Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake Hike

Difficulty
This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
Hard
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
4.5-6h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
16.1 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
571 m
User Ratings
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Directions to Trailhead

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!

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Route Description for Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake Hike

The Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake Hike reveals the diversity and beauty of Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountain Range. This intermediate adventure travels into the mountains, offering incredible scenery while demanding a modest effort. While hikers of most ability levels can manage this trek, it is essential to note that the elevation gain, exposure, and rocky terrain can be challenging for some. The consistent climb to Sawtooth Lake is a calve-burner, but the walk back down to the trailhead is hard on the knees, so those with joint issues are encouraged to use trekking poles to take some of the pressure off. It is also wise to wear sturdy footwear to safeguard your ankles on rocky terrain. We also encouraged you to dress in layers as insurance against windy and cold conditions at Sawtooth Lake.

While this spectacular trail is open year-round, the summer months offer favorable conditions and the opportunity to swim in the crystalline waters. When trekking during peak season, come prepared to share the trails. Those seeking a more tranquil experience are encouraged to head out early in the morning, to better yet, in the shoulder seasons or in the winter. While off-season expeditions are equally as enchanting, they present inherent dangers and require specific gear. Only experienced trekkers should attempt winter adventures into the Sawtooths. No matter the season, don’t forget to pick up the self-issued permit at the trailhead.

The Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake Hike will undoubtedly get your heart rate up, but the payoff negates the sweat. Arguably one of the most picturesque trails in the entire Sawtooth Mountain Range, this hike offers countless photo opportunities, so make sure your camera is charged! Explore lush forests, open meadows abundant with wildflowers in the spring, and alpine lakes nestled in the rocky basins. Although this specific route is a day-hike, overnight backpacking excursions boast the opportunity to take your time and soak in the beauty of the rugged wilderness. Bring your swimsuit and a towel—the blue-hued alpine water is quite inviting.

Embark on your journey along the Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake Trail from the Iron Creek Trailhead. Setting out from here, you will be guided southwestwardly into the backcountry, roaming beneath the canopy of towering pines along the Iron Creek-Stanley Lake Trail. Mind your footing on the rocks and routes that obstruct the path as you climb alongside Iron Creek. After some hiking, you will pass an intersection and then reach the Sawtooth Boundary. From here, the path will reroute north, passing through an open meadow to another junction; keep left here. Now trekking west, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the craggy cliffs of the Sawtooth Mountains.

When the trail finally intersects with Iron Creek, you will begin your winding ascent up to Alpine Lake. After maneuvering the switchbacks, you will be granted impressive views of Alpine Lake set against the backdrop of Alpine Peak from the shoreline ridge. If time permits, take a trip down to the lakeside or simply appreciate the scene from afar. Take time to rest and rehydrate before the final push to Sawtooth Lake. When ready, persist southwest up the increasingly rocky and exposed terrain.

After some climbing, you will reach a small pond as you approach Sawtooth Lake. From here, you will be granted awe-inspiring views of the surrounding rugged ridges and summits of the Sawtooth Mountain Range. Soon you will reach the shoreline that offers an expansive vista of the gorgeous alpine pool nestled beneath Mount Regan. At this intersection, veer left, and you will be diverted onto the North Fork Baron-Sawtooth Lake Trail and travel south along the shoreline, reveling in the spell-binding scenery. Take a dip in the refreshing alpine waters of Sawtooth Mountain or admire the postcard perfect view from the lakeshore. When you are through exploring the hidden oasis, merely retrace your footing along the path back to the trailhead.

Trail Highlights

Sawtooth Lake

Sawtooth Lake is the largest alpine lake in the Sawtooth Mountain Range. This stunning glacial pool sits at an elevation of 2,571 m, bound by Mount Reagan and Alpine Peak. Accessible via the Iron Creek-Stanley Lake Trail, this lovely lake beckons year-round visitation and usually remains at least partially frozen into the early summer.

Mount Regan

Mount Regan is a prominent summit in the Sawtooth Mountain Range that stands at an elevation of 3,106 m. Named after pioneer Timothy Regan, this incredible peak flanks the famed Sawtooth Lake, boasting quite the photogenic scene.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you hike to Sawtooth Lake?

Yes, the Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake Hike crests the shoreline of Sawtooth Lake in the Sawtooth Wilderness.

Can you swim in Sawtooth Lake?

Yes, swimming is permitted in Sawtooth Lake, and in the late summer months, you will likely notice several hikers cooling off in the refreshing alpine waters.

What is the elevation of Sawtooth Lake?

Sawtooth Lake sits at an elevation of 25,708 m in the Sawtooth Wilderness.

Insider Hints for Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake Hike

  • Dogs must be on a leash while on trails from July 1 through Labor Day
  • Don’t forget to pick up a self-issued a permit at the trailhead
  • Bring a swimsuit and towel
  • In the winter months, a pair of snowshoes or microspikes are necessary
  • Pack plenty of water or a water filter to stay hydrated as you hike to high altitudes
  • Dress in layers as insurance against changing conditions
  • Bring your camera—you can thank us later

Getting to the Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake Hike Trailhead

The Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake Hike departs from the Iron Creek Trailhead off National Forest Development Road 619.

Route Information

  • Backcountry Campground

    Dispersed Camping

  • When to do

    Year-round

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly

    Older Children only

  • Route Signage

    Good

  • Crowd Levels

    High

  • Route Type

    Out and back

Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake Hike Elevation Graph

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Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake Hike Reviews

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