Hiking & Trails

Proposed trail system would connect Idaho’s most popular campgrounds to lakefront

Forest Service officials on Tuesday unveiled plans to create a nonmotorized trail system that would connect popular Idaho campsites with nearby boat launches, day-use areas and more, according to a news release.

Matt Phillips, landscape architect for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, said in a phone interview that the trails would link campgrounds on the north end of Redfish Lake to existing developments, such as the Redfish Lake Lodge. Currently, the only way to move between the handful of campgrounds and other amenities on the lake is by road.

“What we’ve never really done is tied them together with trails,” Phillips said.

Though there’s not yet a plan for how many miles of trails the project would include, Phillips said the network likely would extend to Idaho 75, as well as the Redfish Lake visitor center and lakefront. According to the news release, the SNRA also plans improvements to the entrance station at Redfish and to nearby Grand Mogul trail.

Phillips said the timing seemed right as the Forest Service moves forward on a 4.5-mile trail connecting Redfish Lake — arguably Idaho’s most sought-after camping area — to the town of Stanley to the north.

“We’ve talked about (Redfish trails) for a long time,” Phillips said. “With the momentum of the connection to Stanley, we just wanted to tie everything together.”

Phillips said the trails will become more developed the closer they are to the “core” area north of the lake, where they’re likely to see the most traffic. He said the nonmotorized option would not only create a safer route for cyclists and hikers, it should also ease traffic congestion.

“You’ll be able to get from (the campgrounds) to the lake without having to get in the car,” he said.

There’s currently no projected budget for the upgrades as officials solicit comments from the public and create a formal plan. Contact Phillips with questions or comments by Nov. 4, 2019, at 208-727-5025 or matt.phillips2@usda.gov.

Phillips said the Forest Service will begin looking at funding sources when this phase is completed.

By Tuesday afternoon, he hadn’t received any comments but said he anticipated positive feedback.

“I really expect it to be well-received,” Phillips said. “It’s kind of the single missing piece.”

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