Alpine Creek Lakes in the Sawtooth Wilderness Area Sep 7 - 10, 2016

The Alpine Creek Lakes basin is a gem of a hike. Until a few weeks before Darrell and I went, I had not considered any hikes south of Petit Lake. This place is loaded with many lakes, rugged terrain, jagged mountain peaks and beautiful scenery. It is one of the best hikes we have been on. Here are a few good links:

Here is map of the driving route from Boise to the trail head.

The Road

The trailhead is about two miles east of Alturas Lake. The turnoff to Alturas Lake is about about 15 miles south of Stanley on highway 75. It is well marked. The paved road follows the north end of the lake and is paved all the way to the trailhead.

The Trail

The first three miles of the trail are almost flat and it is a great way to start a trip. The trail follows Alpine Creek and goes through open country with sage brush and pine forrests. There are several places where springs come from the mountains to the north and create wet areas with willows and lush vegetation. Upon reaching the end of the flat part of the Alpine Creek valley, there is supposed to be a marker that shows the split of the unmaintained trails that lead to the north or south sections of the lake basin. I don't remember seeing an obvious marker, but the south trail was fairly easy to find. Since we took the south trail we can't comment on the trail to the north basin. The north trail is very steep and narrow in sections. I would consider one or two sections as class 3 because they require using hands. Fortunately the steep section is less than a mile.

We bushwhacked our way around the rest of the lakes we visited in the basin. From our basecamp on lake 8522 we found a very reasonable route from lake 8522 in the south basin to the rest of the lakes in the north basin. Our route map shows the route we took. We really enjoyed the scenery and fishing in the lakes in both basins. Even though there are no distinct trails in the route from lake 8522 to lake 8980 and beyond to lakes 9050 and 9157, there seemed to be a good, but unmaintained trail from 9157 to lake 8523.

Campsites

Our basecamp was lake 8522. There are several good campsites. We picked the campsite at the east end of the lake. Another good campsite is on the penisula on the south side of the lake. There were other good ones on the west side of the lake, but they take some effort to get to. There a was really nice campsite on lake 8523 on the east side.

Fishing

We would consider the fishing in the lakes as mediocre. What that means for us is that we were not catching fish on every cast, which happens in some high mountain lakes. It was more like catching a few fish every hour. We fished in the major lakes in both basins. Lake 9167 is the only lake where we did not catch any fish. The fish we caught were healthy and many were 14in - 16in. We caught rainbow, cutthroat, and hybrids. In Lake 9050 we caught one unusual kind of fish, namely a grayling.

Conclusion

The Sawtooth Wilderness Area is amazing. I love going there. The Alpine Creek Lakes basin is rugged and beautiful. It is less than five miles to a wonderful basecamp with amazing scenery. The bushwhacking and route finding possibilities are endless. I have a feeling that it gets fewer visitors than the more popular destinations to the north. If you like bushwhacking and visiting many different lakes this is an ideal destination. It is definitely on my top 5 list.

Useful links


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