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Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
259.00 ft (78.94 m)
Trail type
5.40 mi (8.69 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Both Hell Roaring and Imogene Lakes are accessed from one of two trailheads. The road to the upper Hell Roaring trailhead traverses across the face of a glacial moraine with two difficult crux sections. The first crux has space to turn around for over-committed drivers, while the second does not. Once it turns the corner into the Hell Roaring drainage, the road remains quite narrow and is slow going over the very bumpy flats. A high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended.

For hikers without a high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle, the lower trailhead adds about 2 miles to the hike. Mountain bikes can be ridden 3.1 miles from the lower trailhead in about the same amount of time it takes to drive to upper Hell Roaring.

Hell Roaring Lake

Hell Roaring Lake is nestled among thick trees at 7,407 feet, where the canyon branches into distinct alpine basins. The Finger of Fate, an elegant tower of solid granite, stands as a sentinel above the north shore of the lake. Long fins of glacially-polished slabs descend from the Imogene basin to the south shore of the lake. The hike from the lower trailhead offers nice creekside camping for a shorter trip with kids, and the lake itself is a great choice for a first overnight backpacking trip.

The hike from the lower trailhead is an enjoyable hike with several pretty openings along the creek. The upper half of both routes to the lake is a bit monotonous across dusty flats in dense lodgepole pine forest.

Hiking distances and ascents are as follows:

• From the Lower Trailhead to Hell Roaring Lake: 4.9 miles, 634 feet.
• From the Upper Trailhead to Hell Roaring Lake: 2.7 miles, 259 feet.

Additional Adventures

From Hell Roaring Lake, the trail divides with one branch heading north toward Redfish Lake via the Alpine Way Trail. The other trail follows the south shore of the lake and climbs another several miles to Imogene Lake.

Mountain Biking

Bikes are allowed on the trail to the wilderness boundary. The out-and-back ride from the lower trailhead is a pleasant beginner ride.

Technical Climbing

Hell Roaring Lake is the jumping-off point climbers use to access the popular routes on the Finger of Fate and other features on the divide with Redfish Lake Creek (The Arrowhead, Coffin, Sentry, and Red Bluff).  It is also an easy hop over the saddle at Point 9,130 to access the north-facing Huckleberry Wall in the Decker Creek drainage.

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

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


Short, flat hike. Nice views at the lake. Great for kids. Accesses rock climbing.


Trail to the lake is dusty, flat, and boring. Four-wheel drive to the trailhead. Mosquitos.

Trailhead Elevation

6,710.00 ft (2,045.21 m)


Backcountry camping
Rock climbing

Suitable for




Backpacker beware. The map provided depicts trails that don't exist and distances that are inaccurate. The trail to Hell Roaring Lake is often used as an out and back course. We decided to spend a few more days there and wanted to explore a little more. The map listed a trail named Huckleberry Creek, it does not exist, DO NOT rely on this map for accuracy.
Why is it called Hell Roaring?
My husband and I backpacked into this lake last weekend. The trail was in great shape, a little bit muddy in a couple spots, but that was to be expected. The mosquitos were awful, but it was the first warm stretch of days in that area for the year. This is a great first time backpacking trip or first trip of the year.
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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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