Decker Peak in the Sawtooth Wilderness Area Aug 18 - 20, 2016

Matthew and I decided to try climbing the third highest peak in the Sawtooths, namely Decker Peak. We left early Thursday morning and because of the fire related road closure of Banks to Lowman road we had to take the Idaho City route to Lowman and Stanley. We took the Hell Roaring Lake trail and then cut off north along the Redfish trail until we reached our base camp. The trail to Hell Roaring Lake is very easy, but after the cutoff to the Redfish trail it gains over a 1000 feet of elevation before dropping about 600 feet to the lake at which we camped. Here are a few good links:

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

The Road

We used the Hell Roaring trail. The turnoff to the trailhead is about 10 miles south of Stanley on highway 75. It is well marked. The road to the 4th of July area turns to the east and the Hell Roaring trail head is to the west. There are two parking areas, lower and upper. The road to the upper trailhead is very rough. There are large rocks and holes in the road and even some steep sections with rocks and holes. It is an exciting ride and may cost a blown out tire. It may be worth the 2 miles it saves by not having to park at the lower trail head.

The Trail

The trail from the upper trail head to Hell Roaring Lake is almost flat and is a very comfortable way to start out a backpacking trip. Right at the outlet of Hell Roaring Lake our trail turned north and climbed steeply about 1000 ft up and over a mountain into the next valley. We descended about 600 feet to a small lake a little ways off the trail. That was our base camp.

The lake had no inlet or outlet, so the water was not clear and fresh. There were fish, but the moss was bad enough that my fly would get tangled in fresh moss every cast. The water tasted ok after filtering.


There were no established camp sites on that lake. We saw evidence of old campfires, but they had been well dispersed or not used in years. We saw no one after we left one group at the beginning of the hike until we got back to the car and were almost to the main road. It is lucky to not run into other vehicles on that rough and narrow road.


The fishing was poor in this lake and I did not take the time to fish in any other lakes. It was primarily a climbing trip. With no outlet nor inlet the water was too mossy. The smallish fish were rising and biting, but it was too hard to remove the moss from the fly after each cast.


The climb up Decker was more difficult than I expected. Thompson Peak seems like a walk in the park compared to Decker. It is hard to describe why I thought it was hard. I think it could have been the distance we traveled through the forest without a trail. And the greater distance required to hike over rough and steep boulder fields. We knew we were not taking the traditional route to the top. We chose a more direct route from our campsite which took us up the more northerly section of the east face approach. Even though it was hard, it was fun to pick our route as we went along.

On the way down we took the traditional route which is more on the south side of the east face. We still ran into problems where we had to backtrack to find routes down 100 foot cliffs. Bushwhacking back through the forest without a gps was also exciting. Fortunately, we did not make any major mistakes following the stream and then leaving it to find our lake.


The Sawtooth Wilderness Area is amazing. I love going there. Decker Peak is a bit of a challenge, but not terrible. There is probably a better place to setup a base camp.

Useful links

Leave No Trace.