Yellow Belly Lake

Sawtooth Mountains

Sun Valley + Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

Start Exploring
Yellow Belly Lake


  • Yellow Belly is one of several large glacial lakes on the east side of the Sawtooth Mountains.- Yellow Belly Lake
  • The smaller McDonald Lake is just a short trip upstream. McDonald is a marshy place in the spring, but the surrounding grassy marsh/meadow is more easily explored when things dry out in the fall.- Yellow Belly Lake
  • McDonald Lake outlet in October.- Yellow Belly Lake
  • The trail to Yellow Belly Lake climbs along the edge of the outlet creek for the first quarter of a mile.- Yellow Belly Lake
  • This wide, cascading section of Yellow Belly Creek is a great spot to stop and explore the water's edge.- Yellow Belly Lake
  • Working on balance along Yellow Belly Creek.- Yellow Belly Lake
  • Yellow Belly Creek in full June cascade.- Yellow Belly Lake
  • Further along the trail is this curious pile of river boulders.- Yellow Belly Lake
  • Once it leaves the creek, the trail to the lake is a wide and easy walk through a lodgepole pine forest.- Yellow Belly Lake
  • It is fun to explore along the flooded reaches of Yellow Belly's outlet creek on your way back to the car. Be sure to bring a good pair of water shoes.- Yellow Belly Lake
  • The shoreline is void of any beaches, but there are a few campsites along the shore that make for a great backpacking destination for kids.- Yellow Belly Lake
Overview + Weather
Short hike. Good for kids. Trailside cascade.
Few views. Monotonous lodgepole forest. Motorized use.
Sun Valley + Sawtooth Mountains, ID
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
182.00 ft (55.47 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Biking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
3.60 mi (5.79 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
6,940.00 ft (2,115.31 m)
Current Local Weather:
Published in collaboration with
Hike Description

Hike Description


While it is possible to get to Yellow Belly Lake from the Pettit Lake/Tin Cup Trailhead (See Farley or Alice Lake adventures), it makes little sense to hike up and over the moraine that divides the two large lakes when the more appealing trail follows the Yellow Belly outlet. Additionally, the view from the east shore of the lake is better. There is a road that accesses the west shore of Yellow Belly, but it is very rocky, slow, and tedious.

Yellow Belly Lake

Yellow Belly is one of five large moraine-bound lakes nestled in the eastern foothills of the Sawtooth Mountains. Unlike the others (Stanley, Redfish, Pettit and Alturas), Yellow Belly is not accessible by a well-maintained road. Thick forest grows right to a shoreline void of Forest Service campgrounds, day-use areas, boat launches, or crowded beaches. The short and nearly flat trail to the eastern shore is a great option for families who want to try backpacking with young kids.  The long peninsula and cove on the northeast corner of the lake is a great area for exploration.

Additional Adventures

The Yellow Belly Trail continues upstream to McDonald, Farley, and Toxaway lakes.

Mountain Biking

The loop from the Yellow Belly Trailhead connecting with trail 041 over to Pettit Lake and back around on road 365 is a fun and easy mountain bike ride (6.6 miles with 747 feet of elevation gain).  The ride is great for beginners and can be ridden in either direction from the Yellow Belly or Pettit Lake side.

Reference: All content excerpted from Exploring the Sawtooths - A Comprehensive Guide by Idaho River Publications.

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide + Trail Map

Field Guide + Trail Map

Published in collaboration with
Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(14 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(88 within a 30 mile radius)

Adventure Community

Adventure Community

Who Wants To Do It
18 Members
Who's Done It
7 Members
Submission by
103 Adventures Explored
103 Adventures Published

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.

Newsletter Signup

Join the Outdoor Project Community

Get access to essential planning materials and information for your next adventure. Take a few seconds to join the community. It’s FREE!

Free Field Guides + Maps

Post Updates, Tips + Comments

Organize + Track Your Adventures

Insider Detailed Info, News + Benefits

Custom Driving Directions

Recommended Campsites, Photos + Reservation Info