Sawtooth National Forest: Alpine Lake

One of Idaho's premier backcountry destinations, this 11.7-mile out-and-back begins with a boat ride across Redfish Lake and ends at the crystalline waters of Alpine Lake.
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One of Idaho's premier backcountry destinations, this 11.7-mile out-and-back begins with a boat ride across Redfish Lake and ends at the crystalline waters of Alpine Lake.

Perfect as a dayhike or overnighter, the 5.9-mile (one-way) hike to Alpine Lake has few rivals. Get an early start on busy summer weekends—campsites fill up fast. The trip begins with a boat ride across Redfish Lake to the Inlet Campground. At the drop-off point, pick up the trail that leaves from the northwest side of the campground and hike through thick conifer forest. The trail climbs along Redfish Lake Creek, passing through boulder fields and skirting granite cliffs. After a steep set of switchbacks, the route reaches the eastern shore of Alpine Lake. Set up camp or return to the transfer dock following the same route.

INFO Sawtooth National Recreation Area, (208) 727-5000; fs.fed.us/r4/sawtooth/recreation/

SHUTTLE Reserve a spot on the shuttle boat at Redfish Lake Lodge. Rides to the upper end of the lake leave the main dock on demand with two or more people. The boat returns to pick up hikers at the transfer dock at 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

CONTACT Redfish Lake Lodge at (208) 644-9096 for more information.

-Mapped by Jason Kauffman

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 9.4

Waypoints

ALP001

Location: 44.142274, -114.922678

Proceed down the long wooden boardwalk to the main boat dock and covered registration desk where the Redfish Lake shuttle departs.

ALP002

Location: 44.100149, -114.95281

At the drop-off point, hike west through the Redfish Inlet Campground. The trail leaves the campground on the northwest side where it passes through a gate in the wooden fence.

ALP003

Location: 44.099344, -114.960809

Stay left at the Y-junction. From here, the trail begins to slowly climb up the Redfish Lake Creek valley through a dense forest of conifers. Listen for the bubbling creek just south of the trail in the trees.

ALP004

Location: 44.087776, -114.973927

The trail enters a rock garden of house-sized (and larger) boulders that have spilled off the nearby granite cliffs. Large diameter conifers and intense green shrubbery give this enchanted boulder garden an otherworldly feel. Look for huckleberry bushes that line much of the trail along this stretch.

ALP005

Location: 44.080886, -114.979152

Watch for a great break spot along the shaded creek.

ALP006

Location: 44.079324, -114.980756

Excellent spot to set up camp along Redfish Lake Creek.

ALP007

Location: 44.075005, -114.991643

Take the short spur trail to the left to a series of waterfalls that cascade over smooth granite. This lovely spot provides a stunning break from the trail. Take a dip in the cold, snowmelt-fed creek on hot summer days.

ALP008

Location: 44.071213, -115.002863

Turn right off the main trail at the Y. From here, the trail begins to climb steeply in a sustained push to Alpine Lake. Make sure to fill up water bottles before this mostly dry uphill hike.

ALP009

Location: 44.065934, -115.020209

The trail finally reaches the inviting shores of Alpine Lake after a steep series of switchbacks that begin down in the valley below along Redfish Lake Creek. Stay off sections of the shoreline that have been cordoned off to heal from overuse.

ALP010

Location: 44.064446, -115.019689

If campsites aren't available along the more heavily used east shore of Alpine Lake, consider looping around the south shore to more remote campsites. This campsite is just a wide patch of smooth granite with awesome views about a hundred feet above the lake.

Nightfall in the Sawtooths

Location: 44.064388, -115.019614

Redfish Lake Lodge and Marina

Location: 44.142798, -114.921112

Summer revelers enjoy the inviting shores at Redfish Lake. Hikers can take a shuttle boat from the Redfish Lake Lodge to the upper end of the lake and the beginning of the hike.

Music on the Lawn

Location: 44.142816, -114.92182

Summer events for the public at Redfish Lake Lodge include popular Music on the Lawn events.

Crossing Redfish Lake

Location: 44.101905, -114.950745

Taking off from the Redfish Inlet Campground at the end of the day on the way back to the Redfish Lake Lodge and marina.

Trailside Snacks

Location: 44.091469, -114.970078

Watch for fields of huckleberry bushes in the deep forests along lower Redfish Lake Creek.

Boulder Field

Location: 44.087739, -114.973576

The trail meanders through an enchanting field of boulders along lower Redfish Lake Creek.

Switchbacks

Location: 44.071788, -115.005119

Steep switchbacks take hikers swiftly uphill away from the lower valley of Redfish Lake Creek.

Cliffside Trail

Location: 44.071233, -115.007565

The trail clings to steep mountainsides in many spots along the route to Alpine Lake.

Alpine Lake

Location: 44.066119, -115.019442

Alpine Lake

Location: 44.065283, -115.019372

A narrow peninsula extends out into Alpine Lake. A perfect campsite.

Alpine Lake

Location: 44.064855, -115.019426

Late evening views down to Alpine Lake.

Rising Trout

Location: 44.064643, -115.019426

Trout rise at dusk along the shores of Alpine Lake.

Alpenglow above Alpine Lake

Location: 44.064558, -115.019453

Alpenglow above Alpine Lake high in the Sawtooth Mountains.

Alpine Rock Garden

Location: 44.064604, -115.019023

An alpine rock garden several hundred feet above Alpine Lake.

Camp

Location: 44.064477, -115.019597

A solitary campsite on a smooth-worn granite slab above Alpine Lake.