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Backpacker Magazine – June 2012

Rip & Go: Divide Creek Lake, Targhee National Forest, ID

Explore a seldom-visited stretch of the Continental Divide with hidden lakes, world-class trout fishing, and abundant wildlife.

by: Jason D.B. Kauffman


Hike through wildflower-filled meadows—watch for the light purple splash of wild iris in August—to a jade-colored alpine lake on this 18.8-mile out-and-back in the shadow of the rugged Beaverhead Mountains. This is primitive country: Keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and grizzlies.


1. (Mile 3.3) Snag your first up-valley views of the limestone and granite wall of the jagged, 11,000-foot Italian Peaks.

2. (3.8) Continue straight.

3. (4.6) Begin a 1,700-foot climb over the next 2.7 miles through aspen and conifer stands.

4. (6.8) Continue straight.

5. (7.4) Reach a 9,300-foot grassy plateau with 360-degree views of a sea of sawtooth peaks and deep-forested canyons.

6. (7.7) Stay left.

7. (8.2) Traverse a 9,400-foot saddle, the highpoint of the trip, where blown-open views beckon a break. To the east, spot the Lima Peaks.

8. (8.4) Cross the Continental Divide—now just a gentle ridge above treeline—into Montana. From here the trail zigzags between Montana and Idaho.

9. (8.7) Look for deer and elk as you cross a vast meadow.

10. (9.4) Reach Divide Creek Lake, a cutthroat-filled tarn tucked in a rocky cirque. Camp on the east shore, next to the outlet creek, with views of the lake and a 10,000-foot unnamed peak. Return the way you came.

(Bonus) On day two, scramble west of the lake up a short section of scree to the Divide for uninterrupted views of the surrounding Italian Peaks. 


Trip Planner
Get there
From Idaho Falls, take I-15 N to ID 22 W. Go six miles and turn right on Medicine Lodge Rd. In 22.5 miles, go left on Webber Creek Rd. and go five miles to the trailhead.

Gear up Idaho Mountain Trading, 474 Shoup Ave., Idaho Falls, ID. (208) 523-6679; idahomountaintrading.net

Fishing permit Nonresident $13 plus $6/day; ID resident $26/year; fishandgame.idaho.gov

Contact (208) 374-5422; 1.usa.gov/itpeaks

Trip data backpacker.com/hikes/1383168

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