Sawtooth Wilderness

Area Status: Open
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 granite peaks and narrow glacial valleys. The Wilderness is comprised of hundreds 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.

More information about the Sawtooth Wilderness

At a Glance

Area Amenities: Tent camping
Permit Info: All Sawtooth Wilderness users must possess a free Wilderness Use Permit which outlines the Regulations of the Sawtooth Wilderness. Permits are acquired through self-registration at the trailhead or wilderness boundary, except groups of eight or more or any overnight stock use. These users must contact a Forest Service Office to obtain a permit. Groups may not exceed 12 people and 14 head of stock May 1 - November 31. Group size is limited to 20 people and 14 head of stock December 1 – April 30. Oversized groups must be separated by a drainage or a day apart.

Travel & Camping: Motorized equipment and mechanized travel is not allowed in any designated wilderness areas, including bicycles, motorbikes, chainsaws, carts, and drones. Camp on already impacted surfaces, never camp on meadows or green vegetation. Good campsites are found, not made.     

Fire: No ground campfires are allowed anywhere within the Sawtooth Wilderness. All campfires must be a Leave-No-Trace fire on a fire pan or fire blanket. Campfires are not allowed more than a quarter of a mile off-trail from July 1st through Labor Day and are not allowed in the following drainages: Alice/Twin Lakes, Toxaway/Farley Lakes, Goat Creek (tributary of the South Fork of the Payette River), or Alpine Creek (Near Alturas). Campfires are not allowed within 200 yards of Sawtooth Lake, Goat Lake and Alpine Lake near Iron Creek, Alpine and Saddleback Lakes in the Redfish drainage, and Scenic Lakes. Areas closed to campfires are shown in the Sawtooth Wilderness Regulations Map. Fires outside of these closure areas must be built on fire pans or blankets and should only use only use dead and down wood. Ashes need to be cold to the touch and spread away from camping. Wood-burning camp stoves are prohibited in areas closed to all fires.      Human Waste: Human waste is a threat to the fragile alpine environments found in the Sawtooth Wilderness. It is necessary that users dig catholes 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 100 feet from water sources. Given our rocky terrain, we strongly recommend digging tools. WAG Bags are also encouraged to carry out all waste. Toilet paper should never be buried and needs to be carried out with users.   Bears: All food should be stored in a bear safe way, in a bear box, bear bag or bear hang. Bear hangs must be 10 ft up and 4 ft out from the base of the tree. Hang all scented items such as snacks, toothpaste, wrappers, garbage, dirty dishes and dog food.   Dogs: 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).    Sanitation: 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.   Stock: Groups are limited to 14 head of pack or saddle stock. Stock Closure areas and no grazing zones are shown in the Sawtooth Wilderness Regulations Map. Stock are not allowed in the Goat Creek drainage (tributary of the S. Fk. of the Payette) or Alpine Creek drainage (near Alturas Lake). Equine stock cannot overnight stay at Edith Lake. Grazing of Equine stock is not allowed on the east side of the Wilderness (anywhere that drains into the Salmon River), high lines are recommended. Stock grazing is not allowed within 200 yards of lake shores, and stock must be kept at least 100 ft away from springs, lakes, and streams –except at agency provided tie-ups. If you must tie to live trees limit it to periods of less than one hour. Feed must be certified noxious weed seed free pelletized or cubed, and no loose hay or straw is allowed. Help protect this fragile area and please respect other users.

Closest Towns: Stanley, Idaho
Information Center: For information please contact the Sawtooth NRA at (208)727-5000, Ketchum Ranger Station at (208)622-0090, Stanley Ranger Station at (208)774-3000 or the supervisor's office at (208)423-7500.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Dispersed Camping

Lake and Pond Fishing

River and Stream Fishing

Day Hiking

There are 17 trailheads with the most popular trailheads being on the east side of the wilderness. Most access roads on the east side of the wilderness providing transportation within 1/2 to 5 miles of the wilderness boundary. In some instances this close access is accelerating use because of easy travel and close proximity to the wilderness. All of the roads leading to the west side of the Wilderness are narrow, winding, two-track and more difficult. No motorized vehicles, mechanized vehicles, or hang gliders are allowed in the Wilderness. Non-motorized wheelchairs are allowed.


Horse Camping

Viewing Wildlife

Viewing Plants

Viewing Scenery


Boating - Non-Motorized


XC Skiing/Snowshoeing

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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