Watch for wildlife along the way
Lower Hulls Gulch is probably the most popular trail in the Boise Foothills, a place where people go hiking, biking, jogging, dog-walking, bird-watching, you name it.
But 3 miles up the hill is the best part of the Hulls Gulch, and you'll rarely see anyone up there. It's called the Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail, and it's also known as the Hulls Gulch Interpretive Trail because of the educational signs about geology and nature that you'll see along the way. It's great for kids and families, and really, just about anyone.
The BLM developed the trail many years ago, and it was closed to mountain biking in the late 1980s to set a QUIET tone for the upper watershed, where hikers, runners and school kids can tour the area without fear of confronting speeding cyclists.
There are three ways to experience the trail, all with different mileage and experience:
1. Standard route - Drive 3 miles up North 8th Street after it turns to dirt and you'll come to a large parking area with rest rooms. This is the primary trailhead for the Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail. It's a 6.5-mile hike to do the full tour of the trail to the upper watershed of Hulls Gulch, where the trail loops around the headwaters, passes by a waterfall (most impressive in the spring), and and returns to the trailhead. You should allow 2.5-3 hours for the trip (not including the drive). Mary Beth Anderson did a nice job detailing this route in her blog.
2. Upper Trailhead - Go past the main parking area and drive several more miles up 8th Street to the Upper Trailhead, which is well-marked. The road is rough with big holes and water dips. You'll need a high-clearance 4WD rig to make it up there. The upper loop is 2.5 miles to the tour the upper watershed. Here's a nice little description about that section from trailsandtread.com. This hike would take about an hour and a half.
3. Lower and Upper Hulls Gulch Trail - Strong runners and hikers will enjoy this approach, which I detailed in my guidebook, Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. It's 11.5 miles from the Hulls Gulch Trailhead by the Foothills Learning Center to the top of the Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail and back. Hiking time would be about 5 hours; running time 2.5 hours.
While you're out on the trail, watch for wildlife, songbirds, hawks flying overhead and animal tracks. See if your kids can identify tracks and scat.
A fourth option would be to shuttle a vehicle if you have young children or seniors along who may not be able to climb very well. You could start at the Upper Trailhead and work your way downhill to the main trailhead. This trip would be about 3 miles downhill.