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Little Queens River + Scenic Lake

Sawtooth Wilderness

Sun Valley + Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

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Little Queens River + Scenic Lake

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  • Mature Douglas fir trees flank the trail up the Little Queens River.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • An old miner's cabin at the Money Prospect about 2 miles up the trail to Browns Lake.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • Walking through a dense Douglas fir forest up the Little Queens River drainage.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • Trail sign at the Neinmeyer Creek junction 5.6 miles up the Little Queens Canyon.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • After leaving the main Little Queens River Canyon, the trail climbs steeply through the trees to gain the Scenic Lake alpine basin.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • Sunset highlights a lone cloud.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • Pink light highlights granite slabs with Nahneke Mountain in the background.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • Scenic Canyon sunset- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • Scenic Canyon sunset- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • Looking down scenic creek about a half mile below the lake.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • Scenic Lake Trail.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • Stunning wildflower meadows flank Scenic Creek on the hike up to the lake.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • DYC, or Darn Yellow Composites.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • Scenic Lake with the east summit of Nahneke Mountain in the background.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • Scenic Lake reflection.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • Looking onto Scenic Lake from the shoulder of Nahneek Mountain East.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • Looking southeast from the summit of Nahneke Mountain East across Lake 8,331 and the Queens River drainage to the summit of Greylock Mountain.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • The view up Queens River from the summit of Nahenek Mountain East over two unnamed lakes. Mount Everly is the shaded peak in the left background.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • Lake 8,676 from the summit of Nahneke Mountain East.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
  • Scenic Lake and canyon from the summit of Nahneke Mountain West.- Little Queens River + Scenic Lake
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Beautiful lakes. Multiple peak access. Wildflowers along the creek. Mining History.
Cons: 
Limited camping. Steep trail. Mosquitos. Popular.
Region:
Sun Valley + Sawtooth Mountains, ID
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
3,423.00 ft (1,043.33 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
19.40 mi (31.22 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
5,210.00 ft (1,588.01 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

The Little Queens River is accessed from the Queens River Trailhead about 5 miles from the “town” of Atlanta.  Check out the Atlanta Region overview for more general information about the Western Sawtooths. The China Basin Road bike loop is another adventure that starts nearby.

Little Queens River - Historical Overview

In 1886, Matthew Graham, a tireless promoter of the Atlanta region, began developing silver mines in the North Fork of the Boise River drainage near today’s Graham guard station. One of the most direct routes from Atlanta to the new mines was up Little Queens River and over Neinmeyer Creek to the North Fork of the Boise River. As miners rushed to the newest boomtown, a few staked claims at promising outcrops along Little Queens. 

Though the Graham Mines were a total bust, several claims in the Little Queens region ended up producing some wealth in the 1900s. The Overlook Mine was active in the first two decades of the century, producing thousands of ounces of silver and gold. The Money Prospect produced a few hundred ounces during a similar period, and it was later owned by Earl Money, who tinkered away at the property later in the 1940s and 1950s. The Little Queens was active most recently in the 1950s and late 1960s, with more than 1,000 feet of developed tunnels.

The route to Scenic Lake follows the old road that extended almost 4 miles up the Little Queens River to the mines. The lake is one of only three alpine lakes within a reasonable distance from either the Powerplant or Queens River trailheads (Browns Lake and Leggit Lake are the other two). This canyon, though pretty, is not nearly as dramatic as other more alpine Sawtooth drainages, and the long hike can start to feel like walking on a treadmill. Note that the Queens and Little Queens drainages burned significantly in 2013.  Expect to encounter charred forest, downed trees, altered description, and other effects from the fire.

Scenic Lake

The remnants of the Little Queens Mine, the Money Prospect and cabin, and some nice, mature forest along the shady side of the river are worthwhile day hiking destinations. The second and third crossings of Little Queens River may require wading at medium to high flows. Above the third crossing, the sunny swaths of open meadow can be awash in early to mid-summer wildflowers.

The crux of the hike up Scenic Creek lies in climbing to the lip of the upper basin. It’s a vertical gain of 1,500 feet over 2 miles, the final 450 of which are accomplished in a brutally steep 0.3 miles. That equates to an average grade of 14% and a crux grade of 29.8%, the steepest stretch of any trail in the Sawtooths! 

The remainder of the route passes through dense wildflowers along one of the prettier creekside trails in the Sawtooths. Two stunning cirque-bound lakes are the reward for the climb. Sheer dike-riddled walls on the north face of Nahneke Mountain hang overhead, lending a brooding feeling to this shady drainage. The shoreline is steep and rocky with only a few campsites on the north sides of either lake. Campfires are prohibited in the Scenic Lake cirque.

Additional Adventures

At the junction to Scenic Lake, hikers have the option to continue further up Little Queens River to Browns Lake or over the Johnson Divide to Johnson Lake. A logical backpacking route in the region would be to loop the Queens River-Johnson Creek-Little Queens River trails and visit Browns and Scenic lakes on that loop. Total distance is 29.8 miles with 5,930 feet of climbing on that loop.

Off-Trail Hiking

The obvious destination for most peak baggers is Nahneke Mountain. Both the east and west summits can be reached easily from the saddle. 

Peaks 9,554 and 9,540 have dramatic north faces with a fun traverse between the summits that is airy on one side of the ridge and mellow on the other. Flat Top Mountain can be reached from just about anywhere along its west face, but the South Ridge is the most aesthetic route. Another objective lower in the Little Queens drainage is to summit East Warrior Peak and circumnavigate Browns Creek by the ridges on either side of the creek.

Wilderness Regulations

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.

Reference: All content excerpted from Exploring the Sawtooths - A Comprehensive Guide 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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