If you’re not already hooked on the electric feel of a wild trout taut on the line, you will be after the 32-mile Queens River Loop, which may as well be a pilgrimage through the land of the almighty cutthroat. The circuit skirts half a dozen lakes in Idaho’s Sawtooth Wilderness, and Rock Slide Lake is the inner sanctum for both its healthy population of cuts and its sheer beauty. Jagged peaks frame the pool, so you’ll have a lot to look at if the trout make you wait. To get there, tack on a 4-mile side trip from the north end of the Queens River Loop on Benedict Creek Trail (#462). “There’s a primo camping spot on a peninsula on the southern side of the lake,” says longtime Northwest Field Editor Michael Lanza. “Stand on the edge of it, and you can see cutthroat swimming in the clear water below your feet.” Give yourself at least five days to knock out the entire loop.
Trailhead Queens River Campground (43.821010, -115.210084) Season June into October, but aim for late summer for warmest weather, fewest mosquitoes, and blooming high-country flowers. Permits Get a free, self-issued permit at the trailhead. Contactfs.usda.gov/sawtooth