Both Hell Roaring and Imogene Lakes are accessed from one of two trailheads. The road to the upper Hell Roaring Trailhead traverses across the face of a glacial moraine with two difficult crux sections. The first crux has space to turn around for over-committed drivers, while the second does not. Once it turns the corner into the Hell Roaring drainage, the road remains quite narrow and is slow going over the very bumpy flats. A high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended.
For hikers without a high clearance four-wheel drive vehicle, the lower trailhead adds about 2 miles to the hike. Mountain bikes can be ridden 3.1 miles from the lower trailhead in about the same amount of time that it takes to drive to upper Hell Roaring.
The mileage indicated is from the Upper Hell Roaring Trailhead. Imogene is a stunning high alpine lake with a complicated shoreline due to the geologic jointing in the underlying bedrock. Several islands dot the lake, the largest of which is connected by an isthmus to the north shore. The trail to Imogene hugs the eastern side of the lake/drainage before making the final climb through numerous switchbacks to the divide with the Yellow Belly drainage.
Hiking distances and ascents are as follows:
• From the Lower Trailhead to Hell Roaring Lake: 4.9 miles, 634 feet.
• From the Upper Trailhead to Hell Roaring Lake: 2.7 miles, 259 feet.
• From the Lower Trailhead to Imogene Lake: 8.4 miles, 1,868 feet.
• From the Upper Trailhead to Imogene Lake: 6.2 miles, 1,493 feet.
• From the Upper Trailhead to Imogene Divide: 8.5 miles, 2,536 feet.
From the Imogene Divide it is possible to connect into several different multi-day backpacking loops. The trail drops immediately to Edith Lake in the Yellow Belly Lake drainage. It is also possible to access Virginia Lake over Sand Mountain Pass to the South Fork of the Payette River basin.
The trail-less western side of the Imogene Basin is split into two separate alpine cirques topped by Payette Peak and Mount Cramer. There are several unnamed lakes and off-trail scrambles to the surrounding summits that provide ample fodder for exploration.
Though all of the established routes in the Hell Roaring basin are centered around the Finger of Fate, The Arrowhead, and formations on Peak 10,272, there may be more climbing potential in the Imogene basin. The buttresses dropping north into Lake 8,733 rise nearly 800 feet and are easily descended on their south faces. The more vertical east face of Point 10,016 does not look terribly promising, but it could yield some lines to adventurous climbers. The north side of Point 9,934 due south of Imogene Lake contains a few snow couloirs and what may be fun and easy Class 5 buttresses to the summit.
Most of the trail lies within the Sawtooth Wilderness. Please observe the following regulations:
• Mountain bikes are not allowed past the wilderness boundary.
• Self administered wilderness permits are required and available at the trailhead.
• Dogs must be on a leash between July 1 and Labor Day.
• Camp 100 feet from trails, lakes and streams.
• Pack out all garbage.
• Human waste should be buried and well disguised in a cat hole that is 6 to 8 inches deep. Pack out all toilet paper.
• Campfires allowed ONLY in a backcountry pan or fire blanket.
• Campfires are NOT allowed at some lakes and in some drainages in the Sawtooths. Please review the campfire restrictions at individual trailheads.
• Permits required for all stock use in the wilderness. No grazing allowed in the Salmon River watershed (This includes the Alpine Lake drainage).
• No equine stock at Edith Lake. ALL stock prohibited in the Goat Creek and Alpine Creek (Alturas Lake) drainages.
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