view of Idaho lake

Why the Sawtooth Lake Hike is One of the Best

Idaho hiking is second to none, especially in the Sawtooth Mountains. Rocky peaks tower over forests that teem with wildlife, streams, and cascading waterfalls in this outdoor-lovers paradise. While there are more trails to explore than you can shake your hiking stick at, the Sawtooth Lake hike is one of our favorites. You’ll encounter some of the most stunning views and natural beauty in the Gem State during your journey. This guide gives you all of the trail details, sights, and packing essentials you’ll need to stay safe and have fun on Idaho’s wild and wonderful playground. Searching for more exciting adventures during your trip to Stanley? Request our free Adventure Guide for a full rundown of the best excursions, activities, and attractions in our slice of mountain paradise.

Everything You Need to Know About Hiking Sawtooth Lake

Iron Creek to Sawtooth Lake

Trail Details

This 10-mile trek begins at the Iron Creek Trailhead and is only a 12-minute drive from your Triangle C Cabins rental. The first several miles of the trail is relatively easy and flat with glimpses of Iron Creek in the woods. Four miles into your journey, there is a sign pointing to Alpine Lake which is about a quarter mile off of the trail. You can take a detour up to the lake for a quick lunch break before getting back on the path and preparing for the toughest part of the trail. The last mile is steep but affords travelers with great views behind them before arriving at Sawtooth Lake for the big finish. All in all, the hike up to the lake takes about two to three hours, but the way back is much easier and takes less time.


The trail difficulty level varies from beginner to moderate, so this is a very accessible hike for most amateur tail hawks. You’ll gain over 1,700 feet in elevation from the beginning to the end of the path, and it’s important to remember to take it slower than usual if you are not used to the change in altitude.

Take a look at the trail map for more details!

The Best Photo Ops and Sights

There are a few places along the first flat part of the trail where there are some great spots for taking amazing pictures of Iron Creek, especially at the one and a half mile marker. Alpine Lake and the steep climb up to Sawtooth Lake both provide great photo ops as well. The best pictures on this hike will undoubtedly come from along the banks of crystal-clear Sawtooth Lake with Mount Regan, the tallest peak in the Sawtooth Range, in the background.

Check out our blog on our favorite Sawtooth National Forest hikes for more outdoor adventures and photo opportunities!

Hiking Packing List

  • Warm thermal layers
  • Warm, comfortable socks
  • Hiking shoes
  • A rain jacket
  • Camera
  • Snacks and plenty of water
  • First Aid Kit (just in case)
  • Bug repellent
  • Sunscreen

Make Triangle C Cabins Your Adventure Base Camp

Hike the day away in the Sawtooths and sleep the night away in one of our Triangle C Cabins accommodations. Each cabin includes comfortable and authentic mountain-themed furnishings with the Idaho wilderness right out your door! Browse our list of adventure bundles for unique outdoor experiences like mountain bikingwhitewater rafting, and backcountry skiing.

a line of Triangle C Cabins in Stanley, Idaho

Why is Stanley, Idaho the perfect place to explore the rugged outdoors? Don’t just take our word for it, start planning your trip today!