Imogene Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Sawtooth Jewels: Backpacking to Alice, Hell Roaring, and Imogene Lakes

In Backpacking, Family Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   4 Comments

By Michael Lanza

We sit on the bank of Pettit Lake Creek and remove our boots and socks to ford it. It’s the third week in June, and winter is just winding down in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. The creek barrels downhill, barking and bursting with snowmelt. My friends Chip and Jan Roser are already partway across, moving carefully over the rocky bed. At the opposite bank, Chip turns around and shouts to us, “It’s freezing.”

It’s certainly very close to freezing, anyway—this creek was snow just a little while ago. In fact, if this water was only a few degrees colder, we could walk across its surface without getting wet.

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4 Responses to Sawtooth Jewels: Backpacking to Alice, Hell Roaring, and Imogene Lakes

  1. Michael   |  April 15, 2016 at 10:14 am

    Michael,

    Great post! I really appreciate all your input about the Sawtooths. Long story short, a few friends of mine have always wanted to do the Alice lake, Toxaway lake loop. Its just been a destination bucket list item of ours for quite a while. And reading this post made me decide this year is the time to do it.

    We’ll be in Boise this year sadly on business, but will have 5 free days to backpack afterwards. Our plan was to hike during the third week of June, overlapping time frame as your trip in this post. However, one obvious concern is snow levels in the alpine areas once we get up to/around Alice Lake/Twin lake area. It looked like there was quite a bit of snow in your photos, but it looked safe. Just out of curiosity, about what altitude did you start running into constant snow cover during the trip in this post?

    • michaellanza   |  April 19, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      Hi Michael, thanks for the nice words about this story. The Sawtooths got a pretty big snowpack this winter, so while we’ve been enjoying a relatively warm spring so far, it’s hard to predict what condition this snowpack will be in in two months, I would expect snow consistently covering the ground in late June above roughly 7,500-8,000 feet. On the trip I wrote about in this story, we were basically hiking atop 2-3 feet of snow once we crossed the wooden footbridge over the Alice Lake outlet creek, with occasional patches of open ground. It would be consolidated enough to hike just in boots, probably. Depending on how much melting there’s been, you may or may not be able to hike over the Alice-Toxaway Divide, a pass at 9,200 feet.

      You might find it difficult just to locate the trail once above Alice Lake. That said, getting to Alice Lake is feasible, and exploring as far as Twin Lakes may go fine; then you could just descend the way you hiked in. Be careful with the lower creek crossing on the trail to Alice Lake, it can be high and fast (and will be frigid). If you look carefully, at the lowest creek crossing, you’ll see a faint, unmaintained, user trail continuing upstream through the forest that lets you avoid the first two creek crossings.

      Good luck, it’s a beautiful hike. Let me know how it goes.

  2. Darren Russinger   |  June 23, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    So too early to hike to Thompson Peak?

    • MichaelALanza   |  June 23, 2015 at 7:06 pm

      I haven’t heard a recent report, Darren, but even in this low-snow year, I think you’ll run into a significant amount of snow cover at higher elevations on Thompson right now, and the headwall would be tricky with snow on it. It’ll be a lot better in a couple weeks.

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