Sawtooth Wilderness


Lake in the forground with Mountain Peaks and pine trees in the background.

The spectacular beauty and solitude of the 217,000 acre Sawtooth Wilderness is experienced by people from all parts of the country. It is considered the "crown jewel" of the Gem State. First protected in 1937 as a "Primitive Area," the rugged Sawtooth Wilderness was officially created by Congress in 1972. The Sawtooth Wilderness is exceptional in scenic beauty and is characterized by high granitic peaks and narrow glacial valleys. The Wilderness is comprised of hundeds of jagged peaks, 50 over 10,000 feet in height, with nearly 400 high alpine lakes dotting the predominantly rocky terrain.  Also hidden within its boundaries are deep, secluded valleys covered with enormous stands of trees. These mountains hold the headwaters of the North Fork and Middle Fork of the Boise River, the South Fork of the Payette River and contributes significantly to the headwaters of the Salmon River. Nearly 350 miles of trails provide a wide range of routes and many of the high lake basins do not have constructed trails to reach them. The hiking season is short. Alpine wildflowers bring the high meadows alive with color in the months of July and August. An abundant population of wildlife thrives upon the lush, grassy meadows and many species of fish make their home in the thousands of streams that feed the headwaters of four major rivers.  The Wilderness offers opportunities for recreational, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation and historic purposes.

At a Glance

Permit Info:
  • All wilderness users must have a permit for wilderness use.
  • The following wilderness visitors must obtain their permit from a Forest Service Office:
    • Groups with 8 or more people, or any overnight stock use. Self-issued wilderness permits are available at trailheads for all other users.
  • Groups may not exceed 12 people and 14 head of stock May 1 - November 31. Smaller groups are recommended when travelling off-trail to protect fragile ares.
  • Groups may not exceed 20 persons and 14 head of stock December 1 - April 30.
  • Use proper stock containment methods. If you must tie to live trees limit it to periods of less than one hour.
  • Stock are not to be tethered within 100 feet of springs, lakes and streams, nor grazed within 200 yards of lake shores. Keep bacteria out of water sources and protect fragile lake and stream shores.
  • Grazing of equine stock is not allowed in the Salmon River drainage (east side of the wilderness). Feed is very limited.
  • Carry pelletized feed. Packing in loose hay or straw is prohibited. Prevent introduction of weeds.
  • No stock are allowed in the Goat Creek drainage (tributary of the S. Fk. of the Payette) or Alpine Creek drainage (near Alturas Lake). Help protect these fragile areas.
  • Equine stock are not allowed overnight at Edith Lake. Help protect this fragile area.
  • Stock are allowed in campsites only when loading and unloading. Respect other users.
  • Dogs must be on leash while on trails from July 1 through Labor Day. Control your pet. Loose dogs can harass wildlife and stock and disturb other visitors.
  • Dogs are not allowed in the Goat Creek drainage (tributary of the South Fork of the Payette River).
  • Camp at least 100 feet from trails, lakes and streams.
  • Use existing camps in high traffic areas.
  • All campfires must be on a fire pan or fire blanket. Use of gas stoves is highly recommended. If you must build a fire, use only use dead and down wood. Fires damage vegetation, sterilize soil and scar the land.
  • Campfires are not allowed:
    • Off-trail from July 1st through Labor Day.
    • In the following drainages: Alice/Twin Lakes, Toxaway/Farley Lakes, Goat Creek (tributary of the South Fork of the Payette River), or Alpine Creek.
    • Within 200 yards of Sawtooth, Goat and Alpine Lakes near Iron Creek, Alpine and Saddleback (Shangri-la) Lakes in the Redfish drainage, and Scenic Lakes.
    • Wood is limited and use is high in these areas.
  • Pack out all trash. This includes food scraps. Help remove evidence of your stay and keep the area clean.
  • Wash 150 feet away from lakes and streams. Even "biodegradable" soap pollutes. Keep it pure!
  • Bury human waste at least 100 feet from water sources.
  • Catholes should be 6-8 inches deep and covered with soil.
  • Properly dispose of toilet paper. We prefer that you carry it out (doubled plastic bags work great for this!)!
  • Do not disturb natural features. Leave them for others to enjoy.
  • Stay on the trail. Cutting switchbacks cause erosion.
  • Respect the quiet that wilderness offers. Shouting, music and other loud noises disrupt solitude and disturb wildlife.
  • Remember, as in all wilderness, bicycles, motor vehicles, carts and aircraft are not allowed. Protect primitive wilderness characteristics from the effects of ever-expanding civilization and mechanization.
For permits or more information, contact: Stanley Ranger Station 208-774-3000 or Sawtooth NRA Headquarters 208-727-5000
Closest Towns: Stanley, Idaho. Grandjean, Idaho.


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