Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
2,640.00 ft (804.67 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
9.60 mi (15.45 km)
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Although many of the trails around Redfish Lake are very popular and often crowded, there are still some routes that are off the beaten path and offer phenomenal views with minimal crowds. The hike to Profile Lake is one such hike.

Mt. Thompson is the highest peak in the Sawtooths, at 10,751 feet. Below the summit, at just under 9,000 feet, sits a beautiful alpine lake that is unnamed on many maps and most commonly referred to as Profile Lake. The trail to reach Profile Lake is not maintained, steep, narrow in spots, and not marked, approximately class 2 scrambling in a few locations. However, the more remote feel of this hike means far fewer crowds than the nearby hikes from Redfish Lake, and the views are amazing.

The route begins at the Redfish Lake trailhead, where there is space for several dozen cars, though it can fill on summer weekends. The route begins on the Alpine Way trail, which first switchbacks up through a beautiful, sunny aspen forest for about 1.3 miles before reaching the ridge. This area offers amazing views towards Mount Heyburn, Mount Braxon, Mount Horstmann, and others. The trail then follows the ridge gently uphill for several miles, reaching an unsigned fork at 3.8 miles. The Alpine Way trail curves right, but the route to Profile Lake follows the less-traveled path to the left through sparse forest before opening up to the views of Thompson Peak. There is a narrow section here that may require you to use your hands. Although the drop-off to the valley is steep, the footing is generally secure albeit technical, at least in good weather.

The trail continues sidehilling, trending uphill, towards Profile Lake for roughly another mile, gaining around 1000 feet between the trail fork and the lake itself. The footing here is rocky and the trail is vague at times. If the trail is difficult to follow, head towards the first rocky crest visible below Thompson Peak, gaining elevation, and it will become clear where the lake sits below Thompson Peak.

The lake itself is breathtaking. Mickey’s Spire and Thompson Peak tower nearly 2,000 feet above it, and rocks tumble down their cliffs into the lake occasionally. Profile Lake holds snow and ice until midsummer, making it especially aesthetic. From Profile Lake, adventurous hikers/scramblers can also continue up to Thompson Peak, which requires class III/IV scrambling and more advanced routefinding, and is not described here.

The hike returns via the same route for a total distance of 9.6 miles and around 2,600 feet of elevation gain. Overall, this is a challenging hike that requires a bit of hiking and routefinding experience, but the effort is well worth it for the phenomenal views and scenic terrain.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall
Spring

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Beautiful lake. Fewer crowds than nearby hikes. Dramatic landscape.

Cons

Technical trail in some spots. Unmarked trail. Requires basic routefinding skills.

Trailhead Elevation

6,590.00 ft (2,008.63 m)

Highest point

8,990.00 ft (2,740.15 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Waterfalls
Big vistas
Geologically significant
Wildflowers
Old-growth forest

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Nearby Adventures

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