Summit of Thompson Peak in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains.

One Photo, One Story: Hiking Thompson Peak in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains

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By Michael Lanza

We started hiking in a cool, morning fog that hung thickly over the Sawtooth Valley, our destination a very small, very airy block of stone that lay beyond sight about 6.5 miles and 4,200 vertical feet in the distance: the 10,751-foot summit of Thompson Peak, the highest in Idaho’s best-known mountain range, the Sawtooths, where 33 summits exceed 10,000 feet. Four-and-a-half hours later, I snapped this photo of my wife, Penny, in a notch right below the short, third-class scramble to Thompson’s summit. We had the crown of the Sawtooths to ourselves on this July weekday, with a sweeping view of the entire Sawtooth Range, Goat Lake 1,700 feet below us, and the White Cloud Mountains across the valley.

Thompson Peak towers prominently above the Sawtooth Valley at the eastern front of the Sawtooth Range, where a row of jagged peaks and spires extends for miles, their sheer abruptness reminding me of the view of the Tetons from Jackson Hole (even if the Sawtooths do not match the relief or heights of the Tetons). Thompson’s summit can be reached on a dayhike from Redfish Lake—a big day of 13 miles round-trip and 4,200 feet of elevation gain and loss, much of that involving off-trail hiking, with about 15 feet of third-class scrambling to reach the summit.

See my story “Ask Me: What Are the Best Hikes in Idaho’s Sawtooths?” for a description of the standard hiking route to the summit of Thompson as well as other great dayhikes and backpacking trips in Idaho’s most famous range.

I’ll share more photos and a video from this hike later at The Big Outside. Meanwhile, see all of my stories about Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, including pieces about climbing two other very prominent Sawtooth summits, McGown Peak and Mount Heyburn.

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