The Sawtooth Mountains to the west are the attention-grabbers when you’re driving through the Sawtooth Valley south of Stanley.
But if you’re willing to endure some rough, gravel road, the famed White Clouds are well within reach to the east.
Fourth of July Lake is an easily accessible destination just outside the White Clouds Wilderness. It’s a terrific hike for kids — challenging enough to feel like a workout and short enough to avoid “are we there yet?” syndrome.
The reward is a stunning view of the western edge of the White Clouds.
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The turnoff for Fourth of July Creek Road on the east side of Highway 75 is about 10 miles south of the turn for Redfish Lake.
You’ll have to endure 10.4 miles of rough, one-lane, gravel road to reach the trailhead, which has a large parking area (and needs it). The trail to the lake is 1.77 miles with 615 feet of elevation gain. It’s in great shape but there are a couple of water crossings that require stepping on rocks or balancing on a log — a fun twist for the kids.
A word of caution: The sign at the trailhead says it’s 1.25 miles to the lake. Unless my GPS is crazy, that number is way off.
The lake is a terrific spot for a picnic lunch and a family photo.
And it’s not the only place you can explore. If you continue about three-quarters of a mile past Fourth of July Lake (according to the sign), you’ll reach Washington Lake. Or turn left before you get to Fourth of July Lake and climb a mile to the White Clouds Wilderness.