Ranking 5/5 It’s hard to argue with a “perfect” score, for a backpack like this…Incredible mountain vistas, brilliant blue lakes, off trail adventure, and lots of solitude are just some of the perks that await you on this trek through some of the best the Sawtooths have to offer. We chose this hike as our first adventure into the fabled Sawtooths, as this hike was listed as one that did not attract as many visitors, as the main range. Still for those looking for awesome scenery, and a little more effort, this is a hike that has it all, and by all means, should be on your list!
Difficulty 8/10 Yes, there is some off trail scrambling to be done here, and it’s really a trek for those with experience with a GPS unit, and at least some experience with maps and orienteering, but… It’s not as difficult at finding your way as the last trip we undertook. I believe that better trail markers would certainly help in some areas, although this is part of the charm of this place, as you feel like you’re exploring. The distance covered between camps on day 1 and 2 are a bit long for the amount of off trail you’ll experience, as well. Also, just getting enough trail beta for this trek alone, made it difficult to plan from home, especially if you were unfamiliar with the area.
Getting there: Head east on I-84E to Boise, ID, and then turn right onto Exit 46 to ID 55 towards Eagle/McCall, then turn left onto ID 55 N/S Eagle RD, and drive for 6.76 miles. Then, turn right onto ID 55N and go for 1.77 miles, and turn left again, to stay on ID 55N, and go 33.6 miles, then turn right onto Banks Lowman Rd, County highway 17 and go 33.1 miles to Lowman. In Lowman, turn left onto ID-21N, and go another 58.1 miles. This will bring you to the junction for ID-75S, turn right here, and go 14.8 miles to Forest Rd 209, and turn left and go 10.2 miles to the end, and the TH for 4th of July Creek. Or, you can go the route we did, by getting to Ketchum, ID to spend the night, and then from Ketchum, head out on ID-75N/N. Main St., drive for appx 45.8 miles to turn right on Forest Rd #209/Fourth of July Creek Rd, and drive the 10.3 miles to TH.
Maps: We used Custom Correct TOPO maps for this hike, by downloading created content directly from their website.
Permits: Self-permit register at the trailhead.
White Clouds Mountain Loop Added 8-23-17
Idaho. We’ve heard so many stories about the mountains there, and seen the pictures, that we want to see if for ourselves. And, since the Sawtooth Mountains seem to be the most talked about, we decide that our first foray into our neighboring state, should be into these famous mountains. However, after doing much research into where to go, it seems that they’re so famous that they draw large crowds of people, so, we opt for the White Cloud Mountains Loop, also part of the Sawtooth National Forest, just not as heavily traveled. I did mention that Idaho was our neighbor, trouble is, that doesn’t mean it’s all that close. Seems the trail head is about 11 hours away, and since no one wants to travel 11 hours in a car, then hit the trail for 10 miles, we decide to find a place to sleep for the night close by, so we can get a fresh start. The consensus for the first night is Ketchum, Idaho, which is only about 1.5 hours away from the start of the trail. This also allows us an opportunity to scope out the ski resort there!
11 hours. Drive to Ketchum. This includes going across the state of Washington, cutting off the upper corner of Oregon via Pendleton, then diagonally down across Idaho, going through Boise. We’ve never been this far south in the state, and we’re a little surprised at how flat it is around the capital. Lots of sage and general high desert scrub. There are also large, rolling hills that rise up on either side of the highway leading into the flats around Boise, some so tall that it’s hard to see the tops as you snake between them. It’s also a treat to see a couple small herds of antelope grazing on the side of the road.
From Mountain Home, the road climbs up through increasing rolling mountains towards Ketchum, past field after field of baled alfalfa, until we start entering trees and greenery, signifying we’ve entered Sun Valley. You can tell there’s money here, beautiful large homes grace either side of the road, all vying for best home status in the likes of Sunset, or Home and Garden magazine.
Ketchum is a neat little ski village, with lots of places to eat and drink, and after checking in, it’s our first order of business. We find a nice little bar and grill to enjoy a burger and beer, walking distance from our digs at the Tamarack Lodge. We also spy out a Starbucks for our morning cup of joe…Back to the room to turn in early, for tomorrow will be a long day.