Exploring Idaho's Sawtooth Recreation Area
Outdoor adventurers, get ready to have your minds blown. What if you had soaring jagged peaks, clear cool alpine lakes, miles of wild backcountry trails, and to boot, access to some of the amenities of home all in one place?
Idaho’s Sawtooth Recreation Area is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. It is a massive area filled with steep jagged peaks (hence the name), miles and miles of wilderness trails that travel through pristine Idaho backcountry, and camp areas to reset yourself and your gear. This is a place you could spend your entire summer!
There are a lot of places you can go and find great adventure but the Sawtooth Range is very unique in that it offers something for everyone. This area provides family camping in designated camp sites, boating, RV camping, off road trails for both rock crawlers and bikers, miles of road for road bikers, climbing and mountaineering, and of course trails into the deep wilderness for backpackers. And there are accommodations for everyone. There are picnic areas for those wanting to spend the day, parking for extended stay backcountry adventurers, and even restrooms and laundry facilities.
Among plenty of others, one of the prime spots to visit while exploring this beautiful region is Sawtooth Lake, high in the alpine. This four-mile hike from the Iron Creek Campground Trailhead is a peaceful and beautiful trek up a steep rocky trail that traverses among shifting colors of rock and vegetation. Every step provides a new and wonderful vista. About midway up the trail splits off and either continues up or allows a visit to nearby Alpine Lake. This smaller, yet just as alluring, lake offers great camping and observation. Alpine Lake rests at the bottom of a high cliff and is fed by a waterfall from a meandering creek. Opposite the vast rock wall are large shoreline boulders, small grassy meadows, and a thick tree line.
It was here that I crossed paths with a veteran of the area. He asked if I was continuing up to Sawtooth Lake, to which I replied that I was. He explained to me that once I reached the edge of the lake, where the trail began its traverse past, to stop and look at the vast jagged bowl of peaks that encompassed the high lake. He went on to tell me that back in the mid sixties, when he was younger and traveled the area more, that an amphib plane flew to the lake and actually set down on it to conduct a rescue mission. He told me that this may not sound that impressive, but that once I saw the lake and the high pinnacles that surrounded it as obstacles to the plane I would be quite impressed. I told him I would do what he said, thanked him and moved on.
I continued to enjoy the ever-changing landscape and high cliff vistas the trail offered as I moved up and onward continuing to think about the plane that had weaved around and through the rocky points that surrounded me. Finally I had reached the pass that lead between two cliffs and entered the bowl that made Sawtooth Lake. It was even more spectacular than I had imagined. The entire lake was completely surrounded by cliffs and jagged mountaintops, which were reflected by the clear sparkling water of the lake. The trail continued past, along a steep hillside, but I decided to sit and enjoy the scenery for a while and watch the colors shift on the water, rocks, and residual snow from the past winter as the day moved on.
Sawtooth really is a unique area. And it should be on every outdoor enthusiasts list of spots to explore. Why wouldn’t you want to escape into a place like this?
Map Used: Earthwalk Press Sawtooth Wilderness Hiking Map And Guide
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