Twin Lakes Alice-Toxaway Lakes Loop Trail Sawtooth Mountains

Alice-Toxaway Loop Backpacking Photography

Alice-Toxaway Loop Backpacking Photography

Twin Lakes Alice-Toxaway Lakes Loop Trail Sawtooth MountainsTwin Lakes #66175  Purchase

The final destination during my time in the Sawtooth Mountains was the classic Alice-Toxaway Loop. I could say that I saved the best for last, but that wouldn’t be accurate. The hikes to Baron Lakes and Sawtooth Lake were equally spectacular. All three destinations have something unique to offer the backcountry visitor.

The Alice-Toxaway Loop sits at the southern end of the range.  It is roughly 17 miles long, travels over one mountain pass and visits four gorgeous alpine lakes. Aside from the main trail there are several attractive side trips possible. The most popular being to Imogene Lake over a second pass.

The loop takes usually takes 2-3 days to complete. Some backpackers do the loop in two days, or even day hike or run the loop in one day, but to me that is ridiculous. Isn’t the pace of life today fast enough? It is not difficult to hike in one or two days, but you will be rushing through some of the best scenery of the Sawtooths, on a thoroughly enjoyable trail. For me taking less than three days would be unthinkable. I allotted five days, but spent four days due to poor weather on the last day.

Alice-Toxaway Loop Sawtooth Mountains IdahoAlice-Toxaway Loop #66053  Purchase

Hiking to Alice Lake

The loop can be done in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. I chose clockwise since I was eager to spend a couple of nights at Alice Lake at the beginning. Starting at Petit Lake from the Tin Cup Trailhead the trail follows the lake shore then enters the forest for a brief spell. From the start to Alice Lake the trail has numerous creek crossings which can be difficult early in the season. Soon the trail begins to climb and the views open. Certainly, one of the best of these is a view far across the valley to the White Cloud Mountains and Wilderness.

Alice Lake Sawtooth Mountains IdahoAlice Lake #66110  Purchase

After this the trail continues a pleasant climb through rocky terrain, dotted with wildflowers and babbling streams. Soon enough the trail levels out and passes by several small ponds near the outlet of Alice Lake. All along this stretch the landscape is dominated by the lofty spire of El Capitan. Here, and at Alice Lake, there are many great places to set up camp. I chose one further along the trail at Alice Lake near some of the best photo ops. I spent the rest of the day relaxing and scouting for photo compositions.

Alice Lake camp Sawtooth MountainsCamping at Alice Lake  #66072  Purchase

Alice Lake camp Sawtooth MountainsCamping at Alice Lake  #66086  Purchase

There were some great spots along the far end of the lake for photography. However, from that perspective El Capitan had a more rounded appearance. Hiking back to near the lakes outlet it displayed a more impressive horn-like spire.

El Capitan Sawtooth Mountains IdahoEl Capitan, Alice Lake  #66114  Purchase

On to Twin Lakes

After a couple night spent at Alice Lake I moved on to Twin Lakes. Twin Lakes is a very short hike from Alice, about a mile and around several hundred feet  higher. Some say Twin Lakes has the better views, but that’s all subjective. I think Alice and Twin are equally impressive, they just have different personalities.

Backpacker Twin Lakes Sawtooth Mountains IdahoBackpacker at Twin Lakes #66137  Purchase

The focal point for photography was the impressive unnamed horn shaped peak across the lake. I spent a good deal of time scouting and lining up compositions for evening and morning light. Along the way I came across a huge gnarled old White Bark Pine. I just couldn’t pass up making some photos of its lumpy distorted trunk.

Whitebark Pine (Pinus albicaulis) Sawtooth Mountains IdahoWhite Bark Pine #66141  Purchase

The next morning I awoke before dawn and set up my gear in a preselected site and waited for dawn. There were some beautiful clouds and soft light to work with. Utilizing a wide lens I was able to use angles and shapes to from the peak across the lake.

Twin Lakes Alice-Toxaway Lakes Loop Trail Sawtooth MountainsTwin Lakes #66170  Purchase

Unfortunately more clouds soon moved in and it became apparent that the weather would be making a change. After finishing up photography and breakfast I packed up camp and set out for the next destination on the loop, Toxaway Lake.

Toxaway Lake

Immediately the trail begins a switchback climb up to a 9000′ pass. From here the views are spectacular. Below are Twin Lakes, set in a bowl surrounded by jagged peaks and ridges. The pass area would make a great spot to camp but after a short while I needed to move on.

Alice-Toxaway Lakes Loop Trail Sawtooth MountainsTrail above Twin Lakes #66198  Purchase

Toxaway Lake is several miles further on from the pass. The trail down passed through some beautiful meadows filled with wildflowers. I was disappointed to see how far down the trail descended, and it soon became apparent that Toxaway Lake would be just below the tree-line. Getting nearer the lake mosquitoes became a problem for the first time on the trip.

After what seemed like a long hike I finally arrived at the lake and began looking for a campsite. Further on  down the lake is a junction which heads up to Imogene Lake, and many other in the adjacent basin. I must have passed up the main camping area since near the outlet I had some trouble locating a suitable spot. When I did find one it was just when it began to rain. During the rest of the day and most of the next morning it rained steadily. Any chance of meaningful photography at Toxaway Lake was gone.

Twin Lakes Sawtooth Mountains IdahoTwin Lakes #66185  Purchase

The Hike Out

The next morning the rain eased up a little but clouds still shrouded the surrounding peaks. I took advantage of the break in rain, packed up and headed down the trail. Long sections of the trail were now muddy ponds and streams. Eventually the rain stopped but the clouds still hung low.

The trail continued  a gradual descent as it passed Farley Lake. I was disappointed to have missed out on photographing at Toxaway Lake, and now Farley Lake would also be a casualty of the weather. After Farley the trail descended more rapidly and entered deep forests of pine. It passed through an enormous avalanche path made during the previous winter. Huge trees snapped like match sticks were laying everywhere.

Alice-Toxaway Loop Trail Sawtooth Wilderness IdahoAlice-Toxaway Loop #56141  Purchase

The last section of the trail seemed to be the longest and most uninteresting. A monotonous hike through lodgepole pines, a tricky stream crossing, and then a climb over and down a ridge to the trailhead at Petit Lake. Along the way I came across an interesting sight, a large group of backpackers all sleeping in separate hammocks. There must have been six to eight hammocks  spread out among the trees. They reminded me of some sort of giant insect cocoons! I must admit that they didn’t look like the kind of shelter I would enjoy being confined to during the previous day of rain.

The Alice-Toxaway Loop was now in the bag, and it lived up to its reputation in every way. I would highly recommend this trip for beginners and advanced backpackers, it has all the elements that hiking dreams are made of!

Little Redfish Lake Sawtooth Mountains IdahoLittle Redfish Lake #66227 Purchase

Now, after two weeks of Backpacking and photography in the Sawtooth Mountains I was just about ready to wrap things up and move on. However, I was treated to one final glorious morning of photography at Little Redfish Lake. As usual I was there before dawn and ready. As the sun came rose it lit up the clouds in pinks, purples, and then orange, and yellow. A truly wonderful finale to one of the most memorable group of hiking trip I’ve ever done.

As a celebration I made a brief stop at Sunbeam Hot Springs, and had a good soak along the Salmon River. Now on to the main attraction of this trip, the Wind River Range of Wyoming!

Sunbeam hot springs Salmon River IdahoSunbeam Hot Springs  Idaho #66250 Purchase

If You Go

As I said in my previous post, don’t even think about visiting this or any other wilderness are unless you are prepared to strictly follow the guidelines of Leave No Trace (LNT). The Sawtooth and all other wilderness areas throughout the world are under incredible pressure from growing amounts of visitors. Please do your part to help preserve these precious areas for future generations!

To learn more about the principles  and practicing LNT please take a few minutes to visit the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Your children and grandchildren will thank you!

Seven Leave No Trace Principles

  • Plan ahead and prepare.                                       
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.                 
  • Dispose of waste properly.                                                                         
  • Leave what you find.                                            
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
  • Respect wildlife.  
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

To get to Tincup Trailhead hikers parking lot, drive about 18 miles south of Stanley on U.S. 75 and another two miles west along FR 208. The small scenic town of Stanley Idaho makes a great base for trips into the Sawtooths. Lodging, groceries, restaurants, outdoor gear stores, and a great bakery are in town. Redfish Lake Lodge also has many similar amenities.

As mentioned earlier in this post, the Sawtooths are an extremely popular destination. Not only for hikers and backpackers, but also for tourists, front country family camping, river rafters, and fishing. During the height of summer just about every campsite, both front country and backcountry will be filled before noon. Therefore, make your plans accordingly to avoid frustration.

One of the best perks of the area are the numerous natural and wild hot springs. Soaking in one along the Salmon River is one of the greatest post hike activities.

Check out more of the photos from this trip in my Idaho Archives.
All the photos in this post are available as Fine Art Prints and for commercial licensing.

Photo Gear Used On This Trip

Nikon D850
Nikkor Lens:
14-24mm 2.8G ED
24-70mm 2.8E ED
70-200mm 2.8E FL ED
Gitzo 1532 Tripod
Really Right Stuff B-55 Ball Head
Assorted Lee Graduated Neutral Density Filters
B+H Polarizing Filter
Vello FWM-N2 Remote Shutter Release

Little Redfish Lake Sawtooth Mountains IdahoMount Heyburn, Little Redfish Lake #66244  Purchase

Alice-Toxaway Loop Backpacking Photography

 

Baron Lake Monte Verita Peak Sawtooth Mountains

Baron Lakes Backpacking Photography

Baron Lakes Backpacking Photography

Baron Lake Monte Verita Peak Sawtooth Mountains Baron Lakes Backpacking PhotographyBaron Lake Sawtooth Mountains  #66032  Purchase

After a successful trip to Sawtooth Lake I was itching to get back on the trail and see more of the Sawtooth Mountains. The question was where to go next. There are plenty of tantalizing destinations in the Sawtooths. To explore them all you would need at least a full summer. Like most people with limited time I wanted to visit the best of the best, and return later for more in depth exploration.

With about two weeks available I knew that the famous Alice-Toxaway Loop was a must do. There were also several very attractive destinations in the Redfish Lake area. Cramer Lakes and Saddleback Lakes were two of those. However, the hike to Baron Lakes looked like it would provide several elements I was after. First and foremost was a good variety of photographic subject matter. Three lakes and one mountain pass is better than a straight hike into just one lake. Secondly, I wanted the hike in to be moderately challenging, but not exhausting. I was, after all, carrying plenty of heavy photo equipment on my back, aside form the usual camping paraphernalia. So Baron Lakes it was.

Redfish Creek Canyon Trail Sawtooth Mountains Idaho  Baron Lakes Backpacking PhotographyRedfish Creek Trail  #65999  Purchase

Hiking to Baron Lakes Sawtooth Mountains

To get to the start of the Baron Lakes trail, or any destination along Redfish Creek Valley you have two options. On one hand you can begin at the hikers parking lot near Redfish Lake Lodge. Or for $17 roundtrip you can take a water taxi from the lodge to the trailhead at the head of Redfish Lake. This option will save you about five miles of hiking. Like a lot of others I opted for the water taxi. On a beautiful warm summer morning it was tempting to just rent a canoe or kayak and leisurely explore the lake. But I was there to grunt and sweat my way up a hot and dusty trail instead.

After an initial climb the trail levels out a bit for the first few miles. At Flatrock Junction the trail splits. Continuing on the main trail will take you to Cramer Lakes, the right fork ascends to Alpine, and Baron Lakes. Here is where the real work begins. The trail begins to switchback up to Alpine Lake, first through meadows and then along a cliff wall partially shaded by trees.

My first night was spent at Alpine Lake, yes there are two lakes sharing this name in the Sawtooths. Although the lake is set in a picturesque bowl I was a bit disappointed in this location. This is a popular destination and most of the NE side of the lakeshore has been pounded to dust by overuse, and the open forest here doesn’t provide much opportunity for solitude.

Baron Divide Trail Sawtooth Mountains IdahoBaron Divide Trail  #65051  Purchase

The next day I awoke and packed up early. I was eager to leave the dismal campsite and reach Baron Divide before it became too hot. This climb to the divide is pleasant, passing several ponds and grassy meadows along the way. Finally at the divide the fabulous scene of Baron Lakes and Monte Verita Peak came into view. It was a long switchback hike down to the lakes along boulder fields and flower meadows. This is truly one of those stretches of trail that backpackers dream of.

Hiker at Baron Lake Sawtooth Mountains Idaho  Baron Lakes Backpacking PhotographyBaron Lake  #66043  Purchase

At Baron Lakes Sawtooth Mountains

Upper Baron Lake is a great destination with good campsites, but the middle  lake has the views I was anticipating for photography. Most of the campsites are on the North side of the lake and are close to the lake outlet. Fortunately I was there early enough to find a secluded spot further on along a small bay. For most of the morning I had the lake all to myself, but by evening every available space that could hold a tent was occupied. Despite highly visible trailhead signs prohibiting campfires at least one group felt the need to build one and fill the area with smoke.

Baron Lake Warbonnet Peak Sawtooth MountainsWarbonnet Peak  #66029  Purchase

There are many possibilities for exploration from the lake. A short climb behind the camps offers great views down to the lower lake, and Baron Creek Valley with the imposing bulk of Baron Peak dominating the scene. Monte Verita and Wabonnet Peaks offer exciting scrambling and climbing routes. Hiking around the shore you can also climb back to the upper lake for a pleasant loop trip. Of course you also can just sit and enjoy the view or try your luck at fishing.

Photographing at Baron Lakes Sawtooth Mountains

Since this was my first visit my goal was to photograph the classic view of Baron Lake with Monte Verita in the background. It doesn’t get much better then that. I just had to scout out the best compositions and wait for some good light.

Milky Way Baron Lake Sawtooth MountainsMilky Way over Baron Lake  #66011  Purchase

Evening was pleasant, but there was very little light illuminating the spires of Monte Verita. It became apparent that at this time of year the best light would come in the morning. After sunset I took the opportunity to do some night photography. The location was perfect, since the Milky Way was just to the left of Monte Verita at a pleasing angle.

At sunrise there was a very attractive sprinkling of small puffy clouds reflected in a mirror smooth lake surface. As the sun rose the clouds were continually changing patterns, keeping me busy photographing Rorschach-like compositions.

Baron Lake Monte Verita Peak Sawtooth MountainsBaron Lake #66034  Purchase

Hiking Out

I spent another night at the lake, but since it was Sunday everyone else had Packed up and left. Therefore I had it all to myself, with plenty of time to anticipate the grueling climb back up to Baron Divide. The next morning that climb wasn’t too bad since I once again had a successful trip in the bag, and the views were still spectacular.

Like every other hike, descending Baron Divide was somewhat sad since the views were behind me and the trip was coming to a close. As a took one last look at the lakes and peaks I was hoping to return soon. All the way back down the trail to Redfish Lake I was all smiles, eager to speak with other hikers about the beauty they would soon see. By the time I reached the water taxi dock the day was hot, so the boat ride back was a cool relief.

Redfish Lake Lodge boat dock, Redfish Lake Sawtooth Mountains IdahoRedfish Lake Marina  #65995  Purchase

By then my mind was occupied by thought of pizza, a cold beer, and the Alice-Toxaway Loop hike.

If You Go

As I said in my previous post, don’t even think about visiting this or any other wilderness are unless you are prepared to strictly follow the guidelines of Leave No Trace (LNT). The Sawtooth and all other wilderness areas throughout the world are under incredible pressure from growing amounts of visitors. Please do your part to help preserve these precious areas for future generations!

To learn more about the principles  and practicing LNT please take a few minutes to visit the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Your children and grandchildren will thank you!

Seven Leave No Trace Principles

  • Plan ahead and prepare.                                       
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.                 
  • Dispose of waste properly.                                                                         
  • Leave what you find.                                            
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
  • Respect wildlife.  
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

To get to Redfish Lake hikers parking lot, Redfish Lake Lodge and water taxi drive about 6 miles south of Stanley on U.S. 75 and another two miles along FR 214. There are plenty of campsites near along Redfish Lake and Little Redfish Lake.

The small scenic town of Stanley Idaho makes a great base for trips into the Sawtooths. Lodging, groceries, restaurants, outdoor gear stores, and a great bakery are in town. Redfish Lake Lodge also has many similar amenities.

As mentioned earlier in this post, the Sawtooths are an extremely popular destination. Not only for hikers and backpackers, but also for tourists, front country family camping, river rafters, and fishing. During the height of summer just about every campsite, both front country and backcountry will be filled before noon. So make your plans accordingly to avoid frustration.

One of the best perks of the area are the numerous natural and wild hot springs. Soaking in one along the Salmon River is one of the greatest post hike activities.

Check out more of the photos from this trip in my Idaho Archives.
All the photos in this post are available as Fine Art Prints and for commercial licensing.

Photo Gear Used On This Trip

Nikon D850
Nikkor Lens:
14-24mm 2.8G ED
24-70mm 2.8E ED
70-200mm 2.8E FL ED
Gitzo 1532 Tripod
Really Right Stuff B-55 Ball Head
Assorted Lee Graduated Neutral Density Filters
B+H Polarizing Filter
Vello FWM-N2 Remote Shutter Release

Milky Way Baron Lake Sawtooth MountainsMilky Way over Baron Lake  #66010  Purchase

Baron Lakes Backpacking Photography

Sawtooth Lake and Mount Regan Idaho

Sawtooth Lake Backpacking Photography

Sawtooth Lake Backpacking Photography

Sawtooth Lake and Mount Regan IdahoSawtooth Lake #65880  Purchase

The first destination on my summer photography tour of the Rocky Mountains was the Sawtooth Range of central Idaho.  I had been to the Sawtooths for photography several times in the past.  However, this was to be my first foray into the famed backcountry. With ample time available my plan was to make several backpacks into several of the most scenic locations. The first destination I chose was Sawtooth Lake.

Sawtooth Mountains IdahoTrailside view of Sawtooth Mountains #65987  Purchase

Hiking to Sawtooth Lake

Sawtooth Lake is the largest backcountry lake, and one of the most popular in the Sawtooth Wilderness. It is also probably one of the shortest backpacking destinations. The distance from trailhead to the lake is about 4.5 miles, with 1750′ of elevation gain. Depending on your physical condition and pack weight the trip could be anywhere from easy to moderately difficult. The first half of the hike is fairly easy and passes through the cool shade of forest. However at around 3.5 miles things get serious with a switchback climb to Alpine Lake.  Sitting in a cliff ringed bowl at tree line Alpine Lake is a nice destination in itself. Some hikers decide to base camp here and then day hike up to Sawtooth Lake. I decided to take a pass since I was eager to see Sawtooth Lake.

Alpine Lake Sawtooth Mountains IdahoAlpine Lake Sawtooth Mountains  #65988  Purchase

At the junction to Alpine Lake the trail really gets down to business. For the last mile or so the trail switchbacks steeply up a ridge to Sawtooth Lake. Although it is a bit of a grind it is also the most scenic part of the trail. Here the trees thin out and offer great views of the rugged peaks and ridges. The views make this last stretch go quickly despite the steep climb. If you started out later in the day this section can also be hot with the sun beating down on you.

At Sawtooth Lake

When the trail levels out it meanders through a pleasant subalpine landscape of  cool streams and small ponds. From here it’s less than half a mile to the lake. If you’ve arrived later in the day you should probably take advantage of any open campsites available in this area. A good reason to get as early a start as possible. Nearly all backcountry camps in the Sawtooths fill up very quickly. If you arrive late you may not find a spot and be tempted to camp in an undesignated area. Please don’t do this as the vegetation is extremely fragile.

Sawtooth Lake hiker, Sawtooth Mountains idahoSawtooth Lake and Mount Regan #65930  Purchase

After a short hike through this area I arrived at the fabled view of Sawtooth Lake and Mount Regan. It was a thrill to see this sight in person after viewing pictures of it for many years. While I wanted to just sit and take it all in I immediately went down to the business of finding a campsite. Although I arrived early the best sites with a lake view were already taken. A few minutes of checking out the area yielded a great site among boulders and trees a short distance from the lake.

Photographing At Sawtooth Lake

Upon setting up camp, relaxing, and having a bite to eat, it was time to begin scouting the lake vicinity for photo ops later in the day. Two spots which seemed to offer good photo compositions. One was a little south along the shore by a big boulder field, the other higher up at the head of the lake on the trail to McGown Lakes. This second spot was where I decided to set up for evening light.

Sawtooth Lake and Mount Regan IdahoSawtooth Lake Afterglow #65888  Purchase

The trail to McGown Lakes begins at the lake outlet and climbs thorough rocky bowls dotted with wildflowers. Soon it begins a wide open traverse through scree fields below an unnamed peak. In an area with beautiful views in all directions this was one of the best. The entire lake was spread out below with Mount Regan as an impressive backdrop. I set up my tripod here and relaxed for a fews hours as the evening light came on. I was very fortunate to have some nice wispy clouds at sunset to accentuate the composition. A wonderful end to my first day in the Sawtooths.

Sawtooth Lake Sawtooth Mountains IdahoSawtooth Lake #65898  Purchase

The next morning I set up in the boulder filed along the lake shore. I arrived before dawn and was disappointed to see an empty cloudless sky. But here I was, so I waited patiently hoping for some nice light. Fortunately some nice clouds appeared and it turned out to be a beautiful morning. Returning to camp I noticed that all the others in the area were still sound asleep. It’s always nice to have a beautiful sunrise to yourself, but I feel sorry for those who sleep in and miss it.

Sawtooth Lake and Mount Regan IdahoMount Regan Sawtooth Lake #65922  Purchase

At the south end of Sawtooth Lake

After breakfast I decided to move on to the other end of the lake. A short scenic mile brought me to the south end of Sawtooth Lake. Most hikers don’t seem to bother with checking out this end so I had it all to myself. I found a nice established camp  among some giant boulders and began exploring the area. I was especially interested in hiking a little further south along the trail to see if there were good views across the valley to Baron Peak. The hike below Mount Regan trough open rocky terrain was exciting, but the trail soon began to drop into the valley. There were nice views of Baron Peak but not what I had hoped for.

Sawtooth Lake night sky Sawtooth Mountains IdahoNight sky over Sawtooth Lake #65938  Purchase

That evening the sky was disappointingly cloudless. To make up for it I decided to take my first shot at night sky photography. The next morning I again set up before dawn in a cloudless sky. Very frustrating but again I waited and hoped. Incredibly just at dawn a few clouds appeared. What looked at first like a boring morning turned into a nearly two hour frenzy of photography. Cloud patterns and light continued to change and I came away with plenty of new and exciting images.

Sawtooth Lake Sawtooth Mountains IdahoMorning clouds over Sawtooth Lake #65942  Purchase

Later that morning I packed up and began the hike out. It’s always a little sad for me to leave such a beautiful place, but I was thrilled at having my first trip into the Sawtooths a total success. I savored every step I made on the trail and envisioned my return sometime in the future.

Sawtooth Lake Sawtooth Mountains IdahoMorning clouds over Sawtooth Lake #65954  Purchase

If You Go

Don’t even think about visiting this or any other wilderness are unless you are prepared to strictly follow the guidelines of Leave No Trace (LNT). All wilderness areas throughout the world are under incredible pressure from growing amounts of visitors. Please do your part to help preserve these precious areas for future generations!

To learn more about the principles  and practicing LNT please take a few minutes to visit the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Your children and grandchildren will thank you!

Seven Leave No Trace Principles

  • Plan ahead and prepare.                                       
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.                 
  • Dispose of waste properly.                                                                         
  • Leave what you find.                                            
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
  • Respect wildlife.  
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

Redfish Lake Trailhead parking, lodge, and water taxi drive about 6 miles south of Stanley on ID 21 and turn left on FR 619, then drive another 3 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road. There are plenty of campsites near the trailhead to facilitate an early start.

The small scenic town of Stanley Idaho makes a great base for trips into the Sawtooths. Lodging, groceries, restaurants, outdoor gear stores, and a great bakery are in town. There are also many campgrounds in the vicinity.

Stanley Basin Sawtooth Mountains IdahoSawtooth Mountains from Stanley Basin #65845  Purchase

As mentioned earlier in this post, the Sawtooths are an extremely popular destination. Not only for hikers and backpackers, but also for tourists, front country family camping, river rafters, and fishing. During the height of summer just about every campsite, both front country and backcountry will be filled before noon. So make your plans accordingly to avoid frustration.

One of the best perks of the area are the numerous natural and wild hot springs. Soaking in one along the Salmon River is one of the greatest post hike activities.

Check out more of the photos from this trip in my Idaho Archives.
All the photos in this post are available as Fine Art Prints and for commercial licensing.

Photo Gear

Nikon D850
Nikkor Lens:
14-24mm 2.8G ED
24-70mm 2.8E ED
70-200mm 2.8E FL ED
Gitzo 1532 Tripod
Really Right Stuff B-55 Ball Head
Assorted Lee Graduated Neutral Density Filters
B+H Polarizing Filter
Vello FWM-N2 Remote Shutter Release

Sawtooth Lake Sawtooth Mountains IdahoMorning clouds over Sawtooth Lake #65974  Purchase

Sawtooth Lake Backpacking Photography

 

Stanley Basin Sawtooth Mountains Idaho

New Images Sawtooth Mountains Idaho

New Images Sawtooth Mountains Idaho

Stanley Basin Sawtooth Mountains IdahoMeadows of Stanley Basin, Idaho #65845  Purchase

The first group of new images from my Rocky Mountains photo tour is now online and ready to view. Click this link to view them. This selection represents the first leg of my trip, the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. It includes photos made during three separate backpacking trips into the most spectacular backcountry locations in the Sawtooths. Sawtooth Lake, Baron Lakes, and the famous Alice-Toxaway Lakes Loop. Also among this group are images from Little Redfish Lake and meadows of  Stanley Basin. Both of these locations yielded some great images on this and previous visits.

Milky Way Baron Lake Sawtooth MountainsMilky Way over Baron Lake  #66011  Purchase

The Sawtooth Mountains backcountry has been on my must photograph list for many years. They were on the schedule last year, but due to widespread wildfires and smoke I had to cancel the shoot. This year, however, provided ideal conditions for an extended stay. And I took full advantage of it. In addition to there being no fires or smoke, several passing summer storms provided beautiful evening and morning light. Perfect conditions for landscape photography.

After I complete editing and processing all the images from the rest of the trip I’ll return to the beginning and write detailed posts about all the locations I photographed.

To see even more images from this and previous trips to the Sawtooth Mountains please click this link to go to the Idaho gallery of my Archives. All images are available as fine art prints and for commercial licensing.

Next group of new images coming soon: Wind River Range Wyoming

Sawtooth Lake Sawtooth Mountains IdahoSawtooth Lake, Idaho #65942  Purchase

Twin Lakes Sawtooth MountainsTwin Lakes, Alice-Toxaway Lakes Loop #66185  Purchase

New Images Sawtooth Mountains Idaho

Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth National Recreation Area Idaho

Little Redfish Lake Sawtooth Mountains

Little Redfish Lake Sawtooth Mountains Idaho

Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth National Recreation Area IdahoSunrise over Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth Mountains Idaho  #56173  Purchase

Another great spot for photography in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho is Redfish Lake and Little Redfish Lake. While both lakes have spectacular views Little Redfish is smaller, and offers better intimate compositions than its bigger neighbor.

After my success at having good light at Stanley Lake several days before I didn’t think that luck would strike twice in the same trip, but it did. The first evening I scoured the lakeshore for good compositions. I found the best spot was one that obviously was used by photographers in the past. You can always tell by the small patch of ground  worn bare and hardened. The light was nice and I got a few good shots. However evening light puts the range mostly in shade. Morning promised to be a better time for photos, if the light was good.

As always I got up before sunrise and set up in my spot and waited. Like several days prior at Stanley Lake fog threatening to obscure the view. The stillness of the air meant the surface of the lake was mirror still, and I kept my fingers crossed. Also the sky was cloudy and it didn’t look like the sun would break through. Luck was with me though, and as you can see from these photos the fog held off and the clouds began to clear. Perfect timing, as the first predawn light began paint the sky with purples and reds.

The clouds and atmosphere that morning were just right to keep the light and colors going long after the sun had risen. As the light began to wash out the fog came back and closed off any views until the heat of the day burned it off. I packed up  and decided to check out the bigger Redfish Lake, there the fog was also thick but there was a couple of surprises for me which I’ll save for the next post.

Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth National Recreation Area IdahoSunrise over Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth Mountains Idaho  #56184  Purchase

Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth National Recreation Area IdahoSunrise over Little Redfish Lake, Sawtooth Mountains Idaho  #56196  Purchase

Bruneau River Canyon Overlook Idaho

Bruneau Canyon Idaho

Bruneau Canyon Idaho

Bruneau River Canyon Overlook IdahoBruneau Canyon Sunset  #56320  Purchase

Another location I visited on my recent photo trip to Idaho was Bruneau Canyon. Located on BLM land in a remote corner of the Snake River Plain in SW Idaho. This canyon is more well known to white water enthusiasts than photographers. I wasn’t even aware of its existence until thumbing through an Idaho tourism brochure I picked up in a rest area. Given the hot sunny and windy conditions and a long drive on a dusty gravel road I wasn’t sure I wanted to include it in my itinerary. However I soldiered on and was glad I did.

Bruneau Canyon is roughly 40 miles long, cut through layers of basalt by the Bruneau River. From the overlook  it is 800′ deep. Getting here in mid-day the canyon was a bit of a disappointment, the light was pale and featureless. Aside from the big gash in the earth there was absolutely nothing else around. Just flat plains as far as the eye could see. The only other cause for excitement was a government sign announcing to travelers they are entering an Air Force bombing range.

As always in photography light  means everything and as the sun dipped to the horizon things began to pick up. After sunset when alpenglow kicked in there was some nice warm even light on the canyon walls. The next morning look very promising with wispy clouds glowing in beautiful colors before the sun came up. Unfortunately the majority of them weren’t over the canyon, but it turned out well anyway.

If you decide to visit the Bureau Canyon make it part of a trip that includes other nearby spots like Shoshone Falls or the Owyhee Uplands. Make sure you’re ready to be on your own, although there are great spots along the rim to camp in solitude there is no water, cell phone reception or any other facilities. You also might want to bring a helmet for the objects falling from airplanes!

Bruneau River Canyon Overlook IdahoBruneau Canyon Idaho  #56299  Purchase

Air Force bombing range  warning sign SW IdahoAir Force Bombing Range Warning Sign  #56332

Car camping in SW IdahoCamping on rim of Bruneau Canyon  #56311

Stanley Lake Sawtooth Mountains Idaho

Stanley Lake Sawtooth Mountains Idaho

Stanley Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, IdahoFull moon over Stanley Lake and McGown Peak, Sawtooth Mountains Idaho #55933  Purchase

Last month when I was photographing in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho one of my main goals was to come back with some exceptional images of Stanley Lake. This lake is on the northern end of the Sawtooth Mountains. With McGown Peak in the background, it is one of the more classic scenes in an area overflowing with photo great opportunities. On this trip I was lucky enough to get not one but two instances of exceptional light.

My first day in the area found me photographing a couple of meadows. They were filled with wildflowers about a mile up the trail from the lake. While at these meadows an evening storm began to clear. Just in time to fill the sky with fabulous tones of yellow orange red and finally purples and pinks. I felt lucky to have been in the right place at the right time to photograph the wildflowers and McGown Peak. But at the same time I knew that the view from the lake must have been awesome too. Unfortunately the lake was too far away to include it in the same evening session.

While back at my camp that evening I was a bit disappointed to see the night filled with stars. That meant the morning would most likely be an empty blue sky, not the conditions I had hoped for. I awoke before daybreak to check out the lake anyway and as I expected there was not a cloud in the sky, but the lake was mirror still and a full moon was drifting down from the sky to the right of McGown Peak. As I was setting up my camera as if by magic fog banks began to form over the lake, thinking rats now I wouldn’t even get this basic photo. But the fog started to spread into wisps and concentrate in areas that would enhance the composition.

After the sun began to wash out most of the color in the mountains the fog rolled back in and completely obliterated the seven for the next hour or so. The first photo below is the result. I ended up with about a half dozen variations, with of course a few verticals included for possible cover placements. A very satisfying mornings works.

Stanley Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, IdahoSunset over Stanley Lake and McGown Peak, Sawtooth Mountains Idaho #56121  Purchase

After having more good light and photo sessions in other nearby areas, I was  ready to move on to Redfish Lake, another great location. The sky was hazy all day with threats of approaching showers. It didn’t look like there would be anything worthwhile to photograph in the evening. However, at the last minute I had a hunch to head back to Stanley Lake, since it was so close. The showers never appeared and the haze began to thin out into streamers of high clouds. Those condition were perfect for catching colorful rays of light, even after the sun had set.

All I had to do was set up in the same spot as before and hope and wait for the sky to start glowing. I wasn’t disappointed. I had plenty of time to make me great images, even after the sunset. The second photo in this post is from that evening. As with the evening in the meadows several days earlier I noticed in the opposite direction some incredible cloud formations. They were glowing in orange and reds. As if taunting me to pack up my camera gear and drive like mad to chase the light just down the road. However, I knew that would be a futile effort. The light was fading and there wouldn’t be enough time to get to a suitable location.

I just stood there and enjoyed the sounds of the Loons  and remaining light.