Saddleback Lakes

Sawtooth Wilderness

Sun Valley + Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

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Saddleback Lakes


  • A calm September morning at Redfish Lake Lodge.- Saddleback Lakes
  • A climber approaches the log crossing of Redfish Lake Creek.  This is a dangerous crossing during spring runoff.- Saddleback Lakes
  • Walking the logs at the Redfish Lake Creek crossing.- Saddleback Lakes
  • The hike up to Saddleback Lakes is an unofficial trail and one of the steepest in the Sawtooths.- Saddleback Lakes
  • The 1,200-foot granite wall of the Elephants Perch towers over the entrance to the Saddleback Valley.- Saddleback Lakes
  • Two of the more prominent technical lines on the Elephants Perch are shown here. The Becky Route (left) and the Fine Line (right).- Saddleback Lakes
  • The view across the end of the first Saddleback Lake to Mount Heyburn.- Saddleback Lakes
  • There are some beautiful slab camps on the south and west shores of the second Saddleback Lake.- Saddleback Lakes
  • Looking across the second Saddleback Lake back at the impressive wall of the Elephants Perch.- Saddleback Lakes
  • Unnamed north facing spires above the third Saddleback Lake.- Saddleback Lakes
  • Pine trees reflected in the third Saddleback Lake.- Saddleback Lakes
  • Unnamed granite spire at the head of Saddleback cirque.- Saddleback Lakes
  • Unnamed granite spire at the head of Saddleback cirque.- Saddleback Lakes
  • A climber scrambles up the west ridge of Old Decker Peak with the uppermost Saddleback (fourth and fifth) Lakes below.- Saddleback Lakes
  • Enjoying beautiful hand cracks on easy slabs to the summit of Old Decker Peak.- Saddleback Lakes
  • Twisted bark detail.- Saddleback Lakes
  • Sunset on the Elephants Perch.- Saddleback Lakes
  • The beautiful red "Sawtooth Batholith" of the Elephants Perch.- Saddleback Lakes
  • Looking across the Saddleback Lakes to the summit of Decker Peak (far summit) from the top of the Elephants Perch.- Saddleback Lakes
  • A perspective of the Saddleback Alpine basin from halfway up the west face of the Elephants Perch.- Saddleback Lakes
  • An aerial view of the south face of the Elephants Perch.- Saddleback Lakes
  • South and southwest face of the Elephants Perch.- Saddleback Lakes
  • West face of the Elephants Perch.- Saddleback Lakes
  • The stunning view from the north shore of Alice Lake.- Saddleback Lakes
Overview + Weather
Relatively easy access. Boat shuttle access. Granite walls. Technical climbing.
No official trail. Crowded. Lots of climber impact. Steep access.
In spring and early summer, the top of the trail crosses a snowfield that drops into steep, rushing creek. A slip can and has resulted in a fatality.
Sun Valley + Sawtooth Mountains, ID
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
2,000.00 ft (609.60 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
6.80 mi (10.94 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
6,580.00 ft (2,005.58 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description


Saddleback Lakes are accessed from the Redfish Lake Creek Canyon Trail.  Though you can access the canyon via the Bench Lakes Trail, most hikers pay for a shuttle across Redfish Lake from the boat docks on the north shore.  There are several shorter day hiking options around the Redfish Lake inlet.

Saddleback Lakes

Despite the lack of an official Forest Service trail, Saddleback Lakes is a popular destination. A relatively short and steep (the steepest in the Sawtooths!) hike makes this a nice day trip for experienced hikers. The stunning southwest face of the Elephants Perch towers over granite slabs that slip directly into the waters of the lake. Additional sheer walls and rock spires encircle the south and west sides of the canyon. 

The route to Saddleback is not an official Forest Service trail, so a detailed description is not provided. Access can be blocked by high water at the crossing of Redfish Lake Creek and by dangerous snow slabs that clog the top of the climb. A slip while crossing this spring-hardened snow can and has led to a fatality. The trail is steep, indistinct and braided at times, so hikers should be confident in their route-finding abilities before tackling this route.

Additional Adventures

Additional adventures in Redfish Lake canyon include Alpine Lake and Cramer Lakes.

Technical Climbing

Saddleback Lakes and the Elephants Perch is the epicenter for technical climbing in the Sawtooths.  “The Perch” and surrounding peaks hold the highest concentration of technical climbing routes in the range and have been written about in several different climbing publications. The quality of the climbing and additional publicity draws a steady stream of climbers to the area for much of the summer season. It is not uncommon for multiple backpacking and climbing parties to be camped around the lake for several days at a time.

Overuse Impacts

The impacts of such heavy use are apparent around the lake. While the no-fire regulation and Leave No Trace practices help prevent fire rings and garbage from accumulating around the lake, other impacts are unavoidable. Campsites show heavy use and soils are compacted. Locations for effective human waste disposal are limited, and it is not uncommon to come across previously used “scat holes.” Regardless of how carefully campers dispose of their own waste, the reality is that over time, the hundreds of annual deposits will filter directly into this small bedrock lake basin. While Saddleback is not the only high-use area in the Sawtooths, the unique combination of stunning beauty and quality rock climbing brings higher than normal use to this fragile environment. We strongly recommend camping directly on bedrock slabs and using a “wag bag” or other pack-it-out human waste disposal system to limit impact!

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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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(10 within a 30 mile radius)

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(83 within a 30 mile radius)

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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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