Central Idaho is a nature lover’s dream. Clear alpine lakes reflect blue skies, trees reach up to touch the clouds, and the air is always fresh and crisp. Explore the area when you embark on some of the best hikes in Idaho. Lace up your hiking boots, pack your bag, and go on an adventure! Make sure you access our complimentary Vacation Guide for the inside scoop on other things to do and see in the area.
Before You Start Hiking in Stanley, Idaho
There are a few things you should keep in mind before you start on your Sawtooth National Forest hiking. Before you embark, make sure you consult a map and travel prepared. Do not underestimate the mountain environment! Daytime temperatures can be warm, but they often dip below freezing at night. At the very least, always carry a map and layers for rapidly changing weather and a knife, flashlight, fire source, and food/water supply for emergencies. You can find maps, snacks, and many other supplies in the Redfish Lake Lodge General Store!
12 of the Best Hikes in Idaho
Fishhook Creek Trail | Redfish Lake Trailhead | Easy
The Fishhook Creek Trail is a favorite in our area because of the easy terrain and stunning views. Enjoy this hike for wildflowers, animal sightings, views of Horstmann Peak, and more. Because you only gain an elevation of 200 feet during your journey, this is one of the easiest trails in the area.
Redfish Lake Inlet Trail | Redfish Inlet Trailhead | Moderate
Climb along Redfish Lake Creek on the Redfish Lake Inlet Trail as it carves a path for you between jagged Sawtooth Peaks. Get up close and personal with the foot of Mount Heyburn on your right and Grand Mogul on your left as you wander further into the wilderness. Eventually, you’ll catch sight of the Idaho’s famous Elephant’s Perch where climbers ascend more than 1000 feet across their choice of 30 different climbing routes. Watch the mountains unfold before you as you keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats and climbers on the high rock walls above!
Bench Lakes Trail | Redfish Inlet or Redfish Lake Trailhead | Moderate
As you climb the Bench Lakes Trail all the way to the Bench Lakes, you are treated to amazing views from the ridges high above Redfish Lake. This set of five lakes is beautifully situated at the base of Mount Heyburn and other Sawtooth peaks. The basin provides breathtaking views; make sure you bring your camera so you can capture the reflective views of mountain summits across glassy, calm waters. You’ll probably even see deer, elk, and other wildlife!
Hell Roaring Lake is a calm and magnificent example of Sawtooth National Forest hiking. The iconic Finger of Fate dominates the mountain faces above the lake as a distant waterfall rushes in the background. It’s lower elevation tends to make it more accessible earlier in the season, so be sure to check this spot out. Local tip: The portion of the trail that crosses a log bridge at the mouth of the lake makes for excellent photos against the famous Sawtooth backdrop. Bring your camera to document some of the best hikes in Idaho!
Goat Falls Trail | Iron Creek Trailhead | Moderate/Strenuous
Goat Falls is the largest waterfall in the Sawtooths! The falls spill from Goat Lake, a rocky bowl that sits northwest of the Williams and Thompson Peaks. Hikers can find access to the base of the falls via a moderate to strenuous, but beautiful, trail that hugs the mountainside. This will definitely make your list of best hikes in Idaho after you have experienced it. Local tip: Be sure to take a map and be careful; some parts of this well-worn trail are not officially marked and maintained.
Lady Face & Bridal Veil Falls | Stanley Lake Trailhead | Moderate
From Stanley Lake and its picture-perfect views of McGowan Peak, hikers can hop on the trail and gradually ascend to a set of waterfalls. The first along the trail, Lady Face Falls, offers close-up views of churning water as it flows through the small creek canyon. Climbing the trail further provides stunning sights of the more distant and dramatic Bridal Veil Falls. Adventurers can climb even closer to this waterfall. However, this can often be more treacherous early in the season, so beware and always carry a map.
The Marshall Lake Trail hike begins by following the easy Fishhook Creek Trail but begins to rapidly climb when you turn right to Marshall Lake. The effort is rewarded atop the Marshall Ridgeline; locals know it as one of the most picturesque places in all of the Sawtooths. Follow this ridge for over a mile with Fishhook Creek below and wide-open mountain scenery ahead and behind. The trail follows the top of Marshall Ridgeline for a distance. If you’d like to take a break or turn around, this is the perfect spot. Then, the trail dives back into the forest and descends further to Marshall Lake. In early season, a small, peaceful waterfall can be seen cascading from the peaks above into the small body of water below. This hike offers great views of Thompson and Williams Peaks.
Lily Pond and Waterfall Trail | Redfish Inlet Trailhead | Moderate & Short
This short but occasionally steep trail climbs quickly to a small lake that fills beautifully with lovely lily pads each summer. This is one of the best hikes in Idaho because Mount Heyburn reflects over the blooming water to create a stunning scene. Continue along the trail around the left side of the lake to take another short climb. You’ll begin to hear the roar of Redfish Lake Creek falling through the canyon nearby. Follow the path to great viewpoints and a rushing waterfall that plunges from the top of the canyon!
Lake Trails and Early-Season Snow
Snowy peaks and frozen lakes are stunning sights you can see on the best hikes in Idaho if you go early enough! The trails marked are some of the most accessible and beautiful hikes you can enjoy during the late spring and early summer. If you decide to hike them in the summer, you’ll still get great views; there just won’t be any snow and ice.
Please be very careful to analyze your knowledge and experience when evaluating decisions to travel in more risky and dangerous terrain. Always hike with a friend and let someone know where you’re going and when to expect you back. Prior to embarking on any of the hikes listed below in early season, make sure to check the trail conditions.
All lake trails are absolutely breathtaking in the summer. The greenery has come out, and many are so untouched that you are sure to see wildlife. Pack a picnic and spend some time relaxing at the stunning lakes. You have never seen anything more peaceful and serene before in your life.
Sawtooth Lake, with Mount Regan towering over its southern half, is one of the most photographed spots in our area. You can find it on dozens of book covers and postcards, or you could go see it for yourself! If you’d like to see the lake rippled with ice and aquamarine icebergs, head on this trail in the early season before it melts.
Alice Lake Trail | Petit Lake/Tin Cup Trailhead | Moderate & Long | Early-Season Snow
Alice Lake is one of the many stops along the famous Tin Cup Hiker’s Loop that connects Alice and Toxaway Lakes with several others by crossing over the Snowyside Pass. When you get to the lake, take a moment to see the extraordinary set of peaks it is surrounded by. If you go early in the season, it will most likely be too early to climb over the pass, but you can still see gorgeous views of El Capitan across the blue and slushy lake. If you come to this lake during the early season, be extra careful. There are many creek crossings, and the water will be high due to melting snow.
Alpine Lake Trail | Redfish Inlet Trailhead | Moderate/Strenuous | Early-Season Snow
Start by following the Redfish Lake Inlet Trail to a fork called Flat Rock Junction. Begin your ascent to Alpine Lake by following the sign pointing you to the right. This trail climbs rather dramatically, but does so over the course of a dizzying number of switchbacks. Along the trail, you’ll soak in amazing views of the surrounding territory before climbing over the hump into the Alpine Lake basin. Early in the season, you’ll find yourself hopping over and between small drainage creeks as they find their way down from above. This is one of the hardest Redfish Lake hiking trails you can embark on, but the stunning views of the lake seated at the base of Packrat Peak are worth it.
Cramer Lakes Trail | Redfish Inlet Trailhead | Moderate
There are three Cramer Lakes: Lower, Upper, and Middle. This family combines for one of the most beautiful locations in the Sawtooth Mountains. A moderate but long hike goes up Redfish Lake Inlet Trail and across Redfish Lake Creek to begin climbing to the Cramer Lake Basin. The small, marshy Lower Lake may be overblown with flooding depending on snow pack, so areas of the trail may be submerged, snowy, or even icy in the early season. There is a phenomenal waterfall located between the Upper and Middle Lakes that flows as the snow melts!
Book Your Adventure Today
Experience some of the best hikes in Idaho for yourself! We have multiple lodging options in the heart of Central Idaho. Browse our accommodations at Redfish Lake Lodge. On our property, you can enjoy time on Redfish Lake, eat at our restaurants, and more. If you can’t find your desired dates to stay, we invite you to browse our other properties. Each has access to everything we offer at Redfish Lake Lodge! Try Triangle C Cabins, Redfish Riverside Inn, and Stanley High Country Inn for other incredible options. We look forward to seeing you and giving you recommendations on the best hiking in Stanley, Idaho!