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High Ridge Trail

Boulder Mountains

Sun Valley + Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

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High Ridge Trail

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  • Trail sign at the start of the High Ridge Trail.- High Ridge Trail
  • The headwall of Cold Creek, the first alpine basin along the High Ridge Trail.- High Ridge Trail
  • A view down Cold Creek Canyon once the trail climbs out of the trees.- High Ridge Trail
  • Sedimentary rock layered in the headwall of Cold Creek Canyon.- High Ridge Trail
  • The view down Basin Gulch onto the Trail Creek Road just below Trail Creek Summit.- High Ridge Trail
  • The overview at Point 9,460 on the east ridge of Otto's Peak offers a stunning perspetive of the Pioneer Mountains.- High Ridge Trail
  • Looking northwest across Basin Gulch to the divide with Cold Canyon, where a nice exposure of tilted sedimentary layers are exposed.- High Ridge Trail
  • The Devil's Bedstead is clearly visible from from the overlook on the east ridge of Otto's Peak.- High Ridge Trail
  • Looking up the east face of Otto's Peak as the trail begins its long traverse to the divide with Lake Creek.- High Ridge Trail
  • Switchbacks of the original Trail Creek toll road can be seen in the aspens and pines beneath the much newer grade.- High Ridge Trail
  • Serrated ridgelines in the Pioneer Mountains.- High Ridge Trail
  • The west face of the Devil's Bedstead.- High Ridge Trail
  • A view down the Lake Creek/Trail Creek Divide from the traverse beneath Otto's Peak.- High Ridge Trail
  • Late season yellow flowers decorate the open hillsides along the trail.- High Ridge Trail
  • The view into Lake Creek Canyon from the Lake Creek Divide.- High Ridge Trail
  • Folded sedimentary rock exposed in a road cut leading up to the Auburn Mine.- High Ridge Trail
  • The ruins of the Auburn Mine.- High Ridge Trail
  • Rail tracks leading out of the Auburn Mine.- High Ridge Trail
  • Avalanche chutes dissect the north-facing forested hillsides at the head of Lake Creek.- High Ridge Trail
  • The Lake Creek lakes are located about halfway up the canyon.- High Ridge Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Stunning views of the Pioneers. Late season wildflowers. Interesting sedimentary geology. Mining history.
Cons: 
Exposed sections of trail. Long shuttle. Descent into Lake Creek can be hard to follow.
Region:
Sun Valley + Sawtooth Mountains, ID
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
2,487.00 ft (758.04 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Biking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
8.20 mi (13.20 km)
Trail type: 
Shuttle
Trailhead Elevation: 
7,720.00 ft (2,353.06 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

The High Ridge Trail climbs up into the impressive north-facing bowls on the backside of Lake Creek. For geologists, the trail encounters the “type formation” of the Wilson Creek Member of the sedimentary Wood River Formation. The view from the east ridge of Otto’s Peak into the Pioneers is one of the highlights of the hike.

The High Ridge Trail

From the parking area, drop down and ford Trail Creek. The trail climbs several steep pitches followed by short traverses for the first 600 feet before settling into a gradual walk up the Cold Canyon Basin. Hanging meadows along the trail host several species of wildflowers as summer lengthens. Cross Cold Canyon Creek into the forest where the switchbacks begin. Steep and short at first, they get longer and flatter toward the shoulder at Point 9,100.

The trail contours into Basin Gulch beneath vertical layers of sedimentary rock. The avalanche debris piled up below the trail is impressive and gives a sense of the power that the slides have. Several short and steep switchbacks and a long contour beneath the imposing northeast face of Otto’s Peak lead to an awesome viewpoint with a stunning and unique perspective of the Pioneers. Many people turn around from here to make it a there-and-back hike (3.4 miles, 1,740 feet).

An interesting piece of the early Wood River mining history can be seen from this overlook. The faint switchbacks of the original Trail Creek Toll Road can be picked out as it cuts through the aspens and fir trees beneath the existing summit road. The original grade was built in the late 1800s to connect the smelting resources in the Wood River Valley to the mines and communities in Mackay, Challis, and the eventually to the rail line in Pocatello.

The trail continues across Rock Roll Canyon via a narrow, steep side-hill that may make some hikers a bit nervous.  In general the long 1.6-mile traverse to the south saddle of Otto’s Peak offers more outstanding views.  Pay attention on the descent into Lake Creek as some of the switchbacks are easy to miss. Once you hit the old mining road, it is a long and gradual grind to the car.

Note that the north-facing bowls of Otto's Peak can hold snow into the summer that may stop hikers in the springtime. The crossing of Trail Creek can also be a hazard during runoff.

Additional Adventures

For those interested in checking out old mines, the quick jaunt to the end of the Lake Creek mining road and the Auburn Mine is a nice side trip. The entrance is caved, but there are some old rail tracks still protruding from the entrance.

Mountain Biking

The High Ridge Trail is open to mountain bikes and offers a unique and challenging ride from the Trail Creek Trailhead to Lake Creek. Some of the side-hill traverses are very narrow with high-tumble consequences. The switchbacks down into Lake Creek are loose, but in general most of the trail is manageable for experienced to expert riders. It is definitely a low traffic “adventure” ride and requires a car shuttle.

Off-Trail Hiking

The three ridgelines emanating from the summit of Otto's Peak are reasonable scrambles in the Class 2 to Class 3 range.  One could loop up the east ridge, down the south ridge, and catch the trail back to the trailhead. It is also possible to continue across the impressive Lake Creek headwalls via the northwest ridge to Divide Peak (10,331) and then descend its west ridge to the Lake Creek Road. This might best be accomplished as a loop from the Lake Creek side of the High Ridge Trail.

Reference: All content excerpted from Exploring Sun Valley - A Comprehensive Guide to the Boulder, Pioneer, and Smoky Mountains by Idaho River Publications.

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Published in collaboration with 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.

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