Outdoors Blog

Boat leads to family-friendly hike in Idaho’s Sawtooth Wilderness

When I searched for hikes in the Sawtooth Wilderness for a camping trip last week, my eyes were quickly drawn to postcard spots like Sawtooth Lake and Alice Lake. Then reality set in: I wasn’t likely to get there with an 8-year-old and a 70-year-old for hiking partners.

The solution: We took the shuttle boat across Redfish Lake, a scenic ride to the edge of the wilderness created in 1972. We entered without a destination in mind because those were all too far for our group. Instead, we set out to explore as much as we could. And it was still well worth the trip.

The trail is fairly mellow and in great shape aside from the fallen trees that need to be jumped, ducked or dodged. It features stunning views of the Sawtooth Mountains on both sides as you walk into a canyon, with Redfish Lake Creek adding some photo-worthy cascading water along the way.

One of the highlights for us was a series of massive boulders (bigger than SUVs) that were strewn through the forest in one section of the trail. The most notable rock smashed into two large trees — breaking them at their trunks — with the nose of the rock sticking out toward the trail. It looked like a crashed spaceship.

rock vs trees
This boulder smashed two trees when it fell down the mountain. Chadd Cripe ccripe@idahostatesman.com

The trail is popular — even on a weekday — and we found an interesting mix of users. We saw children of all ages (including an infant being carried). Large families. A dad and daughter on a backpacking trip. Three guys packing paddleboards in for a week of fishing. And lots of dogs (leashes are required from July 1 through Labor Day).

Back at the dock, on the way out, a dip in the lake became a popular way to pass the time waiting for the boat — and cool off from the hike.

▪ Stats: We hiked in 2.6 miles on the trail toward Alpine Lake (it’s about twice that far to the lake). The round trip covered 5.2 miles and about 650 feet of elevation gain.

▪ Getting there: Redfish Lake Lodge is 7 miles south of Stanley, off of Highway 75. The shuttle boat costs $16 for adults round trip, $4 each way for kids 6 and younger and $3 for dogs. It’s a 10-minute ride. Boats leave the marina on demand (two or more passengers) and pick up guests at the trailhead on a set schedule.