Toxaway Lake lies in a region of intense jointing in the underlying bedrock. Over time, erosion has incised along the joint plane, carving a series of ridges and valleys into the underlying Idaho Batholith granite. This results in a very irregular shoreline, as some of these ridges jut into the emerald waters of Toxaway Lake, forming peninsulas and bays. The ridge extending north from Snowyside Peak provides a beautiful backdrop to the long, scenic lake.
The 20 switchbacks to the divide with the South Fork of the Payette River may seem a bit redundant to those who like to take the shortest route between two points. Despite climbing nearly 1,000 feet, it never really feels like you are gaining much altitude. Hikers with more “mature” knees will appreciate the mellow grade achieved by so many turns in the trail. There is a large northeast-trending zone of enriched mineral deposits that stretches from Peak 9,745 to Peak 9,955. The color and consistency of this zone tends to be reddish with more granulated and un-cohesive crystals, resulting in the name “Sand Mountain Pass.”
Toxaway Lake also links south over the Snowyside Divide into the equally stunning Pettit Lake drainage. The scenic beauty of these two canyons makes it one of the most heavily-used trail networks in the Sawtooths. A campfire ban for the entire southeast corner of the wilderness includes both basins and is intended to help reduce the impact of such heavy use. Please travel lightly and respect the wilderness regulations.
Hiking distances and ascents are as follows:
• From Yellow Belly to Toxaway: 8.3 miles, 1,420 feet.
• From Pettit/Tin Cup to Toxaway: 7.8 miles, 1,842 feet.
• From Pettit/Tin Cup to Snowyside Divide: 10.7 miles, 2,959 feet.
• From Pettit/Tin Cup to Sand Mountain Pass: 9.8 miles, 2,910 feet.
• The popular Farley-Toxaway-Twin-Alice Loop out of Pettit Lake: 18 miles, 3,169 feet.
The trail over Sand Mountain Pass into the South Fork of the Payette drainage connects to the Virginia Lake and Hidden Lake adventures. To the south over Snowyside Divide lie Twin and Alice Lakes. One of the most popular backpacking loops in the range is the Pettit to Toxaway to Alice to Pettit route. Total distance and elevation gain is 18 miles and 3,169 feet.
While there are virtually no established routes in the Toxaway drainage, the region was one of the first destinations visited by Robert and Miriam Underhill and Dave Williams on their climbing expedition in 1934. In the 1934 edition of Appalachia, Miriam writes:
“… we did a south-to-north traverse of Snowyside (10,659 ft - elevation adjusted since 1934) and the peak to the north of it (Pk. 10,340), including, on the way, several of their gendarmes. The descent of the north ridge of Snowyside proved in places fine rock climbing. It included a steep slab of perhaps 200 feet, undercut at the bottom. The rock, although granite, was not altogether firm, and we placed several rappels for further security. On the summit of one bold gendarme on the Snowyside ridge we found undisturbed quantities of quartz crystals - proof positive of its virginity. Dave named it Crystal Peak.” (Underhill, Miriam. “Leading a Cat by Its Tail” in Appalachia, 1934.)
Snowyside, Peak 10,340, and Peak 10,205 are all composed of Sawtooth Batholith granite, which tends to be more reliable for technical climbing. The “Crystal Peak” gendarme is located on the north ridge of Peak 10,340. The North Ridge of Peak 10,205 looks to be a fun Class 4 romp with some Class 5 towers on the upper third of the 1,600-foot granite ridge. The west ridge of the same peak may hold more technical challenges. The most promising rock for quality routes is found on the west face of Peak 10,340, which has several features that are worthy of further exploration. Finally, the cirque on the north side of Peak 10,052 hosts several narrow couloirs that may hold fun spring snow and ice climbs.
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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