The Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho are a one of a kind wilderness experience that boasts countless lakes filled with foot long trout and some of the best backpacking the state has to offer. The Alice and Toxaway Lake Loop is a 17.7 mile trek that features some of the most gorgeous highlights of the spectacular area. Moderately trafficked and challenging the loop can be tackled in either direction. However, the counter clockwise option offers more places to stop for the night on day one should acclimating to the altitude require.
Where to Start
The loop starts at the Tin Cup Trail Head at Pettit Lake Campground. Be sure to park at the trail head parking lot and not in the campground day use or over flow lots. The campground is equipped with vault toilets and has water available.
Permits are free and self issue. They are located in a box a ways up the trail at the national forest boundary and should be displayed at all times.
Fires are not permitted along the loop so bring a canister stove.
This breathtaking loop can be done as an overnighter but I recommend a slower pace to really enjoy the area. Consult a MAP and decide how much you want to see and how far you’d like to go each day. I tacked on an extra day to leave the loop and spend a night at Imogene Lake. It is a stunning glacial lake that is well worth the beast of a climb up and over the pass to get there. This is the itinerary I chose:
Day 1: Pettit Lake to Farley Lake 5 miles and 1351 ft of elevation gain
- Sea level dwellers should keep in mind that the trail head starts at 6,996 ft. Hydrate and watch for signs of altitude sickness.
Day 2: Farley Lake to Imogene Lake 4.8 miles, 1834 ft of gain, and 1190 ft of loss.
- Don’t let the short mileage fool you, this is a challenging climb. There is a water source midway at the bottom of the first pass at the Imogene and Edna Lakes trail junction.
- Fires are allowed at Imogene and the lake has a host of very large trout. Bring your tenkara rod.
Day 3: Imogene Lake to Toxaway Lake 6.5 miles, 1771 ft of gain, 1849 ft of loss
- Toxaway Lake is large and there are numerous campsites to chose from. However, the area can get extremely crowded on holiday and summer time weekends.
Day 4: Toxaway to Twin Lakes 4.5 miles, 1423 ft of gain, and 954 ft of loss
- Even though this trail’s name sake Alice Lake is one of the main attractions I decided to avoid the crowds and stay at Twin Lakes instead. These lakes are visible from the pass and there is an awesome land bridge between them that makes for great fishing and exploring.
Day 5: Twin Lakes back to Pettit Lake TH 6.5 miles, 416 ft of gain, and 2293 ft of loss.
- I stated early and had plenty of time to stop by Alice Lake and enjoy a leisurely lunch with a swim.
- The hike out was almost entirely down hill and made me glad I hadn’t hiked the loop clockwise instead. It would have started with this as my first climb while I was still weighed down with a full pack.
Post Hike Feast
If you can make it back to Stanley before Stanley Baking CO. & Cafe closes at 2 pm stop in for some grub and a killer cup of coffee. Their breakfast burrito with yams in place of potatoes rocked my socks.
Hope this helps you plan your own adventure. If you need gear check out in depth reviews of my favorites here: