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Backpacker Magazine – June 1999

Pinup Perfect: Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho

While Sawtooth Lake grabs the limelight, behind the scenes lie crowd-free peace and splendor.

by: Mike Lanza

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QUICK TAKE: Sawtooth Wilderness, ID

DRIVE TIME: The trailhead is 110 miles (21/2 hours) northeast of Boise.

THE WAY: From Boise, take ID 55 north for 38 miles to Banks. Turn right on the Banks-Lowman Road and continue 33 miles to Lowman. Turn left on ID 21 and follow it for 32 miles. Turn right onto Grandjean Road and drive 7 miles to the trailhead.

TRAILS: The 338-square-mile Sawtooth Wilderness contains 350 miles of trail. To complete the 17-mile Sawtooth Lake loop, depart Grandjean trailhead and combine the Baron Creek (#101), North Fork of Baron Creek (#478), Sawtooth Lake/McGowan Lakes (#640), and Trail Creek (#453) Trails. Or access Sawtooth Lake from the east side via Iron Creek Campground, which is west of Stanley.

ELEVATION: The low point on the Sawtooth Lake loop is the trailhead at 5,200 feet. The trail tops out at 8,900 feet above the lake.

CAN'T MISS: Dawn light on Sawtooth Lake.

CROWD CONTROL: Sawtooth Lake's campsites are popular and get scooped up quickly on summer and early-fall weekends. For less-crowded camping options, head for the largest and highest of three small, unnamed lakes 1 mile south of Sawtooth Lake.

PIT STOP: Danskin Station, between Garden Valley and Lowman, serves gourmet eats.

WALK SOFTLY: What little flat ground there is at Sawtooth Lake is heavily compacted. If you camp at the lake, use an existing site, and stay away from the delicate shoreline.

MAPS AND GUIDES: The waterproof Sawtooth Wilderness Map covers the area (Earthwalk Press; 800-828-6277; $7.95).

MORE INFORMATION: Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Star Route, Ketchum, ID 83340; (208) 727-5013. A SNRA parking permit is required ($5 for three days; $15 for one year).


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