The hike to Washington Lake provides an opportunity to experience some spectacular scenery in Idaho's Whitecloud Mountains. Located between Stanley and Sun Valley, ID, the Whiteclouds are a popular spot for hikers, backcountry campers, hunters, and game watchers. The sheer rocky peaks rival those of the nearby Sawtooth Mountain Range, and they are often offer easier access.
The hike starts at the Fourth of July Creek Trailhead and winds through an old burnout from the 2005 Valley Road Fire. The area is restoring itself nicely, and the valley is full of small brush, wildflowers, and an abundance of deer, elk and bear. The hike meanders almost 2 miles through the edge of the burn before opening upon a tremendous view of Fourth of July Lake framed by scenic Whitecloud Ridge in the background.
The trail winds southeast from Fourth of July Lake and an additional mile over a short pass. Washington Lake becomes visible from the top of the pass, and the hike is easy down the well-maintained path to the edge of the water. There are several small backcountry sites available to campers. The lake is protected and calm, and brave visitors might enjoy a swim in the cold, high-mountain water. There are various trails that spin off from this location, including popular access to the nearby Chamberlain Lakes.
The trail reaches approximately 9,500 feet, which makes it a great opportunity to access high elevation scenery without straining your calves. However, you may need to wait until mid-summer for the snow to melt before you can get on the trail.
Note: This area is particularly dry in summer and fall, and the use of fires is very limited in the area. Please check with the local Forest Service Ranger Station by calling 208-726-7672 or online to see if fires are allowed.