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The numbers: 18 miles, 2 to 3 days
The hike: Crystal-clear lakes cupped by granite peaks, an enormous crag called El Capitan—you might think you’re in Yosemite except for the lack of crowds. This circuit around 10,280-foot Parks Peak in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area starts with the 5.5-mile trail to Alice Lake. Bring trekking poles for creek crossings that may be challenging, especially during afternoon runoff. Continue another mile to camp by Twin Lakes, where the Caribbean-blue water and granite reefs suggest snorkeling—if you could stay in the icy water longer than 30 seconds. Next day, make the climb to 9,390-foot Snowyside Pass, true to its name until late July. If the weather’s good, scramble .8 mile up the east ridge of 10,651-foot Snowyside Peak. Then descend 1.5 miles to Toxaway Lake, where the big brookies swim. Close the loop by hiking northeast down the canyon of Yellow Belly Creek, passing waterfalls and Farley Lake. Pack a puffy and a swimsuit—the diurnal temperature swings in the Sawtooths are legendary.
Trailhead 43.984423, -114.871023; Tin Cup, 2.2 miles west of ID 75, 18 miles south of Stanley
Red tape Free trailhead permits
Season late July to mid-September