In this article, we’ve rounded up 12 of the best Sawtooth Mountains hikes, showcasing the area’s most unique landscapes from jagged peaks to stunning alpine lakes. Located in central Idaho, the Sawtooth Mountains are one of our all time favorite places to hike, and we hope by the end of this article you’ll be inspired to hit the trails in this often-overlooked gem! Our list includes easy strolls to challenging rock scrambles and everything in between, so you’re sure to find an amazing hike that suits your needs!

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Sawtooth Mountains Hikes

Known for the iconic jagged peaks that give these mountains their name, the Sawtooth Mountains are home to many of the best hikes in Idaho.

We’ve lived in Idaho during the summer in both 2021 and 2022 and absolutely fell in love with the Sawtooth Mountains, which are often overlooked for the nearby peaks of the Tetons.

With over 350 miles of trails weaving through hundreds of jagged mountain peaks, 50 of which are over 10,000 feet elevation, the Sawtooth Mountains feature some of the best best hiking not only in Idaho, but in all of the Rockies!

The Sawtooth Wilderness covers 217,000 acres of rocky peaks, glacier-carved valleys, iconic rivers, and abundant wildlife. There’s even nearly 400 alpine lakes!

But beyond their breathtaking beauty, we love the Sawtooth Mountains because you can still find some solitude here, away from the large crowds in nearby national parks. If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten path adventure, hiking in the Sawtooth Mountains is a great choice!

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How to get to the best hikes in the Sawtooth Mountains

The Sawtooth Wilderness is located in central Idaho, about 2 hours 45 minutes from Boise and about 3 hours from Idaho Falls. The closest towns to the Sawtooth Mountains are Ketchum to the south and Stanley to the north.

Ketchum is home to the Sun Valley Ski Resort and definitely attracts an upper class crowd. Many stars own vacation homes in Sun Valley or Ketchum, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood, Demi Moore, and Tom Hanks, just to name a few!

All that being said, the town of Ketchum is very cute and has many good restaurants, hotels, and stores. It a bit like a smaller, less busy Jackson Hole. It’s definitely worth a stop while you’re in the area!

And while there are plenty of places to stay in Ketchum, we prefer the more isolated and rustic Stanley, Idaho.

Located to the north of the Sawtooth Mountains, Stanley is a small town with just a few hotels, lodges, campgrounds, and restaurants, but it’s situated right on the Salmon River with epic mountain views from almost everywhere.

Always remember to leave no trace!

The Sawtooth Mountains become increasingly popular in recent years, meaning it’s especially important to do your part to help preserve this fragile ecosystem for generations to come.

A few key things to remember include:

  • Always stay on the trail. The Sawtooth Mountains light up with beautiful wildflowers during the spring. Going off-trail damages the plants and accelerates erosion.
  • Store your food properly – this is black bear country! Never leave food unattended and avoid leaving behind crumbs or food waste. If staying overnight, be sure to bring a bear can or bear bag to hang your food. There are no grizzly bears in the Sawtooth Mountains.
  • Additionally, never feed the animals (no matter how cute!).
  • Pack out all trash and waste. If you are backpacking, you must bury human waste at least 6-8 inches deep OR use a WAG bag. Toilet paper should always be carried out, not buried or left behind.
  • Be considerate of others. That means keeping your dog on leash during peak season and your noise levels low.
  • Fires are not permitted in the backcountry in most areas of the Sawtooth Mountains. Because forest fires are common in the summer, it’s best practice to skip the campfire.

Remember to Leave No Trace. Pack out what you pack in, stay on trail, be well-prepared, leave nothing behind, take only photos and memories with you, treat the area with respect and help preserve this beautiful spot for generations to come.

12 Best Sawtooth Mountains Hikes

Without further ado, here are our 12 favorite hikes in the Sawtooth Mountains, ordered roughly by geographic location:

  1. Baron Lakes
  2. Alpine Lake (via Redfish Lake)
  3. Redfish Lakeshore Trail
  4. Bench Lakes
  5. Alice Lake
  6. Twin Lakes
  7. Alice Toxaway Loop
  8. No Name Lake
  9. Thompson Peak
  10. Sawtooth Lake
  11. Alpine Lake
  12. Goat Lake

Sawtooth Mountains Hikes Map

The map below displays the locations of each of the best Sawtooth Mountains hikes.

  • To view more details about each location, click on the marker on the map.
  • To save this map for future use, click the star next to the title. From your phone, open the Google Maps app and click the “saved” tab, followed by the “Maps” icon. From your Gmail account, navigate to Maps –> “Saved” –> “My Maps” –> “Maps” tab.
  • To email this map to yourself, click the three dots in the upper right corner.

1. Baron Lakes

Hike stats
  • Hiking distance | 16.8 miles
  • Elevation gain | 3,600 feet
  • Total time | 9 – 12 hours (additional time required for taking the shuttle)
  • Epic-ness rating | 7.5
  • Difficulty | Hard

Find this hike on AllTrails: Redfish Lake to Baron Lake

The hike to Baron Lakes shows off the iconic jagged peaks and crystal-clear alpine lakes that Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains are known for! This out-and-back hike is challenging, gaining about 3,600 feet of elevation over 16.8 miles round trip.

Although Baron Lakes is certainly doable as a day hike for the ambitious hiker, it’s also the perfect spot to set up camp for a one or two-night backpacking trip! If you’re looking to spend a quiet night under the stars in the Sawtooth Wilderness, put Baron Lakes at the top of your adventure bucket list.

Due to the long distance of the hike, Baron Lakes tends to be significantly less crowded than other popular hikes in the Sawtooth Mountains so you can expect to find some peace and quiet on the trail.

Interested in backpacking to Baron Lakes? We’ve put together a detailed guide with everything you need to know to plan your trip here:

2. Alpine Lake (via Redfish Lake)

Alpine Lake via Redfish Lake

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 10.5 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1800 feet
  • Total time | 6 – 7 hours (additional time required for taking the shuttle)
  • Epic-ness rating | 5
  • Difficulty | Moderate to hard

Note: there is no AllTrails page for Alpine Lake. You can use the route to Baron Lakes (linked above) to get there.

Along the way to Baron Lakes, you will pass by Alpine Lake at about 5.25 miles into the hike. Although the Baron Lakes definitely steal the show, Alpine Lake is beautiful on its own and would make a nice day hike combined with taking the Redfish Lake shuttle.

With crystal clear teal waters and a jagged mountain backdrop, Alpine Lake makes the perfect spot to take a lunch break.

Plus, the journey to get to Alpine Lake is just as gorgeous. You’ll get a full tour of Redfish Lake from the boat shuttle over to the trailhead and the trail passes through vibrant, grassy meadows surrounded by the Sawtooth Mountains massive granite peaks.

3. Bench Lakes

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 7.8 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1250 feet
  • Total time | 4 – 5 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 6
  • Difficulty | Moderate

Find this hike on AllTrails | Bench Lakes Trail

Bench Lakes is another set of beautiful alpine lakes accessible from Redfish Lake. Of the hikes in the area that we’ve covered so far, Bench Lakes is the easiest. While Baron Lakes may be more impressive, Bench Lakes is a great option if you want to see both Redfish Lake and a higher-elevation alpine lake via a fairly moderate hike.

4. Redfish Lakeshore Trail

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | Up to 13 miles
  • Elevation gain | Up to 2000 feet
  • Total time | 1+ hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 5
  • Difficulty | Easy to hard

Find this hike on AllTrails | Redfish Lake Loop

The lakeshore trail at Redfish Lake is an awesome family-friendly hike! Technically, the Redfish Lake trail totals 13 miles with 2000 feet of elevation gain round trip, but you don’t need to do the whole thing.

The trail leads along the edge of the massive Redfish Lake, so you can choose to hike all the way around the lake or just go out and back as far as you please.

Plus it’s possible to take a shuttle boat to the opposite end of the lake, allowing you to see the entire lake and get out on the water. Better yet, there is a little beach area next to the Redfish Marina, perfect for taking a swim or hanging out after your hike.

The Redfish Lake shuttle costs $16 per person one way, or $22 per person round trip, and dogs cost an extra $3. The ride across the lake took about 10 minutes and runs from 7am and through 7pm.

Redfish Lake is sure to be a real crowd-pleaser, especially with kiddos!

5. Alice Lake

Hike stats

  • Hiking distance | 12 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1600 feet
  • Total time | 6 – 9 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | Moderate

Find this hike on AllTrails: Alice Lake, Twin Lakes, Edith Lake Loop

Please note: AllTrails does not have a designated page for Alice Lake. The above AllTrails link refers to a longer loop trail, which includes Alice Lake. To hike just to Alice Lake, you’ll start out going clockwise on this loop, hike about 6 miles to Alice Lake and then retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Hiking to Idaho’s Alice lake, hidden among the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains, is a perfect alpine adventure! With sparkling, teal-colored waters and the jagged peak of Idaho’s El Capitan in the background, this serene alpine lake is an outdoor lover’s paradise.

The hike to Alice Lake is a moderate 12-mile round trip journey with fairly mild elevation gain, making it quite accessible despite the longer distance.

In the early mornings, the mountains cast a crystal clear reflection over the perfectly still waters of Alice Lake, creating a stunning and serene picture opportunity.

Want to learn more about Alice Lake?

6. Twin Lakes

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 13 .5 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1900 feet
  • Total time | 7 – 10 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | Hard

If have you have the time and you’re up for an extra challenge, you can extend the Alice Lake hike approximately 1 mile from Alice Lake to nearby Twin Lakes. As the name implies, Twin Lakes is a pair of side by side alpine lakes, whose beauty gives Alice Lake a run for its money.

Of all the amazing Sawtooth Mountains hikes, Twin Lakes may just be our favorite! These lakes are harder to reach and thus likely to be less crowded than Alice Lake, so if you’re looking for some solitude be sure to add Twin Lakes to your itinerary.

There is also an incredible viewpoint from the pass overlooking the lakes, that you can reach with a strenuous 1-mile hike gaining 900 feet of elevation beyond Twin Lakes.

Reaching the pass as a day hike would be challenging, so plan ahead and start early if you intend to do so.

7. Alice Toxaway Loop

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 19 miles (option to add 4 additional miles to Edith Lake)
  • Elevation gain | 3200 feet
  • Total time | 10 – 12 hours, or best done as a 1 or 2-night backpacking trip
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | hard

Find this hike on AllTrails: Tin Cup Hiker

The Alice Toxaway Loop in Idaho features several of the most amazing alpine lakes we’ve ever seen! Framed by the snowy peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains, Twin Lakes, Alice Lake, Toxaway Lake and a multitude of other smaller lakes along the trail make the Alice- \Toxaway Loop a quintessential Sawtooth Mountains hike.

The Alice Toxaway Loop is typically completed as a one or two-night backpacking trip. That being said it is possible to do it as a very long day hike if you’re looking for a serious challenge!

The majority of the elevation gain on this hike is fairly gradual and moderate. The most challenging part of the hike is by far the section between Toxaway Lake and Twin Lakes, where the switchbacks seem to never end.

8. No Name Lake (aka Thompson Lake or Profile Lake)

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 10 miles
  • Elevation gain | 2500 feet
  • Total time | 5 – 6 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 7
  • Difficulty | Hard

Technically, this stunning lake has no official name, but it is sometimes referred to as either Thompson Lake or Profile Lake. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll refer to the lake as Thompson Lake from here on out.

In an area known for alpine lakes, Thompson Lake is definitely one of our favorites for its vibrant teal color and uniquely jagged spires that surround it. It’s a bit tricky to get down to the lakeshore, as the banks around the lake are steep.

Thompson Lake is situated at the base of Thompson Peak, the tallest point in the Sawtooth Mountains. Keep reading to learn more about how to reach the top of the massive granite peak that towers over the lake!

9. Thompson Peak

View from Thompson Peak in Idaho, the tallest point in the Sawtooth Range

Hike stats

  • Hiking distance | 12.3 miles
  • Elevation gain | 4,035 feet
  • Total time | 8 to 10 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 8.5
  • Difficulty | Hard

Find this hike on AllTrails: Thompson Peak via Alpine Way Trail

The Sawtooth Mountains are well known for epic hikes, but in our opinion, the hike to Thompson Peak is head and shoulders (literally!) above the rest!

Standing nearly 10,700 feet above sea level, Thompson Peak is the tallest summit in the Sawtooth Mountains and the hike to reach the top is one of the most epic day hikes we’ve ever done.

Featuring serious elevation gain, a picturesque alpine lake, a killer boulder field, and some scrambling up to the summit, this hike has it all! There is no established trail to the summit, so this hike requires a bit of route-finding and a sense of adventure.

Hiking to Thompson Peak is a serious undertaking. We’ve outlined everything you need to reach the roof of the Sawtooth mountains in the article below:

10. Sawtooth Lake

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 10 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1900 feet
  • Total time | 5 – 7 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 7
  • Difficulty | Moderate to hard

Find this hike on AllTrails: Sawtooth Lake via Iron Creek Stanley Lake Trail

Laying on the shores of the bright blue Sawtooth Lake, toes in the chilly water, surrounded on all sides by rocky peaks with a book in hand is one of my all-time favorite memories from our time in the Sawtooth Mountains, and just one of the many ways that Idaho has captured my heart.

A moderate trail covering 10 miles and 1900 feet of elevation gain, the hike to Sawtooth Lake gives you a taste of the best of the Sawtooth Mountains. Spend an hour or two relaxing on the shores of Sawtooth Lake and I bet you’ll also fall in love with Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains!

While the trail along the shores of Sawtooth Lake is beautiful, we think the most stunning view you can find here is located from an overlook on a spur trail. The trail turns off to the right just after the small lake before you reach Sawtooth Lake.

Continue for about a quarter-mile until the massive Sawtooth Lake comes into view (note that the trail continues past this point, but the viewpoint will be pretty obvious).

As with most hikes in the Sawtooth Mountains, it’s also possible to backpack to Sawtooth Lake. Read more about how to day hike or backpack to Sawtooth Lake here:

11. Alpine Lake (via Iron Creek)

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 7.4 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1250 feet
  • Total time | 3 – 4 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 5
  • Difficulty | Moderate

Find this hike on AllTrails | Alpine Lake via Trail 640

We know what you’re thinking… didn’t you guys already cover Alpine Lake?! You’d be correct, BUT it turns out that there are, in fact, two Alpine Lakes (the proper-noun-kind) in the Sawtooth Mountains.

There are over 400 lakes in the Sawtooth Mountains, and it would appear that whoever was naming them ran out of creativity…

Despite its rather generic name, Alpine Lake (the second) is a picturesque spot located off a spur trail on the way to Sawtooth Lake via the Iron Creek Trailhead. This is a great moderate hike that gets you into the mountains and to one of the Sawtooth’s beautiful alpine lakes.

If you continue along the trail toward Sawtooth Lake, there is also a nice view overlooking Alpine Lake from the trail farther ahead.

12. Goat Lake

Hike Stats

  • Hiking distance | 8.1 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1780 feet
  • Total time | 5 – 6 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | Hard

Find this hike on AllTrails | Goat Lake and Goat Falls

The hike to Goat Lake is no joke. Although on paper it doesn’t sound too hard, the final mile up to the lake traverses an incredibly steep and rocky boulder field.

That being said, if you are up for a challenging hike, Goat Lake is certainly one of the most stunning alpine lakes in the Sawtooth Mountains with the brightest teal waters you’ve ever seen!

Sawtooth Mountains hikes superlatives

Still can’t decide which hikes in the Sawtooth Mountains you want to tackle?! Keep reading and we’ll try our best to help you decide!

  • Most classic Sawtooth Mountains hike | Sawtooth Lake
  • Most stunning alpine lake | Alice Lake or Goat Lake
  • Most challenging | Thompson Peak
  • Best backpacking | Baron Lakes
  • Most kid/family friendly | Redfish Lake

Sawtooth Mountains packing list

Make sure you’re prepared with appropriate gear before you go hiking in the Sawtooth Mountains:

Essentials for everyone

  • Bear Spray (Counter Assault)| While there are no grizzly bears in the Sawtooths, there are black bears so carrying bear spray with you is always a good idea.
  • GPS Device (Garmin InReach Mini) | The trail to Sawtooth Lake is pretty easy to follow, so you shouldn’t have trouble staying on the trail. That being said, we always carry our Garmin for peace of mind just in case of an emergency.
  • Bug Spray | Especially if you plan to hang out by the lake for a while, you don’t want to forget bug spray on the Sawtooth Lake hike! The mosquitos here are brutal and they will bite right through your layers.
  • Bathing suit | The waters of Sawtooth Lake are quite cold at any time of year, but if you’re visiting during the summer taking that plunge feels amazing after a long trek up!
  • Towel (PackTowl)| If you do decide to take a swim in Sawtooth Lake, make sure you pack a towel to dry off afterwards.
  • Microspikes | If you’re hiking to Sawtooth Lake in the spring, fall or even early summer, there is likely to be snow at the higher elevations. Since the trail gets pretty steep, we recommend packing microspikes to stay safe in possible snowy or icy conditions.

His & Hers

  • Hiking poles (Hers: Black Diamond Distance Z poles, His: Black Diamond Distance FLZ poles ) | We both hike with Black Diamond poles and can’t imagine hiking without them! They help take some of the weight off your knees and legs on a steep climb like the one to Sawtooth Lake.
  • Backpack with bladder (Hers: CamelBak Helena 20L, His: Camelback Rim Runner 22L) | We both use a similar Camelback backpack for day hiking (Sarah has the women’s version, Matt’s is unisex) – they’re comfortable, lightweight and just big enough to hold the essentials without weighing you down. Plus they both come with a 2L bladder.
  • Hiking boots (Hers: Danner Mountain 600s, His: Salomon Ultra 4 Mid GTX) | the trail to Sawtooth Lake gets steep and rocky after Alpine Lake. We’d highly recommend wearing hiking boots for better traction and foot support.
  • Hiking pants (Hers: Athleta Headlands pants, His: PrAna Stretch Zion Pants) | These Athleta pants are Sarah’s absolute favorite! They’re comfortable and durable for hiking, and all the pockets make them more stylish, so they can double as normal pants.
  • Pullovers (Hers: Smartwool Merino Quarter Zip, His: Smartwool Merino Quarter Zip) | These Smartwool quarter zips are so warm and comfortable – perfect to keep you comfortable on a chilly morning in the Sawtooths.
  • Long sleeve base layers (Hers: Smartwool All Season Baselayer) | When you’re hiking in the Sawtooths, layers are so important – you’ll work up a sweat while moving, but once you sit down to relax at the lake, it can get pretty chilly especially in the early summer/fall.
  • Down Jacket (Hers: Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody Women’s Down Hoodie, His: Cotopaxi Fuego) | If you hate being cold (like me), the Arc’teryx Down Hoodie is the jacket for you! With 850 fill down, it’s incredibly lightweight, high quality and totally worth the extra warmth. The Cotopaxi Fuego is also a great option – at 800 fill down, it’s not quite as warm but comes in at a lower price point.

Where to stay for hiking in the Sawtooth Mountains

Stanley, Idaho

The charming little mountain town of Stanley, Idaho makes for a great place to stay when visiting Sawtooth National Forest. Here you’ll find a few hotel and cabin options, quaint restaurants and coffee shops and convenience stores to fuel up on essentials.

Stanley is located just minutes from several of the best Sawtooth Mountains hikes, and about 30 mins from the Tin Cup Trailhead for the Alice Toxaway Loop.


There are several campgrounds around Redfish Lake, including Point Campground, Sokeye Campground, Mount Heyburn Campground, Redfish Outlet Campground, and Glacier View Campground.

Some of the campgrounds may be reserved in advance while others are first come first serve. Camping near Redfish Lake is ideal if you plan to hike to Baron Lakes, Bench Lake, the Redfish Lakeshore, or Alpine Lake.

The Petit Lake campground is a very convenient spot to pitch your tent if you intend to hike Alice Lake, Twin Lakes, or the Alice Toxaway Loop. The campground offers 9 single and 3 double sites, which are available on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Due to the limited number of spots, the campground typically fills up early in the day, particularly on weekends.

When to hike in the Sawtooth Mountains

The best time to hike in the Sawtooth Mountains is summer through early fall (typically late June through September).

During the spring and early summer months, the trail may still be snow-covered. In the Sawtooth Mountains, the first snow typically falls in mid-October, but obviously this can vary by year. Keep an eye on recent precipitation and weather conditions to decide whether to take on this backpacking trip.

Remember that even during the summer months, nights in the Sawtooth Mountains get cold, so be sure to pack a warm sleeping bag and extra layers.

Idaho hiking resources

Looking for more incredible hikes and things to do in Idaho? You may also be interested in the following:

What’s your favorite hike in the Sawtooth Mountains?! Questions about any of the hikes on the list? Let us know in the comments section below!

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