Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains – Alice – Toxaway Loop

Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains

Sunset in the Sawtooth Valley in Idaho
Sunset in the Sawtooth Valley in Idaho

Since moving from Denver to the foothills kept us busy, we haven’t had a ton of time for hiking, backpacking, or camping! Needing to remedy this deficiency, we headed to Idaho for a week to explore the Sawtooth Range.

Sawtooth Lake
Sawtooth Lake

After both working night shifts, we had a late start on our long drive towards Sun Valley. We stopped in the interesting town of Evanston, Wyoming, where we observed the aftermath of the day’s beer fest (and also some annoying Seahawk fans who thought there were really funny).

The next day we made good time towards Sun Valley and to our campsite near Pettit Lake in the Sawtooth Valley. Settling in, we set camp and enjoyed some well-deserved beers!

The following morning, we awoke to dreary skies and a cold rain. Our legs antsy from a 12-hour drive, we pushed forward with our plans for a day hike. On the trail to Sawtooth Lake, we encountered rain, sun, sleet, and July snow! We arrived to the beautiful lake, but had to quickly turn around as another round of rough weather was threatening. After 10 miles of hiking we enjoyed some Idaho Nachos (naturally subbing chips for French fries). That evening back in camp, the weather started to lift – allowing me to finally go photograph!

Alice-Toxaway Loop

The Sawtooth mountains offer endless options for hiking and backpacking. Knowing we had only a few days, we settled on the popular (and “crowded”) Alice-Toxaway Loop (Petit Lake Loop). This 18 mile circuit offers a glimpse of the Sawtooth’s famous carribean blue lakes, lodgepole pine forests, and rugged mountain terrain.

Toxaway Lake, Lake Toxaway, idaho, Sawtooth Mountains
Camp at Toxaway Lake

We packed our backpacks at Pettit Lake and took off ~7.5 miles towards Toxaway Lake. The morning fog lifted, opening up grand views of these beautiful mountains. Once at Toxaway Lake, we picked out an epic campsite along the lakeshore. Knowing this is a popular backpacking loop we certainly weren’t expecting solitude. What we didn’t expect was to have 2 groups of 8-10 high school kids within 150 yards of us (with plenty of other campsites available around the lake). Katie even had to patrol over to tell them to stop yelling!

Chillaxing at camp!
Chillaxing at camp!

The following day, we had a short hike over Snowyside Pass and down to Alice Lake. Arriving at noon, we claimed a peninsula with stunning panoramic views of this beautiful basin. The weather was warm and bluebird – allowing us to enjoy our lakeside accommodations with a few dips into the azure lake. Feeling refreshed, we lazed about; playing cards, reading, napping, sun-basking. We even tried to get Jethro to swim, but he wasn’t amused in the least.

The next morning, we quickly hiked out the remaining ~6.5 miles to our car and drove to Ketchum to eat greasy food and rest a night before making the long drive back to Denver.

Sunrise, alice lake, sawtooth range
Sunrise at Alice Lake

Departing Remarks

Jethro, contemplating his swimming career
Jethro, contemplating his swimming career

After a 1 month hiatus from camping and nearly 3 months from backpacking – it felt great to stretch the legs in the beautiful mountains of Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. The mountain lakes there are a surreal blue and surrounded by rugged mountain peaks.

Pros: rugged mountains, beautiful lakes, well maintained and marked trail

Cons: horses, crowds, far from Denver!

Tips: if seeking more solitude while backpacking, overnight at Edith Lake on this loop instead of Toxaway.  Creek dogs are not meant to be lake swimming dogs.



Sunrise, Toxaway Lake
Toxaway Sunrise


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