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 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

Area Amenities: Tent camping
Permit Info: All wilderness users must have a permit for wilderness use. You may fill out a permit at the trailhead except for groups with 8 or more people or groups with stock. They must obtain their permit by contacting a Forest Service Office. Groups may not exceed 12 people and 14 head of stock May 1 - November 31.
Restrictions: Camping: Camp at least 100 feet from trails, lakes and streams. Please keep pets on a leash. Camping limits: Developed campgrounds: 10-day maximum stay length for campsites. Dispersed camping: In the Salmon River corridor there is a 10-day camping limit and you must relocate more than 10 miles from the original site for at least 14-days. North of Galena Summit there is a 16-day camping limit and you must relocate more than 10 miles from the original site for 14-days. South of Galena Summit there is a 16-day camping limit and you may not relocate anywhere in the Ketchum Ranger District or Sawtooth NRA areas for 14-days. 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). Fire: 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: 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. 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. 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. Cat-holes should be 6-8 inches deep and covered with soil. Properly dispose of toilet paper. We prefer that you carry it out. Stock: 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.
Closest Towns: Stanley, Idaho. Grandjean, 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 raods 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


Tent camping:

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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