Hikes in Sawtooth National Forest
When in Idaho, a trip into the Sawtooth National Forest is a staple, full of wonderment and wonderful scenery. Explore the sagebrush steppe, montane meadows, and spruce-fir forests that complement the soaring crests, and immerse yourself in the roaring river canyons. While there are boundless adventure opportunities in the Sawtooth National Forest, the hundreds of backcountry trails beckon hikers, backpackers, and mountain bikers.
Exhibiting a diversity of flora and fauna and the wilderness’s topographic range, the Sawtooth National Forest offers an adventure to suit all sorts of explorers. Whether you are seeking a family-friendly hike along a meandering stream, an intermediate excursion to a glacial pool, or an arduous climb up the pitches of a Smoky Mountain, this natural sanctuary yields an exciting experience awaiting your exploration.
15 Fantastic Hiking Routes in the Sawtooth National Forest
Offering an extensive diversity of hiking routes, there is no shortage of adventure in the Sawtooth National Forest. While it was no easy feat, we decided to assemble a list of the best hikes in the area—from family-friendly walks to arduous climbs and everything in between—enjoy!
- Yellow Belly Lake Hike - Explore the foothills of the Sawtooth Mountains and discover an idyllic lake hidden in the wilderness along the Yellowbelly Lake Hike. This family-friendly adventure travels through dense lodgepole forests before opening to majestic scenes of the Rockies from the lakeshore.
- Redfish Lake Trail - The Redfish Lake Trail explores one of the most popular and scenic areas of the Sawtooth Mountain Range. Wander along the forested ridges above the famed Redfish Lake and ascend the slopes of Grand Mogul. Although this trek is demanding, the incredible scenery is worth the sweat.
- Phantom Falls Trail - Discover a hidden oasis in the Sawtooth National Forest on the Phantom Falls Trail. This lovely path explores a remote wilderness area, leading hikers to a waterfall that cascades over a precipitous alcove. Note this route is overgrown and primitive, so come prepared to do some bushwhacking!
- Baker Lake Trail - Looking for a fun family adventure into the wilderness? The Baker Lake Trail is a manageable hike that explores pine woodlands and flowering before culminating at the alpine lake bound by red-hued bluffs and spires. Here’s a hint—head out in the early morning for a more tranquil experience.
- Stairmaster Hike - Get in a wicked workout and indulge in breathtaking views of Smoky Mountain and Sun Valley on the Stairmaster Hike. Properly named, this adventure ascends the precipitous ridge of the mountain that locals have named “Big Mama.” Bring plenty of water—this trek is tiresome!
- Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake Hike - The Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake Hike boasts the quintessential Sawtooth experience. Explore rock fields, alpine pools, montane meadows, and pine forests and revel in spellbinding views of the craggy crests. This adventure is ideal for intermediate hikers and families with older children.
- Fox Creek Trail - Popular amongst hikers and mountain bikers, the Fox Creek Trail wanders through flowering meadows, pine woodlands, and alongside the Big Tree River. Offering incredible views of the Smoky Mountains along the way, this scenic route is worth adding to your itinerary, especially in the autumn when the foliage is changing.
- Fishhook Creek Trail - Treat yourself to awe-inspiring views of the Sawtooth Mountains on the Fishhook Creek Trail. This amazing adventure is located near Redfish Lake, so expect some company. Although the route may be busy, the beautiful landscape and stunning mountain views are worth sharing the trail.
- Pettit Lake to Twin Lakes Hike - The Pettit Lake to Twin Lakes Hike is an amazing adventure that reveals the grandeur of the Sawtooth Mountain Range. Enjoy a challenging day hike or an epic overnight expedition into the mountains and revel in the beauty of the alpine oasis. With over four crystalline lakes to explore, this route exceeds all expectations.
- Corral Creek Trail - While there is certainly no corral along the Corral Creek Trail, this pleasant route meanders through aspen groves, sagebrush communities, and blossoming meadows, offering mesmerizing vistas of the Smoky Mountains. This family-friendly trek is worth adding to your adventure to-do list.
- Bald Mountain Hike - Explore the Sun Valley Ski Resort slopes along the Bald Mountain Hike. This demanding trek ascends the vertiginous slopes of Bald Mountain, providing a great workout and wonderful views of the valley below and the mountains that rise from the landscape.
- Prairie Lakes to Miner Lake Loop Trail - Immerse yourself in the unspoiled backcountry along the Prairie Lakes to Miner Lake Loop Trail. This marvelous adventure leads intrepid explorers to countless alpine pools nestled in the woodlands that complement the steep mountains. Bring your trail GPS; the overgrowth impedes the path in sections.
- Ross Falls Hike - The Ross Falls Hike is a short but scenic trail that the whole family can enjoy. Wander through a dense forest bisected by a meandering creek, and the path will open to a hidden waterfall that tumbles over a sheer rock face.
- Roundhouse via Bald Mountain Trail - This tiring climb travels up the slopes of Bald Mountain through patches of towering pines and exposed meadows up to a mountainside restaurant. The Roundhouse via Bald Mountain Trail will get your heart rate up but rewards inspiring views of the mountainous landscape.
- Washington Lake via White Clouds Trail - Hike into the White Clouds Mountain Range on the Washington Lake via White Clouds Trail. This lovely path explores a swathe of wilderness occupied by open meadows, lush woodlands, and idyllic lakes nestled at the base of steep hills.
When is the Best Time to Visit the Sawtooth National Forest?
The Sawtooth National Forest is a wonderful wilderness getaway that boasts year-round outdoor pursuits. No matter the season, sun, or snow, there is activity to satiate your thirst for adventure. The summer season is indisputably the busiest time of year to visit the Sawtooth National Forest when conditions are ideal, the days are long, and campgrounds are open. Winter excursions offer more solitude, but it is important to note that certain roadways, campgrounds, and trails are subject to seasonal closure. We like to take advantage of the ‘sweet spots’ in the shoulder seasons. Conditions cool in the spring and autumn, and the crowds thin, but you can still enjoy an abundance of recreational pursuits.
Other Outdoor Activities in the Sawtooth National Forest
The Sawtooth National Forest encompasses an area of wilderness occupied by soaring crests, wild waterways, lush forests, montane meadows, and hundreds of alpine lakes. This epic natural playground offers a diverse repertoire of year-round adventures for us to indulge in. Explore the countless backcountry trails on foot, via mountain bike, or on horseback. The summer months offer incredible water recreation, including fishing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, motorized boating, and white-water rafting. We can’t forget the epic backpacking, camping, and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Unlike most National Forests, the Sawtooth is equally as abundant with recreational pursuits in the winter. The cooler weather sees epic alpine skiing and snowboarding pursuits on the snow-capped hills, including the Sun Valley Ski Resort on Bald Mountain. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, snowmobiling, ice skating, and steelhead fishing are also popular winter sports. There is an adventure just around the corner in the Sawtooth National Forest, no matter the season.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Sawtooth National Forest
Are there bears in the Sawtooth National Forest?
Yes, there is a diversity of wildlife in the Sawtooth National Forest, including black bears.
Are there grizzly bears in the Sawtooth National Forest?
As a rule, no, there are no grizzly bears in the Sawtooth National Forest as they have been extirpated.
Can you camp outside of designated campgrounds in the Sawtooth National Forest?
Yes, dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Sawtooth National Forest unless otherwise signposted. Please practice the No Trace Principles.
Do you need a permit to hike in the Sawtooth National Forest?
No permits are not required to hike in the Sawtooth National Forest, though trails into the Sawtooth Wilderness do. These self-issued permits can be found at respective trailheads.
Are there moose in the Sawtooth National Forest?
Yes, there are moose, deer, elk, and an array of other fauna in the Sawtooth National Forest.
Epic Adventure Tours in the Sawtooth National Forest
Unfortunately, we have yet to introduce any adventure tours in the Sawtooth National Forest! Don’t worry, we are constantly adding to our repertoire, so keep checking back! Until then, we encourage you to check out our other amazing tours in the United States—who knows, maybe you’ll find something.
Find Other Amazing Hiking Regions in Idaho
- Boise National Forest
- Idaho Panhandle National Forests
- Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest
- Payette National Forest
- Salmon-Challis National Forest
The Sawtooth National Forest is an adventurer’s paradise in the heart of Idaho that encompasses over 2 million acres of land, 4% of which extends into northern Utah. Home to over 10 mountain ranges, 1,000 lakes, 5,632.7 km of wild waterways, and 1,609.3 km of hiking, biking, and off-roading trails, the Sawtooth National Forest is the perfect swathe of wilderness to indulge in all your recreational interests.
Best Hikes in Sawtooth National Forest
Yellow Belly Lake Hike
Yellow Belly Lake is an idyllic, moraine-bound pool in the foothills of the Sawtooth Mountains beckoning your exploration. Accessible via the lodgepole-bound backcountry trail, the hidden oasis offers breathtaking views of the rugged Rockies commanding the skies from the forested shoreline. The next time you find yourself in the area, the family-friendly Yellow Belly Lake Hike is worth a detour into the wilderness.
Redfish Lake Hike
Hiking the Redfish Lake Trail makes for an unforgettable experience. Explore the memorable landscape occupied by craggy Rocky Mountain peaks, crystalline alpine lakes, lush pine forests, and beautiful meandering creeks. While this adventure is not for the faint of heart, the gorgeous scenery negates the sweat.
Phantom Falls Trail
Explore a rugged and remote swathe of wilderness in the Sawtooth National Forest along the Phantom Falls Trail. Wander through lush pasturelands adorned with grazing cattle to the 20 m waterfall that cascades over a vertiginous alcove. Hidden in the backcountry, this pleasant hike boasts tranquility and solitude.
Baker Lake Trail
The Baker Lake Trail is a family-friendly adventure near Sun Valley that beckons your exploration. This pleasant hike explores a landscape occupied by pine forests and flowering meadows before opening to an idyllic lake hemmed by towering red rock bluffs. This epic expedition is ranked relatively high on our list of the Sawtooth National Forest's greatest hikes—trust us, it's good!
Climb up Mother Nature’s Stairmaster high above Sun Valley, Idaho. This arduous ascent travels straight up the southern ridge up to the peak locally known as “Big Mama”, in the Smoky Mountains. Those seeking a challenge will likely appreciate the effort the Stairmaster Hike demands.
Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake Hike
The Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake Hike is a beautiful out-and-back trail in the Sawtooth Wilderness that exhibits the majesty of the famed mountain range. This quintessential adventure explores gorgeous glacial lakes and the snow-capped soaring crests that rise above them. We love this beautiful hike, and we think you will too!
Fox Creek Trail
Those seeking a wonderful day hike near Sun Valley, Idaho, will likely enjoy the Fox Creek Trail. This beautiful adventure explores blossoming meadows, meandering creeks, and lush woodlands while offering stunning views of the Boulder Mountains. Shared with bikers, hikers, and equestrians, this route boasts the opportunity to indulge in all sorts of recreational interests.
Fishhook Creek Trail
The Fishhook Creek Trail is a family favorite adventure in the Sawtooth National Forest. This easy-going trail features blossoming meadows, lush woodlands, meandering creeks, wildlife, and spectacular views of the Sawtooth Mountain Range.
Pettit Lake to Twin Lakes Hike
The Pettit Lake to Twin Lakes Hike has it all. This stunning adventure into the heart of the Sawtooth Range features numerous crystalline alpine lakes, gorgeous forests, blossoming meadows, meandering streams, mesmerizing cascades, and spellbinding mountain views—what more could you ask for? We can’t think of anything else!
Corral Creek Trail
The Corral Creek Trail is a lovely route in the Sawtooth National Forest near Sun Valley that can be enjoyed by hikers and bikers alike. Explore lush pine woodlands interspersed with aspen groves and meadows occupied with sagebrush and wildflowers while enjoying views of the surrounding Smoky Mountains.
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