Backpacking Idaho: From Alpine Peaks to Desert Canyons
by Douglas Lorain (Wilderness Press)
© 2015 Douglas Lorain/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.
We hiked the shortcut loop CCW (Grandjean, NF Baron Creek, Sawtooth Lake, McGown Lakes, Trail Creek) in early August. The good: Climbing out of the NF Baron Creek canyon and hiking to the north ridge of Sawtooth Lake is very scenic. The bad: The NF Baron Creek trail is badly overgrown with very stiff shrubs, and there is no relief from the sun. Sawtooth Lake is really crowded on the weekends. The trail from the north ridge of Sawtooth Lake all the way back to Grandjean goes through the 2005 Trailhead burn. It is completely devastated from Sawtooth Lake to the Trail Creek Lakes junction. It's not so bad from there to Grandjean. The full loop does not pass through any other burn areas, at least no published ones. So I would not recommend the shortcut loop. Hiking from the Iron Creek Campground is the better way to see Sawtooth Lake.
This was an awesome hike! The views were phenomenal. Sawtooth lake was the one of the most breath-takingly beautiful sights I have ever seen. We stayed at Lower Trail Creek Lake the first night and this was a wonderful place to stay,however as others have mentioned it is significantly burned on the trail to and just after however I think this contributes to its beauty as this is something that is not seen everywhere. My least favorite part of this hike was the descent down from Sawtooth Lake to the camp spot beside the creek towards Baron Lakes. The author was fairly vague about the distances from Sawtooth Lake down to the next campsite, it is 7 1/2 miles of steady downhill! Also this section of the trail is very overgrown and difficult to get through. After this the hiking was awesome! My favorite campsite was at the middle Cramer Lake. There is a beautiful waterfall that is great fun to jump off of. The last two days of the hike were a bit of a let down after all the fantastic scenery but still a great trip! Come prepared for a little bit of rain and crazy thunderstorms. The hike also included more downhill than I expected so I was very thankful I brought my knee brace along!
This was an awesome trip! The view of Sawtooth Lake as you come over the pass is amazing! I could have just sat there for hours. Upper Cramer Lake was my favorite camp and has an incredible view. If we'd had more time I would've stayed there an extra day. The trail down from Sawtooth Lake to Baron Creek was the only bad part of the trip. The view at the top of that canyon is great but with the sun beating down on us the whole time, almost no shade, losing almost all of the elevation we gained the day before, fighting our way through brush at each little creek crossing, and trying to avoid the stinging nettle it was a slog and a half descending down that canyon. When I come back and do this trail again I'll just skip Sawtooth Lake (do that as a separate day trip) and just head up Baron Creek from the start. The Sawtooth Range are beautiful mountains. They are sort of a junior Sierra Nevada Range. I will definitely return. If you want to see our pictures here's a link. http://www.flickr.com/gp/11717855@N08/0P0NKT
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