The Sawtooth Mountains are best known for their dramatic skyline visible from nearby Stanley, ID. This run will bring you up close and personal with some of the most dramatic peaks. With a quick side-trip to Alpine Lake and a small pond just before the main attraction (Sawtooth Lake
), this route packs an extra punch in the lake department as well (with even more in the surrounding area). Sawtooth Lake
is relatively large as alpine lakes tend to run. You'll find it nestled in a bare, rocky bowl at the base of Mt Regan. From the lake, the trail splits off in three different directions. Best to backpack in to soak up all it has to offer, but possible in a long day run.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: From Stanley, head 2 miles west on ID 21 to turnoff for Iron Creek trailhead (FR 619) on the left. Drive 3 mi. to trailhead parking lot.
Head southwest from the trailhead into the forest. You'll pass a sign indicating the boundary of the Sawtooth Wilderness. Shortly after take a right at the fork in the trail which will lead into a lovely, tree-lined meadow. Circling left around a peak to your right, you'll take a left at the next fork in the trail, bearing south. From here, you'll run with an up close view along the south side of the dramatic cliffs of Sawtooth Mountain range.
You'll then cross Iron Creek and quickly climb nearly 500 feet in elevation. Stay right at the fork in the trail where a side trail drops to the shores of Alpine Lake. (Or if you have time, take the decline down to the lake where there are a couple camp sites spread around the lake.) From along the upper trail, you'll have great views to the left of Alpine Lake with a mountain peak backdrop. As you climb, you'll have views back to the right of the jagged Sawtooths.
Once you near the top, you'll pass a pond to your right. Keep straight and you'll run into Sawtooth Lake
. You can get a glimpse of the lake upon the approach, or continue on to the left to get a broader view of the entire lake. If you have some time at Sawtooth Lake
, scramble up to the top of the rock formation on the northeast corner for sweeping views. You'll find camping spots scattered around this upper plateau.
The trail continues on to other destinations; however, this route turns around at this point and heads back the way you came to the trailhead.