5 Top Rated Adventures in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area

Idaho is among one of the most underrated travel destinations in the United States. Full of miles of rugged, raw natural beauty, this picturesque state calls to nature lovers and avid outdoors enthusiasts alike. As the warm summer months approach, Idaho becomes a hub for outdoor recreational pursuits. The dense green forests of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and remote location offer an excellent alternative to closer-to-town hotspots.

This relatively unknown paradise is considered Idaho's best-kept secret for its miles of virtually empty hiking trails, crystal-clear alpine lakes, and towering snow-capped peaks that add to the spectacular scenic mountain country. The Sawtooths are a year-round recreation destination with access to everything from camping, hiking, backpacking, fishing, boating, whitewater rafting, birdwatching, photography, mountain biking, and more!

Kirkham Hotsprings

With over 130+/- accessible hot springs in the state, some of the best springs can be found in the Sawtooths Area. By far the most popular, Kirkham Hot Springs is sought after for its convenient off-the highway access and variety of pools to choose from. Full of ample parking space and a staircase leading down to warm soaking pools, this gorgeous spring is located just off the South Fork Payette River's edge, along State Highway 21 near Lowman, Idaho.

Additional options to consider include Boat Box and Sunbeam Springs. Boat Box Hot Springs is known for its iconic mining cauldron piped to the brim with hot water and scenic views of the Salmon River to make for a relaxing end to an adventure-packed day. Roughly 3.5+/- miles up the 75 from Stanley Boat Box can be spotted steaming from a small pull-out that fits 3+/- cars. A few miles further lies Sunbeam Hot Springs, another great option for more space to spread out and proximity to the river. The area is excellent for customizing pool temperatures with the rocks that line the pools along the river bank.

Redfish Lake to Alpine Lake Trail

With more than 700+/- miles of trails to explore, many find it easy to fill a day or even a weekend trekking the backcountry of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. A great route to explore for first-time visitors is the 11.4+/- mile long Redfish Lake to Alpine Lake Trail. This one-of-a-kind trailhead starts across the beautiful Redfish Lake and passes through wildflower meadows, prime for wildlife viewing. A worthwhile trip, this intermediate hike reaches elevations of more than 8,000+/- feet and ends with a pleasant resting area to escape the summer heat.

More advanced hikers may enjoy the Alice Lake Loop, a challenging trek uphill with rewarding panoramic views and jewel-colored waters at the end. The trail is approximately 21.3+/- miles out and back and gains around 1,600+/- feet along the way. An excellent option for those wanting to experience all that Idaho's wilderness has to offer, many choose to camp at the beautiful lake and enjoy the star-filled night skies.

Alpine Lake Fishing

With over 300+/- lakes and access to the Salmon, Payette, Boise, and Big Wood River, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is a gateway to once-in-a-lifetime fishing. Home to abundant native trout and salmon populations, pack a fly-fishing rod and head up Alpine Way Trail for hours of uninterrupted solitude and a day spent enjoying some of the best alpine lake fishing. The trail is well maintained and runs approximately 8.1+/- miles out and back up a steep path. Additional hotspots to check out include Pats Lake, Arrowhead Lake, and Queens River Divide. Take this opportunity to make lasting memories and experience world-class trout fishing just a pond away.

Mountain Climbing

Over the years, volcanic and tectonic activity has shaped Idaho into a premier climbing destination, The Sawtooth National Recreation Area included. In fact, climbers worldwide travel out to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area to take part in the unique climbing opportunities. The area is home to four nearby mountain ranges, the Sawtooths, Boulders, White Clouds, and Smokies that boast incredible rock formations and 360-degree scenic views.

Williams Peak, a part of the Sawtooth Mountain Range, is one of the most accessible climbs in the area and serves as a great starting point for the average climber. However, most of the mountaineering in the Sawtooths is often challenging and lengthy, like The Devils Bedstead. With an elevation of 11,865+/- feet at the summit, it stands as the fifth-highest peak in the Pioneer Mountains and is an impressive feat to tackle.

The rocks of the Sawtooths, on the other flip side, offer great multi-level routes for climbers. Climbers may enjoy the diversity and easily accessible routes found in Saddleback Lakes, Elephant Perch's, and Old Decker Peak's summit. These routes are offer varying lengths and difficulties for a broad spectrum of climbers.

Backcountry Skiing

As the last of the autumn leaves fall, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area transforms into a winter wonderland. Fresh powder blankets the miles of untouched countryside and ponderosa pines at least 7+/- times a month, making it the ideal location for winter sports galore. Enjoy everything from nordic skiing to top-rated ski resorts, snowmobiling, helicopter skiing, winter festivals, and more!

Carve out your own backcountry adventure or spend a day touring almost 10+/- miles of off-the-beaten-path trails to Alturas Lake, just south of Stanley off of Highway 75. Find around 150+/- miles of groomed snowmobile trails and more than 70+/- miles of maintained cross-country ski trails surrounding the spectacular snow-covered mountains. Make the most of your trip and stop by The Sun Valley Resort for premiere powder conditions and some of the finest downhill skiing terrain around.

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