Alice Lake is a moderate- to expert-level hike in the Sawtooth Mountains. Near Stanley, Idaho and Redfish Lake, the Alice Lake hike is best used from June to October, and if you travel outside of that you will likely develop a treacherous path and a bunch of snow. The trailhead to Alice Lake is located about 3.5 hours from Boise. Here are our tips for hiking to Alice Lake.
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Alice Lake is located in the Sawtooth Mountains in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The area has 57 mountains with an elevation over 10,000 feet and 77 mountains between 9,000 and 10,000 feet.
The Sawtooth Mountain Range was formed millions of years ago during the the Eocene Geological Epoch and remained a glacier for much of the time, as late as 1850. You can still see many remnants of the Little Ice Age around the area, including hundreds of snow fields, although no glaciers still exist.
Alice Lake is one of the largest lakes within the Sawtooth Mountain Wilderness. To hike to Alice Lake, you will take the Tin Cup Trailhead. The trailhead begins at Pettit Lake, which can be accessed from State Highway 75 via the Sawtooth National Forest road 208.
Pettit Lake is a beauty in itself, and if you want to camp without much of a hike, Pettit Lake might be a better option.
The Alice Lake Trail is a little more than 11 miles roundtrip, with a gain of 1,600 feet of elevation on the way there.
You will follow along the river much of the hike. If you hike the trail outside of the optimal window, there is going to be a lot of snow on the trail. The issue with this is that you should be crossing the river five times during the hike, but if you cannot see where to cross, you may get lost. Only one of the crossings has an actual bridge.
We went in late May and there was still a decent amount of snow on the trails, making it difficult to see where we were supposed to go. There were rocks blocking the trail and beaver dams over some of the river crossings. But there are plenty of creeks, waterfalls, wilderness, and other beautiful sights to see on this hike.
This hike is not for beginners, and is recommended between June and October unless you have done it before, because it’s just so easy to miss the trail. Because of the significant elevation gain, make sure you bring plenty of food and water, and extra socks because of the snow. You can also consider backpacking through the wilderness, and spending more time taking in everything the Sawtooth Mountains have to offer.
Although only 5.5 miles each way, this hike can take you hours to achieve because of the elevation and treacherous trail. Just give yourself time, go slow, and bring your bear spray.
Once you get to Alice Lake, you will forget about the hike and enjoy the beauty of the Sawtooth Mountains. The lake is in the shadow of El Capitan, a rocky peak that seems to rise above the surrounding landscape as if from nowhere. El Capitan is a 9,901 feet high mountain in the Sawtooth Mountain Range in Idaho.
The elevation of Alice Lake is 8,600 feet, 1,600 feet above Pettit Lake’s elevation of 7,000 feet.
Be prepared to see any kind of wildlife, including deer and the occasional bear. If you are looking to fish, the lake has plenty of brook trout and other species to keep you busy.
Alice Lake is a beautiful blue lake anytime it is not covered by snow, and so clear you can see the bottom most the time. The hike can be tough at times, but is worth it in the end.
If 11 miles is just not long enough for you, or you are looking for a backpacking trail to spend a few days, consider the Alice Toxaway Loop. This loop will take you to Alice Lake, Twin Lakes, and Toxaway Lake and will loop back to Pettit Lake — so there is no turning around on this hike.
The Alice Toxaway Loop is 18-miles total.