The hike out to Sawtooth Lake is one that can be done over and over again; something new will be discovered each time. The views along the way are so breathtaking, they never get old. The trail wanders through a pretty and healthy forest frequently paralleling a gurgling creek that runs all season. As the trail climbs, the sound of a few cascading waterfalls fills your senses. Don't forget to turn back to look at the view behind you.
What Makes It Great
After progressing at a mellow incline for several miles, the trail crosses a small meadow and begins to switch back and forth to accommodate the elevation gain of steeper terrain. Hiking up and out of the forest, jaw-dropping views from open, rocky sections stretch before you exposing the gorgeous glory of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. A number of great slabby rock outcroppings provide perfect positioning for taking photo.
With Alpine Lake below, the trail takes on a craggy, alpine feel and continues to climb. Nearing the outlet of Sawtooth Lake, the trail flattens and offers peek-a-boo views of the lake. Take the trail that dips down to the left and wander around the east side of the lake to find a good spot for a picnic. Mt Reagan at the south end of the lake towers over the water. For an alternate look, and perhaps one of the most ideal photo-op spots, hike back and take the other side of the “Y” around the north side of the lake. As the trail nears a saddle, a wide spot for that “selfie” puts you nearly smack-dab in the middle of the lake with the mountain directly behind.
A peek up and over the saddle exposes the dramatic difference a ridgeline and weather can make. The trail continues on to McGown Lakes where a wildfire significantly scarred the land. Turn around here and head back once you’ve absorbed the beautiful scenery long enough, or continue on for a longer hike to McGown Lakes (13miles RT).
Back at the trailhead, if there is time left in the day, stop by the Stanley Baking Company for a hearty late lunch or sweet treat. Even better, camp out at Iron Creek and head to the Bakery the next morning for a plate of their delicious huevos rancheros or a gooey house-baked cinnamon roll. The Bakery is only open mid-May through mid-Fall.
Who is Going to Love It
The hike to Sawtooth Lake can be done over and over and you will find something new each time! It's a long hike, though, so make sure you are prepared for the distance.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Stop by the SNRA station just 3 miles south of Stanley on Highway 75 to get the latest trail conditions from a ranger and to pick up a detailed Sawtooth.