Sawtooth & Alpine Lakes:
Round trip to Sawtooth Lake – 10 miles
Round trip to Alpine Lake – 8 miles
Intermediate hiking and moderately strenuous
This is a not to be missed hike in the Sawtooth Mountains that includes everything you would want to see on a hike in the mountains. The trail starts at the Iron Creek trailhead which can be accessed by driving 2 miles West of Stanley on Highway 21 then driving about 3 miles on a dirt road to the Iron Creek Trailhead and Campground.
This hike is starts in the forest and at about 1 mile it opens up into a beautiful alpine meadow. It continues on into the forest again and begins to climb a bit for about 2 more miles. After crossing the creek in an open alpine basin, the trail climbs more abruptly on switchbacks to the turnoff to Alpine Lake which is about ¼ mile off of the main trail. The trail continues on up for approximately another mile or so switchbacking back and forth on a ridgeline with incredible views of the mountains and valley below. At the top the trail passes a small lake and a few hundred yards farther it opens up on Sawtooth Lake and Mt Regan.
Fourth of July & Washington Lakes:
Round Trip to Fourth of July Lake – 3.6 miles
Round Trip to Washington Lake — 5.6 miles
Easy hiking at about 9,500 foot elevation
This is a great hike for a taste of what the White Cloud mountains on the East side of the Sawtooth Valley are like. The elevation is higher than the Sawtooths, the geology is different and the sense of being in the mountains is overwhelming for such a short hike. The access road for this hike is located about 15 miles south on Highway 75 from Stanley to the Fourth of July Creek Road. Drive about 10 miles on a dirt road which can be a bit bumpy to reach the trailhead.
The hike starts in the forest and reaches Fourth of July Lake at about 1. 8 miles where the lake, the meadow around the lake and the mountain views are incredible. Washington Lake is about another mile over a small pass and down a bit from there. It is in a tighter basin with views as great as those at Fourth of July.
Marsh Creek (headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River):
Easy hiking for any amount of mileage as the trail follows the river and a turn around can be done at any time.
The trailhead can be reached by driving northwest from Stanley on Highway 21 to the turnoff for Lolo Campground and Bradley Boy Scout Camp. Turn off the highway and follow the dirt road a mile or two to the trail head which is beyond Lolo Campground.
The hike follows Marsh Creek which is one of the two main tributary streams that form the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. At about 1 ¼ mile, the trail crosses the stream on a bridge and from there on it opens up in some areas with views of surrounding mountains and at other times it is in thicker forest, but is always follows the stream.
At about 5 miles Marsh Creek meets up with Bear Valley Creek to become the Middle Fork of the Salmon. The confluence of these two streams is called “The Big Hole” and is a great place to eat lunch and turn around for the return trip.
For more information and a great map of hiking and mountain biking trails look for “Sawtooth & White Cloud Mountains” trail map produced by Adventure Maps. It can be purchased at McCoy’s Tackle shop, online at www.adventuremaps.net or firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-800-849-6589.