There are few things better than basking in the sun at the base of the Sawtooths with your feet in the clear, cool water of a lake. The Sawtooth Basin is dotted with mountain lakes. Like with many of the features in the Sawtooth Valley, most of these lakes were formed by glaciation. The glaciers of a different time left enough cracks, hollows, and depressions to create over 300 beautiful mountain lakes in the Sawtooth Basin. There are big, deep lakes accessible from the car, small shallow lakes a two-days hike away, and everything in between.
Visitors can pack a picnic and find solitude on the shores of Alturus or Petit Lake or have a shore side grilled burger and ice cream cone from the gazebo at Redfish Lake. They can take their little ones on a short hike to Bench Lakes or strap on their thick hiking boots and hoof it to Alice Lake.
Whatever the intention, there is a lake for everyone. So don’t forget that swimsuit!
Redfish Lake: 10 minutes south of Stanley on Highway 75. This glacial lake is nestled between two tall glacial moraines. When hiking on the ridge of either moraine, one can almost see how the U-shaped valley was once filled with ice. From the lake, there are stunning views of the Sawtooths, shoreside food options and lodge and camping options.
Alturas Lake: 45 minutes south of Stanley on Highway 75. Alturas is another lake formed by glacial moraines. There are less people at Alturas than Redfish with the same beautiful views. There are camping options.
Alice Lake: This is the largest lake in the Sawtooth Wilderness. It is a moderate 5.5-mile hike from Petit Lake. Though well known, the hike deters many people. With jagged steep peaks at a backdrop, Alice Lake is the most scenic day hike lake, hands down.
Sawtooth Lake: From Iron Creek trailhead, a moderate 5-mile hike. This lake is pooled at the bottom of incredibly chiseled u-shaped granite valley. Unlike the earthy moraines of Red Fish and Alturas, the glacial evidence at Sawtooth Lake is from the carving of stone by ice. This hike may have less people than Alice Lake.