The Copper Basin is a huge, glacially carved valley deep in the northern Pioneer Mountains. The valley is roughly triangular and 8 miles across at the longest, north-south axis. There are some large moraine ridges that stretch through the valley. Kettle lakes, formed when chunks of buried glacial ice melt and leave a depression in the landscape, provide drinking water for antelope, deer, and elk.
Several finger canyons radiating off the main valley to the west, south, and east fed the glaciers that carved Copper Basin. These canyons feature the sharp ridgelines, arêtes, sculpted peaks, and alpine basins typical of glaciated terrain and contain several great hikes. Though remote, a good road reaches Copper Basin via the East Fork of the Big Lost River and a loop through the basin proper access the trailheads for Lake, Muldoon, Star Hope, Bear, Broad, and Bellas canyons.
It is a long 44 miles on dirt roads to the trailheads in the eastern Pioneer Mountains, but it is well worth the drive. It is a unique experience to climb from the low-lying sage and willow landscape that dominates Copper Basin to the alpine meadows that surround Betty and Goat Lakes at 10,000 feet. Sheer granite walls provide a dramatic backdrop along much of the hike into this incredibly scenic basin. The spur trail continues over a divide at the head Broad Canyon to connect to Surprise Valley.
The Broad Canyon Trail stays in the forest and hugs the willow-choked bottom on the south side of the creek. Several openings within the first mile offer glimpses of the sheer walls of beneath Point 10,368 as well as the impressive granite east face of Peak 11,887.
As the trail climbs higher it crosses several hanging meadows that become lush with wildflowers in early August. Gurgling creeks and granite walls split by narrow couloirs compliment the scenery. The first junction leads west to Baptie and Goat Lake. The second junction connects with the Jarvis trail around 10,200 feet.
From the junction with the Jarvis Trail, turn left for the final short leg to the shores of Betty Lake. A short 1.5-mile trail connects Betty over a mellow divide to Goat and Baptie Lakes and makes a nice loop at the head of the canyon.
There are two trails that climb up either side of Broad Canyon. The Jarvis Trail (open to hikers and horses only) traverses an open hanging bench on the north side of the canyon before climbing past the miss-identified “Clear Lake” and Bench Lake to merge with the Broad Canyon Trail around 10,300 feet. Hikers can create a long loop by climbing and descending separate trails into the Broad Canyon Cirque.
The trail connects to Surprise Valley over the saddle at Point 11,030. Climb east of the lake, winding through massive granite boulders embedded in a broad, grassy ramp. Four switchbacks climb from the edge of the talus at 10,800 feet to the saddle. Enjoy the views onto Betty Lake from here.
Hiking distances and ascents are as follows:
• From Broad Canyon Trailhead to Baptie Junction: 4.5 miles, 1,920 feet.
• From Broad Canyon Trailhead to Jarvis Junction: 5.1 miles, 2,507 feet.
• From Broad Canyon Trailhead to Betty Lake: 5.3 miles, 2,587 feet.
• Jarvis Trail to Jarvis Junction: 4.5 miles, 2,547 feet.
• Jarvis Trail to Betty Lake: 4.7 miles, 2,627 feet.
• From Broad Canyon Trailhead to Baptie Lake: 4.8 miles, 2,320 feet.
• From Broad Canyon Trailhead to Goat Lake: 5.1 miles, 2,600 feet.
• Betty to Baptie Connector: 1.5 miles.
• From Broad Canyon Trailhead to Surprise Valley Divide: 6.2 miles, 3,230 feet.
Standhope, Altair, and Peak 11,887 dominate the views at the head of Broad Canyon. All can be climbed via moderate to difficult Class 3 to Class 4 routes that afford challenging scrambles and stunning views in all directions.
From the Betty Lake cirque, it is easiest to follow the trail to the divide with Surprise Valley and then tackle the west ridge of Altair Peak or the northeast ridge of Standhope. From the Goat Lake Basin, a rising traverse to the saddle between Standhope and Peak 11,887 accesses the west ridge of Standhope. For the more committed climber, the north ridge of Peak 11,887 offers an airy and exposed scramble across a knife-edged granite ridge!
The headwaters of Broad Canyon are dominated by a white Quartz Monzonite (basically granite to the layperson). Several impressive faces on the east face of Peak 11,887 could offer technical climbing routes.
Reference: All content excerpted from Exploring Sun Valley - A Comprehensive Guide to the Boulder, Pioneer, and Smoky Mountains by Idaho River Publications.
Our mission is to inspire adventure with beautiful, comprehensive and waterproof map-based guidebooks. Owner, publisher, and photographer Matt Leidecker, grew up exploring and guiding on the rivers in central Idaho. His award winning Middle Fork of the Salmon River – A Comprehensive Guide is the standard by which other river guidebooks are measured. Printed on virtually indestructible YUPO paper, IRP guides are truly unique all-in-one resources for adventure. Each book is loaded with full-color maps, stunning photographs, and information on the history, geology, and wildflowers. Visit Idaho River Publications to explore our guidebooks to the Rogue River in Oregon and the mountains of Central Idaho.