Sawtooths Trek

Alice Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho, reflection

Alice Lake Morning : Prints Available

Dawn reflection at Alice Lake.

For many years I’ve been longing to visit the Sawtooth Range in Idaho, and last week I finally got the chance! We went on a 7-day backpacking trek through the range, starting from Pettit Lake and ending at Redfish Lake, taking a few detours along the way.

hiking, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho, Twin Lakes

Hiking above the brilliant blue Twin Lakes.

The Sawtooths did not disappoint, with their seemingly endless supply of emerald lakes surrounded by jagged granite spires.

See more photos from the trek below!

Toxaway, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho, sunset

Toxaway Valley : Prints Available

Looking east down the Toxaway valley from a high ridgeline at sunset. 
Sunset in the Sawtooths, Idaho
Sunset in the Sawtooths, Idaho

Nice place for a sunset and some M&Ms.

Sevy Peak, Cramer Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

Cramer Lake Reflection : Prints Available

Sevy Peak reflects in Upper Cramer Lake at sunset on a calm blue sky August evening.

The first few days we had beautiful partly cloudy weather, but the next few days were totally sunny – great for trekking but not so great for photography. Nevertheless we had a blast backpacking through this new mountain range, jumping in the lakes, and camping in some of the most spectacular campsites ever.

Cramer Lake, waterfall, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

Twilight Stream : Prints Available

Waterfall at Cramer Lake.  During our trek here in early August, about 15 minutes or so after sunset every night there was about 5 minutes of the most brilliant magenta rays that illuminated the western sky. 

Not seen in these photos are the swarms of mosquitos everywhere! Those pesky bastards would not leave us alone! Thank heavens for deet.

Baron Lake, hiking, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

Hiking past the turquoise waters of upper Baron Lake.
Baron Lake, Monte Verita, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

Evening at Baron Lake : Prints Available

Late afternoon light filters through the forest near Baron Lake.  Monte Verita towers beyond. 
Monte Verita, Baron Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

Monte Verita Alpenglow Reflection : Prints Available

Monte Verita reflects in the calm waters of Baron Lake at dawn. 
Baron Lake, blue, reflection, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

Baron Lake Blue Reflection : Prints Available

Sunrise light shines on the peaks at Baron Lake.  I thought it was an interesting phenomenon how the mountains behind me created a silhouette that almost perfectly matched the skyline of these peaks! 
Baron Creek, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

Baron Creek Peak : Prints Available

Sunset light on an unnamed rugged peak above Baron Creek. 
Warbonnet Peak, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho, lake

Bushwhack Lake : Prints Available

Rugged spires tower above this seldom seen emerald lake below Warbonnet Peak. 

We spent a day hiking to an unnamed lake (above) that I was totally curious to see, since it is situated in a remote cirque below a wild array of jagged spires. We planned on staying the night here, but I totally underestimated the difficulty of the bushwhack required to get here, and we realized that the only way to keep on our trek schedule was to abandon our plan and immediately leave and return to the camp from the night before. Thus, we spent most of a day doing a fairly grueling bushwhack with full packs for no reason, when we could have had a chill rest day instead. D’oh! Well, Claudia’s a trooper and she had a better attitude about it than I did!

Elephant's Perch, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho, sunset

Elephant's Perch Sunset : Prints Available

Sunset at Elephant's Perch - August. 

Our last night was spent at one of the most incredible spots I’ve ever set up a tent at, on cliff about 20 feet above a lake, with a direct view of the huge Elephant’s Perch spire towering above!

Elephant's Perch, moonlight, tent, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

Our tent glows at our incredible campsite under the moonlit Elephant's Perch. 

The last day we hiked down to Redfish Lake and caught a boat ride across the lake back to the truck, ending another good long trek this summer! I hope to return to the Sawtooths again someday!

38 thoughts on “Sawtooths Trek

  1. You were indeed fortunate with the sunlight mountain edges in the Baron Lake Reflection shot. I suspect there aren’t a lot of days during the year when that effect occurs. Beautiful shots and I envy your trek.

  2. Jack…your work is growing and you are so inspiring…beautiful work… everyone of the images are awesome! Keep them coming…

  3. Sweet, Jack! All of them, sweet! The Sawtooths remind me of the Sierras a little bit. Another awesome trip for the books.

    1. Thanks Justin! Yeah I was think the same thing while I was there… very similar to what I remember of the eastern Sierras: dry, rocky, granite spires, only on a more smaller scale than the Sierras.

  4. I’ve been awaiting this trip report. You were quiet for a long time so I knew it was going to be a good one. Beyond stunning in fact! Our time up there this summer was amazing though too short. We did a day trip crossing Redfish Lake and hiking to a lake with amazing views of Elephants Perch though I’m not sure it’s the same one.

  5. Jack, as always, your work is spectacular. And how wonderful that you have a trekking and life partner so well suited to you. Happy Belated Birthday, BTW!

  6. Been looking forward to seeing what you’d bring back from Idaho, Jack. You never disappoint! I’ve driven past the Sawtooths so many times, but never made it in there. Toxaway Valley and the two Baron Lake shots would be my picks from this set. The glowing tent is pretty sweet too.

  7. Hey Jack,
    Wow, these are really great. Sawtooths have been on my list for many years, thanks for your excellent photos!

  8. Nice diversity in this selection and some truly stunning images. I like Alice Morning for the subtle blues and gorgeous foreground. There’s a number of JB classics here for sure – and I guess you answered any questions about why they’re called the Sawtooths – in a big way!

  9. ..congratulations beautiful fhotos…..bellissime foto vieni in Carnia Udine,Friuli Venezia Giulia Italia dove troverai bellissime e selvagge montagne da fotografare,
    mandi e good work

  10. Damn, Jack, these are nice. Just got back from the Sawtooths. Lots of snow this season, so our trek was interrupted a few times. Your photographs are exceptional. I enjoyed them immensely.

  11. I’ve always been a fan of your photos, since I did a geography project on plitvice. Every time i check, I’m left feeling inspired, Keep up the awesomeness 😀

  12. hy i am intreseded in visiting SAWTOOTHS and do some trekking, as living in switzerland i have no idea how to trek in america camp, and get out of the the beaten trak, can you help me out.

    thanks bernard dorner

    1. Yes, in America we don’t have the nice alpine huts like you have in the Alps. So to do the best treks here, you must have backpacking gear and be totally self-sufficient as far as food, shelter, and sleeping. But that is also part of the attraction – to get out into the true wilderness.

      I have written a post on my blog where I describe all my backpacking gear and along with other backpacking tips:

      The best places for backpacking in the US are in the “wilderness areas” NOT the national parks. National parks are generally overcrowded and have a backcountry permit system that limits the number of backpackers and requires you to camp in designated spots. Wilderness areas are different because there are far less people and rules and regulations. The only major rule is that no vehicles are allowed. The best way to figure out which trails to hike is to study the National Geographic topo maps of the areas, which show all the trails. Also, once you know which area you want to go to, such as the Sawtooths, there are guidebooks that tell you all about the trails and what you need to trek there. The maps and guidebooks can all be found on Also, you can search online for trip reports, photo galleries, etc, to give you ideas of where to go.

      Take care,

  13. Jack, I’ve been a fan of the Sawtooths for over 20 years. Last year, my fiance and I did a six-day loop from Petit to Farley to Edith and Ardeth to Spangle and Ingeborg, … and then back out again via Toxaway and Alice, etc.

    When I try to explain to people why we’re going back to the Sawtooths for more backpacking, instead of doing something more *traditional* for our honeymoon this summer, I send them to this page, which captures the utterly stunning beauty of the area. Thanks for sharing,… and you are an AMAZING photographer.

  14. Fantastic photography, how fortunate I was to come upon your work! I love the wilderness, no better vacation than to be in the middle of nature. I am looking forward to following all of your adventures. Thanks so much for sharing this, as there are not enough of us. Best to you and your wife.

  15. Unbelievable!! What trails did you hike? I need to get out there, and I would love to take the same trip that you did through the Sawtooths!

    1. Thanks Logan! I don’t remember the names of the trails, but if you get a map of the Sawtooths it should be super simple to see where I went based on the photo labels and descriptions in this post. The trails are very straightforward in that range; there’s basically one main trail that goes the length of the range on the eastern side of the crest.

      1. Thanks man!! I’m saving up for this trip. I’m going this summer no questions asked. These beautiful pictures inspired me!

  16. I am a born and raised Idahoan. I love these mountains and I am happy to see people like yourself come out to explore them and document them so beautifully. I especially like that shot “Evening at Baron Lake.” Reminds me of that moment you arrive at a lake and take in your first views.

  17. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your page. Cannot wait for this summer to come and put this guide to use! Been lusting after the Sawtooths and Stanley. Thank you 🙂 Amazing photos!

  18. Hey Jack, we’re leaving for the Sawtooths on Sunday. I was wondering if you were able to stake down your tents at any of the campsites, or if it’s too rocky? Really enjoyed finding and reading your post. Thanks in advance for the advice!

  19. Your photos are stunning and have inspired me to plan a trip there. I am very interested in doing this same backpacking route in a few weeks. I was searching for a National Geographic map and am struggling a bit. Was there a particular one you purchased? Any reference you would be willing to provide to reference trail descriptions for what you did? Thank you in advance ! It is much appreciated.

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