want to see Flammulated Owls plan on visiting in early/mid September (to maximize your chances). A great time for Northern Saw-whet Owls is mid-September to mid-October. We do our first net run about an hour after sunset, and then every 45-90 minutes after that (depending on how busy the night is), so plan to arrive accordingly. We won’t have any owls until 1-1.5 hours after sunset, but you can arrive before sunset if you’d prefer to get acquainted with the terrain and introduce yourself to the crews. Please bring a headlamp or flashlight.


During the peak season it is possible to see an owl in the first few hours after dark, but to increase your chances of seeing an owl you may also schedule an overnight camping trip. Please note – camping is not allowed anywhere else on Lucky Peak or within the Boise River Wildlife Management Area. IBO has an agreement in place with Fish and Game that allows us to camp there for research purposes. Thus, only people associated with the project are allowed to camp at Lucky Peak or nearby. Schedule an overnight camping trip.

group camping photo by H.WareWe have a large group camping area available for scheduled visitors that is ideal for scout troops, school groups, or families. Weekends especially fill up fast, so contact us early in the summer to schedule an overnight camping trip. Overnight trips increase your chances of seeing an owl, plus you will be able to wake up at the site and enjoy the early morning hours when songbird captures are often at their peak. Campfires are not allowed at the site, but if you schedule a camping trip feel free to bring a portable stove or dutch oven for cooking. Also be sure to bring earplugs if you won’t be able to sleep through the owl call lures playing all night!

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We look forward to seeing you!