Alturas Lake Creek canyon is also the jumping off point for the Alpine Creek and Eureka Gulch adventures. These hikes peel off within the first mile. At the head of the canyon, Alturas Lake Creek connects over three divides to the Middle Fork and South Fork of the Boise River.
The gentle divides at the top of Alturas Canyon are the easiest routes from the Sawtooth Valley into Boise River drainages. Many people are surprised to realize that Atlanta is only 17 miles from the trailhead. During the late 1800s, trails over the Mattingly, Ross, and Johnson Divides were important travel corridors connecting the Boise Basin mines to the Yankee Fork (northeast of Stanley) and Wood River districts. There are records of at least one shipment of ore being packed from the Yankee Fork over Mattingly Divide to the Buffalo Mill at Atlanta for processing.
Today, the high cirques and alpine lakes are the proverbial gold and silver of the modern era. Since the headwaters of Alturas Lake Creek are lacking in both, it sees much less traffic than drainages further to the north. There are some beautiful meadows about halfway out of the canyon. Hikers going all the way to the divide may want to continue down into the Mattingly meadows or up to Mattingly Lake. There are also some easier peaks to climb near the divide (Peaks 9,536 or 9,335) that offer great views to the north.
When the Sawtooth Wilderness was created in 1972, there was an old mining road that extended up the canyon to the mouth of Jakes Gulch. As a result, Alturas was kept outside the wilderness boundary. The road has since been closed and rehabilitated into a trail, but the canyon remains open to motorcycles and other wheeled use. Mountain bikers will find the 8-plus-mile out-and-back ride is quite fun. Riders with a penchant for adventure can drop into the North Fork of the Ross Fork or Johnson Creek to create longer loops with more variable riding conditions. Using a mountain bike to “shorten” the out-and-back distance makes adventures in the head of the Mattingly drainage a reasonable day trip.
The Alturas Lake Creek trail connects to several adventures including Mattingly Creek in the M.F. Boise drainage which takes hikers down to the remote region of Atlanta. It also links into the Johnson/N.F. Ross Creek loop at the head of the South Fork of the Boise. This is a fairly remote region that probably sees more motorcycle and mountain bike use than hiking or backpacking.
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