Alice Lake Sawtooth Mountains
The Sawtooth Mountains grabbed my attention in recent years and based on typical snowpack conditions it looked like a great trek for late June. However, I needed to move my visit up to the middle of June, but the heat wave we were in looked like it would remedy any snow problems. What I did not properly take into account was that I drove over to Idaho from 300′ elevation and my hike up to Alice Lake would take me from about 7000′ up to 8600′ and I was sucking air. I had planned to do the Alice, Toxaway Lake Loop but I had received reports that the pass between the lakes was a post holing snow challenge, plus I also got feedback that the mosquitoes were thick over at Toxaway Lake. So after the oxygen deficit difficulty I experienced climbing to Alice Lake and knowing that the pass was another 1000′, I decided why not just stay another night at my fabulous campsite on Alice Lake. I knew that I could day hike over to Twin Lakes and just relax in this beautiful area. Plus feedback also suggests that Alice Lake is the most beautiful so why leave? It is difficult for a backpacker to be practical when your plans call for a longer trek, but hanging out for two days in this beautiful place turned out to be another great Adventure.
The trail up to Alice Lake is well maintained but this early season climb required fording a number of stream crossings. It does appear that the stream crossings will provide rock hop bridges when the water recedes about 8 inches. This young family from nearby Stanley was using this trip as a Christmas Present for their 3 boys.
This is about where I was really starting to think about the nap I would need. Alice Lake has a lower lake that leads you to believe you have arrived, it is all good.
Once at Alice Lake you realize the awesome beauty of this area.
When I arrived at Alice Lake all I wanted was to find a flat spot in the shade where I could take a long afternoon nap. That is exactly what I did but when I roused again around 6 pm I wandered around to find the perfect campsite. I was rather surprised that it had not been taken. Word was out that Alice Lake was easily accessible so I had plenty of company at the lake.
Alice Lake was perfect. Total sun, warm but not hot, no bugs and an awesome night ski to view the Milky Way.
The next day I felt better but it was obvious that a climb over to Toxaway Lake would have been tough, so I settled into total relaxation mode with plans for a day hike over and around Twin lakes.
I also explored the stream connection between Twin and Alice Lakes.
Just as beautiful approaching Alice Lake on the return from Twin Lakes.
Now I had most of the afternoon left to continue my serious chillaxing. Thankfully I had plenty of downloaded podcasts (Various IU Hoosier Basketball and Backpacker podcasts along with “The Dirtbag Diaries” and, “National Geo Overheard”) that I could catch up on.
Just a beautiful day with another awesome evening.
I felt so much better after a couple of days at altitude. I thought about more exploration, but heading for home was motivated a bit by the sporting events (US Open) that needed to be watched. Packing up was so nice because everything was dry The hike out from Alice offered the morning view of the lake.
Hiking back to Pettit Lake seemed long but it was all down hill. This was a Thursday and so many hikers and backpackers were headed up to Alice. There was a group a healthy young hikers who happened to all work at Redfish Lodge. It brought back memories of my youth knowing how cool it was to take advantage of local recreation opportunities during that summer job.
Back at the Tin Cup Trailhead and the Pettit Lake Campground I needed to say goodbye to Jane, the wonderful campground host. She plans on taking care of this campground for many years to come, plus she is looking forward to also backpacking up to the many nearby lakes.
I drove back to Oregon by way of Stanley and roads that took me north of Boise. A few things struck me such as the frenzy of tourists wanting to start their weekend. Also very little cellular access, maybe Biden’s infrastructure bill will help with that.
I hope to return to the Sawtooth Mountains better prepared for a more complete exploration. This is truly one of the most beautiful places in the US.