Scenic Alice Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains
Alice Lake is a beautiful breathtakingly clear lake set up in the Sawtooth Mountains near Stanley, Idaho. It’s about 6 miles out from the Pettit Lake Trailhead and climbs about 2000 ft. It’s about 4 hours’ drive to reach from Boise, which means that if you’re coming from civilization you’ve still got plenty of time to get up to the Lake well before evening.
Arriving at the trailhead at about 12:30 we hiked around Pettit Lake for about a mile until we reached the wilderness boundary. Here there is a box requiring hikers to document their passage and carry a tag that is returned on the way back to show that they made it out. Beyond this the trail headed up through the gently sloped forest before reaching a stream. The first crossing requires hikers to wade through, so it is wise to bring some spare water shoes. For the agile and impatient (me) it is also possible to cross by jumping from rock to rock if you bushwhack upstream about 500 feet to a narrower, fast flowing bit. This is pretty dangerous though considering that if you slip and shatter your ankle it’s going to be a very long way to hop on one foot back to the trailhead.
After the stream is crossed the first time the trail heads uphill more noticeably and crisscrosses the stream every half mile or so. The later crossings are all more easily passable than the first, either with jutting rocks or logs to walk over. After a while we came out of the trees onto a steep rocky slope. As we ascended we began seeing lots of wildflowers and chipmunks racing among them, and down at the base of the slope you can see another stream meandering down to meet the one we had just crossed. Near the top of the ascent the stream turns into a rushing waterfall and the path becomes truly mountainous for a short while.
Here the path returns to a gentle slope and we see trees again. After a short hike we reached a small outlier of the lake with a tiny island in the middle. Behind this another small stretch of water, issuing from the actual lake right behind it. Alice Lake is so clear that you can count the pebbles at the bottom at a distance. The lake is almost entirely ringed by jutting peaks, most notable being El Capitan which proudly stands above the others. The lakeshore is covered in grass and loosely peppered with trees. Small rock outcroppings provide good jumping off points for people seeking to escape the heat. The water is cold, but not uncommonly so for a mountain lake. There are a lot of promising camping spots, and if you happen to be traveling at the right time of year you can avoid the campfire ban.
The view at the lake will take your breath away. One of the most beautiful and luckily underappreciated sights in the US it is readily available to any hiker willing to go through the effort of walking there.
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