In order to solve the problem that infrared images usually have a poor visual effect with low contrast and weak detail information, an adaptive detail enhancement method for infrared image based on bilateral filter is proposed in this paper. Firstly, adopting the bilateral filter which has a good filtering performance, the original infrared image is effectively derived into the smoothed component and the detail component. Exactly, the detail component is the difference between the original infrared image and the smoothed component. The major merit of using the bilateral filter is that the abundant and subtle detail contents containing a lot of edges and textures of the original infrared image could be obtained via adjusting the parameters flexibly. Further, the detail component plays a key role in obtaining an adaptive detail enhancement weight which is generated by the normalization of the detail component. The weight is in the range [0, 1] and their magnitudes can be regarded as the intensity of the original image details. As a result, this detail enhancement weight is adaptive and effective for the original infrared image. Finally, a kind of linear weighting strategy is utilized to achieve the image sharpness combing the original image and the adaptive weight. The experimental results show that the proposed method outperforms other conventional methods in terms of visual effect and quantitative evaluation, which provides a new approach for infrared image detail enhancement.