The Sawtooths of Idaho are one of our favorite mountain ranges in America. This national forest contains hundreds of hiking possibilities and unlike neighboring mountain ranges in Utah and Wyoming, crowds are lacking, leaving a wonderful sense of freedom and raw wilderness. There are dozens of day hikes to choose from, and though we didn’t try them all, these three epic day hikes in the Sawtooths would be hard to beat.
1. Goat Lake
Though Alice Lake is the most renowned hike in the Sawtooths, it only scratches the surface of beauty when compared to Goat Lake. Goat Lake is perhaps the most beautiful alpine lake in America.
This beautiful lake hike goes through forests, has panoramic views, and requires a bit of route finding, a short scree scramble, and boulder hopping at the end.
Enjoy gorgeous vista views of ethereal mountain peaks in all directions. It’s a steep trail but the reward is serendipitous.
Directions & Details (extra directions in the photo gallery below):
- To get there, start from Iron Creek Trailhead.
- Follow the trail for a mile then turn left after entering Sawtooth Wilderness following the sign towards Marshall Lake. Cross the creek over the bridge consisting of lots of tree trunks.
- After 1 mile of flat ground through forest you’ll cross a mini footbridge and begin the heading uphill. As you head up switchbacks you’ll be given amazing views of surrounding mountains.
- The following mile skirts around the left side of the mountain and eventually you’ll come to an unmarked junction by a large rock band on your right. You’ll see a small trail going down and left. Do not go that way. Instead, scramble up the rock band on the left side then head up into the gully. The trail is marked by cairns and isn’t too hard to follow.
- Eventually, you’ll hear water, that’s pretty much what you follow. When you see a large boulder next to running water go left and stay toward the edge of the boulder by the running water.
- When you get to the boulder field scramble diagonally left the cross the creek and head straight up.
Go in the morning or evening for great lighting and if you happen to be hiking on a cloudy day, don’t fret, when it’s cloudy up here it brings out the dark hues of the water and mountains and contrasts with the green trees and white glacier.
On a side note: We experienced gloomy lighting a bit too much the day we hiked it. After a lovely hike up and warnings of a rainstorm, we turned to head back and were encumbered by pouring rain and swaying/falling trees. We ended up having to run down the trail as we were wet, cold, and afraid of falling trees. We were very grateful for our Patagonia Nano Puff Jackets and rain shells which kept us moderately warm in the storm.
Be sure to soak in the picture-perfect lake and have a snack before returning the way you came.
If you’re an experienced backpacker I highly recommend camping out in the rocks up here.
Trust me when I say this is a must-do hike in the Sawtooths!
2. Alice Lake
Probably the most famous backpacking circuit in Sawtooth—and Idaho for that matter—is the Alice lake to Toxaway Lake Loop. Though we didn’t make it to Toxaway Lake I can agree that Alice Lake is one our favorite hikes we’ve been to. It’s an absolutely stunning place to camp even If you don’t backpack the whole loop.
Directions & Details:
Start this Sawtooth hike from Tin Cup Trailhead, following signs to Petit Lake from Highway 75 along the Sawtooths.
It’s 11.4 miles round trip to the lake and back but it’s also the easiest 11.-miles we’ve ever done. The trail is very low incline so you won’t feel much fatigue.
The lake views at the top is panoramic. What makes the view so stunning is the long majestic Sawtooth Range to the west. Pick one of the many spots along the lake, enjoy the views, have some snacks, and jump in the crystal-clear lake.
3. Bridalveil Falls
The greatest thing about this hike is not only the epic views of McGown Peak that shine throughout the hike but the incredibly low crowds on the trail. Because of this, the hike feels deep in nature.
This hike is peaceful, flat, and delivers stunning view sof the sharp McGown Peak.
The Falls are up close and personal when you arrive and the ions flying through the air beside you will make you glad you made the trek.
Directions & Details:
- The hike is clearly marked and starts at Stanley Lake Trailhead.
- The hike goes into the valley on the right side of McGown Peak involves small climb over fallen logs as well as 2 creeks crossings.
- The hike finishes with a quite steep scree scramble to get to the falls.
- Continue back the way you came for a grand total of 6 miles.
Hike this at dawn for a beautiful golden glow on the trees, meadows, and mountains.
Tell us about your trip to the Sawtooths in the comments below or let us know if you have any questions, we’d be happy to answer!