Best time to visit Idaho

Sawtooth Lake in Idaho

An alpine lake surrounded by picturesque rugged mountains

Best time: July–September

Sawtooth Lake
Sawtooth Lake
Sawtooth Lake
Sawtooth Lake

One of the most beautiful spots in Idaho is Sawtooth Lake, nestled in the Sawtooth Mountains, in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The large alpine lake is situated on an elevation of 2,571 m (8,435 ft) above the sea level, about 11 km (7 mi) southwest of Stanley, Idaho. The lake remains frozen well into mid-summer and snow covers the path for most of the year, so the best time to visit Sawtooth Lake is from July through September.

Sawtooth Lake can be reached by an 8-km (5-mi) trail that starts from the Iron Creek trailhead just off the Sawtooth National Forest Road 619. This trail climbs 520 m (1,710 ft) and takes about six hours out and back. Hikers can enjoy the views of the Sawtooth Valley and Mount Regan at 3,110 m (10,190 feet). Camping is possible either near the lake or at the Iron Creek Trailhead.

Another option to hike to Sawtooth Lake is from Grandjean campground. This loop trail takes hikers along 30 km (18.7 mi) of rugged and beautiful landscapes. Some sections of the trail are used by horses. For those willing to cover the loop in a day, it's best to start at sunrise. Otherwise, a two-day hike is an option.

Sawtooth Lake and the Sawtooth National Forest is a must do hike in Idaho with beautiful alpine scenery. Be prepared for low temperatures in the mountains, even in the summer months. Fishing at Sawtooth Lake is possible if you obtain a license. The water is so clear that you will probably see fish taking the bate. Trout is the most common catch in the area.

Practical info

When is the peak season to see Sawtooth Lake?

Sawtooth Lake is best seen during summer, from July through September, when the snow melts and the lake thaws. Temperatures can be quite cold even during the summer, and it would be prudent to prepare accordingly since the lake is located 2,571 meters above sea level. Show more

What are the directions to Sawtooth Lake and where is it situated?

Sawtooth Lake is located within the Sawtooth Mountains range of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. It's approximately 11 km south-west of Stanley, Idaho. There is a hiking trail from the Iron Creek trailhead that stretches for 8 km, leading up to the lake. Visitors can only reach it by foot or on horseback. Show more

What is the height of Sawtooth Lake and how long does it take to trek?

Sawtooth Lake sits at an elevation of 2,571 meters above sea level. The hike is an approximately 8 km round trip and takes about six hours to complete. With an elevation ascent of 520 meters and an opportunity to see the Sawtooth Valley and Mount Regan, travelers can enjoy breathtaking views of the area. Show more

How long must one stay and where can they camp while visiting the lake?

Since the round trip to Sawtooth Lake by foot is approximately six hours, overnight camping is suitable. There are allotted campsites located near the lake and Iron Creek Trailhead. Overnight campers are required to have permits, and campfires are prohibited in the area. Show more

Are there any specific fish available in Sawtooth Lake, and are fishing licenses mandatory?

Rainbow, brook, and cutthroat trout are commonly found in Sawtooth Lake. Anglers must obtain permits to fish in the area. As the water is exceedingly clear, catching fish is a challenge, as fish can detect fishing lines. This clarity is due to the clear water and makes fishing at Sawtooth Lake a more in-depth experience than on other lakes. Show more

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