Crimson Lake Idaho Sep 4 - 7, 2013

Mark and I went to Crimson Lake this year. It is roughly 9 miles northwest of the Idaho ghost town named Bonanza, which is north of Sunbeam, which is on highway 75 about 10 miles east of Stanley.

Here is map of the driving route to the trail head.
View Driving directions to W Fork Yankee Fork Rd in a larger map.

Mark and I hiked to Crimson Lake September 4, 2013. Crimson Lake is just inside the Frank Church Wilderness Area. The trailhead starts at the Idaho ghosttown named Bonanza and heads north west along the West Yankee Fork of the Salmon River and then forks off to follow Cabin Creek up to Crimson Lake. This link describes the hike:
Hiking Idaho by Ralph Maughan (page 149)

Here are a few other good links:

The Road

After turning north at Sunbeam the road is paved for several miles, before turning into a good gravel road all the way to Bonanza. Finding the trail head was easy by following the instructions in the book.

The Trail

The USGS maps do not show the trail to Crimson Lake, but the latest forest service maps do show the trail. The trail has been well maintained. There was not a single tree across the trail from start to finish. Because of my adventure last year, I was closely following our progress on the gps and noted with some confusion that several parts of the trail shown on the forest service maps are not accurate. We trusted the trail, and did find a well marked turnoff to Crimson Lake.
Here is a map from the gps showing roughly the trail we followed from Crimson Lake back to the Split Creek trail - Crimson Lake trail. We saw no other hikers or campers for the entire trip.

The book said the trail was 8.5 miles, but my gps said we hiked 11 miles. There was one point where we did a bit of backtracking to make sure we had not missed a turnorff, but even without backtracking, we would have hiked more than 10 miles.


Fishing in Crimson Lake was disappointing. The book said the fishing was good, but my experience was different. I caught one 10 inch cutthroat and two other smaller fish. I saw only a few fish rising or jumping and never saw any fish swimming around near shore. The smaller lake to the west of Crimson lake looked like it should not have fish, but it did. I saw some fish cruising around that looked about 10 inches. I did not have my fishing pole with me at the time and never did go back.


Don't go there for the fishing.. However, it is beautiful and you will probably not see many other people at this lake. It did take all my energy to get to Crimson Lake in one day. The first 7 plus miles are very easy with little elevation gain, but the last three miles, when you're tired, have about 1500 feet of elevation gain.

Useful links

Leave No Trace.