Sawtooth Wilderness Loop

Free downloadable topo maps of the Loop

Overview: The Sawtooth Wilderness is located in the Sawtooth National Forest, south west of Stanley Idaho. While there are several trailheads that access the wilderness, the one that comes closest to making a loop is the Grandjean TH on the northwest side. Starting from here the loop is about 64 miles. The trailhead is about 54 minutes from Stanley, mostly via Highway 21. Alternatively, the Iron Creek Trailhead is only 11 minutes from Stanley. The price for the reduced access time is a total of 9 miles added to the loop (4.5 miles in, 4.5 out). The combined access time and/or additional mileage at the other trailheads are not as favorable. As a consequence, this series of maps is based on the Grandjean TH and references the Iron Creek alternative. Most of the others are too far away to appear on the map.

The Maps. The 6 detailed topos that comprise this trip are a little further down the page. They are free to download and formatted to print on 11x17 paper. Preprinted, color, weatherproof versions (11x17) of each map are also available for $5 each plus S&H by emailing cew5151@gmail.com.

Want to do some trip planning? The map to the right is a larger map that encompasses the entire loop and some of the surrounding area. It is 1.9 mb so it may be slow to download. A preprinted version of this map is NOT available.

Trail Mileage.: This link is to an Sawtooth Loop Mileage Excel file showing trail mileage and elevation change. Since it is an interactive file, you can refigure distance subtotals and elevation changes. Each row is represented on the maps either as an SW waypoint (SW-01, etc.) or a WP waypoint. The SW waypoints are all labeled and have a small lime green square. The WP waypoints do not have a label, just the small green square. Mileages on the maps and the spreadsheet are between green squares. The loop is highlighted with a fine red line. It is most obvious against the yellow track of the Barron Sawtooth Trail and where the loop leaves one trail for another. In some cases, such as the S Fork Payette River trail it changes the blue to purple.

Map 1: Grandjean-Sawtooth Lake. Start the loop at the Grandjean Campground about 42 miles from Stanley. Go to the end of the campground road to the trailhead parking lot. There is a spur trail at the southeast corner of the campground loop heading east to the junction of Trail Creek Trail (red on map) and the South Fork Payette River Trail (blue on map), SW-01. Assuming a clockwise hike, take the Trail Creek Trail.

The Trail Creek Trail (453) follows Trail Creek climbing 2,328 feet over 4.5 miles to the junction of the Trail Lakes Trail (483). It is 0.7 miles and 400 feet to the first lake. The loop stays on the Trail Creek Trail for another 0.9 mile and 450 feet to the junction of the Iron Creek-Stanley Lake Trail (640, purple on map). The junction, SW-02 is just past the Custer-Boise County line. To the left, climbing west, is the spur trail to Observation Peak (trail 614). It is 1.3 and 1,119 feet to the top.

At the junction (SW-02), the loop goes east (right) to Sawtooth Lake. Going north on the Iron Creek-Stanley Lake Trail will take you to Stanley Lake. It is about 7 miles to the Stanley Lake Trailhead. As said, head east to follow the loop. It is 3.4 miles to Sawtooth lake (SW-03). Pass through the McGown Lakes basin at 2.1 miles and climb cross a small divide about 0.6 miles further. It is a 748 foot climb to the divide from SW-02.

Next descend 350 feet over for 0.6 miles to Sawtooth Lake (SW-03). The Iron Creek-Stanley Lake Trail (640) continues east for 4.5 miles to the Iron Creek Trailhead. As mentioned, the trailhead is about 11 miles from Stanley by road.

SW-03 is 8.8 miles into the loop. The loop heads south from here on the Baron Sawtooth Trail (478, yellow on the map). Follow the east side of Sawtooth Lake for 0.9 miles, pass a smaller lake (8489) and cross a low flat divide. Lake 8271 is 1.7 mile from SW-03 and where the trail begins a decent into the North Fork of Baron Creek Valley. The next waypoint is the creek crossing below the Lake 8271 valley, 3 miles from SW-03. The next 3.7 miles to SW-04 is a steady decent through the Baron Creek Valley. You will pass into Map 2 about a mile before SW-04.

Map 2: Redfish Baron Creek. SW-03 is 8.8 miles into the loop. The loop heads south from here on the Baron Sawtooth Trail (478, yellow on the map). Follow the east side of Sawtooth Lake for 0.9 miles, pass a smaller lake (8489) and cross a low flat divide. Lake 8271 is 1.7 mile from SW-03 and where the trail begins a decent into the North Fork of Baron Creek Valley. The next waypoint is the creek crossing below the Lake 8271 valley, 3 miles from SW-03. The next 3.7 miles to SW-04 is a steady decent through the Baron Creek Valley. You will pass into Map 2 about a mile before SW-04.

The total descent from Lake 8271 to SW-04 is about 2,600 feet. SW-04 is 15.7 mile from the beginning (SW-01) and 6.9 miles from SW-03. SW-04 marks the intersection with the Redfish Baron Creek Trail (101, pink on the map). The loop goes east (left). Turning west (right) will take you back to SW-01 in 3.4 miles.

The trek up Baron Creek is through a lightly wooded valley where the trail stays above the creek to the north and east. The ascent during the first 3.6 miles is a modest 1,110 feet. Then it climbs another 1,000 feet in 1.5 miles and hits a waypoint 5.5 miles from SW-04. The trail crosses to Map 3 in another mile.

Map 3: Mt Cramer. This map picks up with the Redfish Baron Creek Trail (101, pink on the map) at Baron Lake at around 8,300 feet. Over the next 1.9 miles, the trail follow Baron Lake, climbs to Upper Baron Lake and tops out at 9,140 feet as it crosses the pass on the Boise-Custer County line. A 1,740 foot decent over the next 3.3 miles take you past Alpine Lake to SW-05.

SW-05 is 27.3 miles into the loop and is where the Redfish Baron Creek Trail (101, pink on the map) intersects the Mt Cramer Trail (154, teal on map). The Redfish Baron Creek Trail turns northeast (left) and reaches the Redfish Lake Inlet Trail in 3.2 miles. The Inlet Trail is the access to the head of Redfish Lake, which is only accessible by boat.

The loop turns south (right) and follows the Mt Cramer trail for the next 9 miles. In about 0.1 miles the trail crosses Redfish Lake Creek. If it looks too difficult to cross, there is a persistent logjam a little downstream that looks crossable. There appears to be a slide/cascade a little upstream from the crossing that may be worth checking out once you have crossed. Look for the spur trail.

The trail ascends to the Cramer Lake basin. It is 3.7 miles and 980 feet to Upper Cramer Lake. The next 2.2 mile will climb another 1,120 feet above the tree line to another pass on the Custer-Boise county line.

Descending now, it is 3.2 miles to SW-06. The 1,300 foot drop passes Hidden and then jumps to Map 4.

Map 4: Ardeth-Ten Basin-Benedict. The Mt Cramer Trail leaves Hidden Lake and switchbacks down to the SW-06 in the valley of the South Fork of the Payette River. SW-06 is 36.6 miles into the loop. The loop turns south-southeast (left) and follows the S Fk Payette River Trail (452. The trail is blue on the map but where it coincides with the loop, the red loop line makes it purple). Turning west (right) at the junction will lead to SW-12 in 3 miles, cutting 14 miles off from the loop.

Staying with the loop, it is 1.2 miles to SW-07 just above Edna Lake. This is the junction of the Ardeth Lake Trail (482, yellow with red). The South Fork Payette River Trail (452, blue) continues east climbing to another pass on the Custer-Boise county line and the Alice Lake-Redfish Lake Trail (092). The loop follows the Ardeth Lake trail for its 2.4 mile length, passing Vernon Lake, climbing a small pass, dropping down to Ardeth Lake and ending at SW-08.

SW-08 is 39.9 miles along the loop and the intersection of the Ten Basins Trail (463, red). Go south (left) to follow the loop. Turning north (right) will take you back to South Fork Payette River Trail (452), another short cut to SW-01.

The Ten Basins Trail (463) climbs 724 feet in the next 1.5 miles to cross another county line pass (this time it is Boise-Elmore). A quick 0.9 mile decent leads to SW-09, a triple junction at Spangle Lake, 42.4 miles in. Branching to the southeast (left) is the Middle Fork of the Boise River Trail (460, aqua). It is well over 15 miles to the trailhead at Power Plant Campground. Don't take it if you are on the loop.

The loop continues southwest along Spangle Lake but the trail has now become the Benedict Trail (462, green). Over the next 2.9 miles it passes Ingeborg Lake and Rock Slide Lake until it reaches another junction. This is SW-10, where the Three Lakes Island Trail (043, aqua) comes in from the south. Stay on the Benedict Trail and reach SW-11 in another 1.7 miles. SW-11 is 47 miles along the loop. It marks the Queens River Trail (458, teal) and a subsequent spur to Evelyn Lake coming in from the southwest. The next waypoint is SW-12 where the Benedict Trail meets the South Fork Payette River Trail (452, purple).

Map 5: Upper S Fork Payette. SW-12 is 50.3 miles into the loop and 14.1 miles from the end of the loop at SW-01. The rest of the hike is on the South Fork Payette River Trail (452, purple). It is a gradual descent of 1,880 feet over 12.8 miles through a wooded valley.

About a mile from SW-12, the trail crosses the Payette River. There is no bridge and this river has the potential for a considerable volume of water; expect a wet crossing and pay attention to the water depth.

The first waypoint of this section is Drop Creek and the head of Elk Lake. It is 2.6 miles from SW-12. Encounter Fern Falls in another 1.4 miles and Garden Creek another 2.3 miles further. Map 6 begins about 0.3 miles after that.

Map 6: Lower S Fork Payette. Map 6 finishes the loop. It is 3 miles from the Garden Creek crossing to Taylor Spring. Taylor Spring sits above Big Meadow and the meandering South Fork of the Payette River. The trail crosses the first distributary of Goat Creek 1.9 miles beyond Taylor Spring.

SW-13 is where the Redfish Baron Ck Tr (101, pink) comes in from the east. It is 2.1 miles on 101 back to SW-04 (see Map 2). The loop continues on the South Fork Payette River Trail (452) another 1.3 miles to SW-01. You have covered 64.4 miles!

About the Maps.:These maps were created at the request of an OuachitaMaps customer. Since I have not hiked the loop, the trails were drawn using high resolution imagery. When I hike an area I use a quality GPS but even with continuous capture and a good track cleaning when I am done, there are always errors. You can see them yourself if you do an out-and-back hike and then zoom in on the track pair. They are not the same. When a trail is visible on high resolution imagery, a careful trace can provide an extremely accurate trail rendition. Where the track isn't visible, I have been guided by gpx files available on the internet. Some of them are better quality than others but by overlaying them on the imagery, you can tell which are better. The one thing to be careful of with the imagery is that sometimes the geo-referencing and/or projection is off a bit. However, when the tracks are reduced to the 1:24,000 scale of the topo maps, these errors can't be seen.

Info: The 217,000 acre Sawtooth Wilderness is located in the Sawtooth National Forest. Since the wilderness crosses several administrative boundaries, there are several contact numbers: 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. Forest Service Information page for the Sawtooth Wilderness. USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle topographic maps: Grandjean, Stanley Lake, Warbonnet Peak, Mt Cramer, Snowyside Peak, Mt Everly and Edaho Mountain.

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