Thursday, August 18, 2011

Try to squeeze in a great day hike in the mountains before school starts next week

The spell-binding view from the top of Observation Peak in the Sawtooths (courtesy

Washington Lake in the White Clouds (courtesy ICL)

Red Mountain Lakes in the Boise National Forest near Lowman

High mountain lakes are where you want to be right now ...
this is Steve at a mystery lake in the Payette National Forest

Wendy on the summit of the Payette Crest
Hi all,

Sad, but true, the summer is slipping away -- at least for the parents of kids who start school next week.

It's going to be hot as blazes this weekend -- temperatures are forecast in the mid-90's and higher on Sunday -- so I'm recommending that you dash to the mountains for a high-elevation hike in the cool air near Stanley or McCall.

Start early in the day and get to the trailhead when it's still cool in the morning, so you can enjoy a full day in the high country before you need to head back home. Be sure to bring a day pack with water, snacks, a lunch and a rain coat. Bring bug juice as well as sun screen. Wear a hat for sun protection.

If you go to the Stanley area, you can partake in the Sawtooth Salmon Festival on Saturday. "Fall in love with the miracle of wild salmon," the organizers say. Educational tours start at 11 a.m., you can go look at wild salmon spawning in the Salmon River (must-do activity), enjoy live music in the afternoon and evening, and chow down on a salmon feast in the evening.

Here are some suggestions for high-elevation day hikes:
  • Climb Observation Peak (elev. 9,151 feet) in the Sawtooths. This is the only mountain in the Sawtooths that has a trail to the top, according to The hike from the Grand Jean Trailhead is 12 miles round-trip. Here are more details.
  • Hike to Red Mountain Lakes, near Lowman. This area is closer than Stanley. Drive to Lowman and go north on the Clear Creek Road (USFS Road #582) for about 12+ miles to a junction on the right with Forest Road #515. Take #515 to the trailhead. If you like to fish, try catching trout in the lakes.
  • Hike to Marten Lake, near Banner Summit between Lowman and Stanley. Watch for the trailhead just past Banner Summit. It's a pretty easy hike to Marten Lake from Banner Summit. It's about 5 miles to the lake. It's an out-and-back day hike unless you want to plant a shuttle vehicle at the Trap Creek Trailhead by Idaho 21, and it's about 10 miles total, and you won't have to retrace your steps. Again, bring your fishing pole if you like to fish.
  • Hike to 4th of July Lake and Washington Lake in the White Clouds. This is a nice, short one for young kids, but more of a drive. Drive to the Sawtooth Valley either via Stanley or Ketchum, and watch for the 4th of July Road on the east side of the valley. The long dirt road takes you to a high perch where you start hiking to 4th of July Lake, the first lake. It's only a mile to this location. Keep going into the White Clouds and you'll come to Washington Lake, within view of Castle Peak.
  • Hike to Snowslide Lake in the Payette National Forest near McCall. This is one of the more accessible lakes in the McCall area. The lake is only 1.5 miles from Lick Creek Road, northeast of McCall. Once at the lake, you could climb to Snowslide Peak (elev. 8,522) or just hike to the saddle to look into the Maki Lake basin.
  • Hike to Boulder Lake near Lake Fork, south of McCall. This is a pretty easy one, too ... 2.6 miles from the trailhead. You take Idaho 55 to Elo Road, go east on Elo to Forest Road #403, and go east to the trailhead at Boulder Meadows Reservoir. It's an out-and-back hike, with great views of the mountains in the Payette Crest.
  • Hike the Deer Point Trail to the top of Bogus Basin. If you don't have time to get out of town, here's a good one that I've blogged about before. It's a 5-mile loop that circumnavigates Bogus Basin.
  • Take the chairlift to the top of Bald Mountain in Sun Valley or Brundage Mountain in McCall. These are great options if people would prefer to get a "free" ride to the top. Both resorts charge a fee to ride the chairlift. At Sun Valley, it's $25 for one ride, and $30 for a full day. At Brundage, it's $10 for one ride, and $30 for a full day. Both mountains have great trail systems to explore if you'd like to walk down.
Pick up a Boise National Forest map, Payette National Forest map (McCall District), or Sawtooth National Recreation Area map for guidance on these trips. The easiest way to get these maps is from the Boise National Forest headquarters on Vinnell Way near Overland and Maple Grove. also is a great resource for climbing Idaho's mountains.

Have fun!

Steve shares his weekly outdoor tips with Ken and Tim on 94.9 FM The River each Friday morning at approximately 7:10 a.m. If you miss the program, you can hear the segments on River Detailed descriptions and color maps of Steve's hikes, bike rides and paddling trips are available for 99 cents each, plus the full ebooks and hard-copy guidebooks.