Boulder and White Cloud Mountains Area Hikes
|Special Considerations in this Area: Hikers must pay a Sawtooth National Recreation Area trailhead fee.|
North Fork of the Big Wood River
Distance: 10.6 miles roundtrip
Location: Drive north from downtown Ketchum on State Highway 75 to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA). Directly after passing the entrance sign, bear right and drive past the SNRA headquarters. Continue up the North Fork Canyon 5.1 miles to the road’s end at the trailhead.
Traversing over eight major avalanche runs, lush wildflower meadows, and up a canyon, this trail leads hikers past a small waterfall, and with some route-finding skills, to the 10,250-foot Ibex Pass. From the trailhead, proceed along the right trail to its end at the trip’s 4-mile mark. From here, a faint trail over rugged terrain leads to Ibex Pass and views of the surrounding Boulder Mountains. Best months for hiking are late-July through August.
Optional Hikes: After hiking 1.7 miles, hikers may opt to take the West Pass Trail. The West Pass Trail bears right and can be located at the far side of the meadow occurring right after sighting the waterfall. West Pass Trail is a difficult hike, climbing 2,900 feet in 2 miles to the 10,040-foot West Pass.
West Fork, North Fork of the Big Wood River
This trail winds through dense old-growth forests into mountain meadows and avalanche areas containing numerous waterfalls. From the trailhead, hike along the left trail and at the 1-mile mark, reach the Amber Gulch Trail Junction where many hikers opt to take a side trip to Amber Lakes. On the main trail, reach an avalanche created meadow at the 2-mile mark. Continue hiking on a faint trail at the meadow’s right side that climbs up into a canyon full of waterfalls and wildlife. At the trail’s end in the rugged terrain, hikers should be aware that several mountain lions are known to inhabit the area. Best months for hiking are late June through September.
Boulder Chain Lakes
This trek is one of Idaho’s most popular backpacking trails and for good reason. Hikers are greeted with lush forests, trout filled lakes that have also become popular swimming holes, and magnificent ridge views of the surrounding mountains. After hiking on an old jeep trail for 1 mile, hikers will reach the Big Baldy Junction and should proceed on the left fork. Following several switchbacks, the trail arrives at Red Ridge at the 5-mile mark and continues downhill to Frog Lake and Willow Lake. At the 7.25-mile mark (immediately past Willow Lake’s outlet), hikers will reach another trail junction and should follow the right fork leading to the Boulder Chain Lakes and eventually up to Windy Devil Pass. Best months for hiking are mid-July through August.
Boundary Creek and Casino Lakes
Beginning in an open area of forest, this trail climbs steeply to the top of Boundary Creek Canyon, offering hikers outstanding views of the Mount Heyburn region of the Sawtooth Mountains rising in the west. After ascending the first 2.3 miles, hikers will reach a trail junction but should keep right. The trail winds through a thick forest, past Boundary Creek’s headwaters, and up and over Peak 9,475 before dropping into the Casino Lakes’ basin. Best months for hiking are July through September.
Optional Hikes: Before dropping into the middle of the three Casino Lakes, hikers reach a three-way trail junction. While the left fork takes hikers to the middle Casino Lake, the middle trail climbs to Garland Lakes and Rough Lake. The longest optional hike begins at the right fork. This trail leads to the upper Garland Lakes and Martin Creek, eventually ending at the Warm Springs meadow.
East Pass Creek
Hikers will climb to Hunter Creek Summit before dropping down into East Pass Creek Canyon where views of Sheep Mountain and a large waterfall can be found. Many hikers also report seeing several elk in the area. After climbing to the top of Hunter Creek Summit, hikers should ignore the ridge trail and instead drop down into East Pass Creek Canyon. This trail leads to a grassy meadow, and at the 5.5-mile mark, hikers will view East Pass Creek falls cascading off a rocky ledge. Keeping right at all further trail junctions, the trail fades out at the 9.5-mile mark as it nears a gorge. Best month for hiking is July.
Optional Hikes: Hikers may take three optional trips leaving from the main East Pass Creek Trail. The first option is to hike along the ridgeline immediately following Hunter Creek Summit. After arriving at the pass, hikers should proceed 0.7 miles along the right trail to Point 9,923 where panoramic views of the Boulder Mountains are found. Hikers can also opt to take the Bowery Creek Trail leaving to the left at the 7.7-mile mark. This trail leads down Bowery Creek with a view of Castle Peak rising in the distance before hikers reach the East Fork of the Salmon River. The final option is much more difficult and requires a strenuous climb as well as knowledge of topographic map reading. For this option, hikers should proceed past the gorge and ascend steeply to Lake 9,436 and its neighboring ridgeline. Here, hikers will view the summits of Bowery Peak and Sheep Mountain, the White Cloud Mountains, and the peaks of the Lost River Mountains.
Fourth of July Creek to Born Lakes
Although the beginning of the trail is open to motorcycles, hikers still have access to beautiful forests, meadows, subalpine lakes, and spectacular views of the granite White Cloud Mountains looming on the horizon. Climbing 1.4 miles, hikers will reach a trail junction and should proceed 100 yards along the right fork. This trail leads to Fourth of July Lake and a vista of Patterson Peak. Upon viewing the scenery, return to the trail junction and walk along the left Born Lakes Trail. The trail climbs to a ridgetop, switchbacks down into Ants Basin, and ends at Born Lakes. Best months for hiking are mid-July through early September.
Optional Hikes: At Fourth of July Lake, proceed along the trail’s right fork to reach Washington Lake in 1 mile.
High Ridge Trail
Climbing steeply through thick forests out onto an open flat, this trail winds up Cold Creek Canyon to Basin Gulch before topping out at the 9,450 foot Rock Roll Point. From the point, hikers have incredible vistas of the Pioneer Mountains rising to the southwest and Trail Creek Gorge. Best months for hiking are mid-July to late September, as hikers must ford Trail Creek 0.1 miles after the hike’s start.