Sawtooth National Recreation Area

#2 in Best Things To Do in Sun Valley
Sawtooth National Recreation Area
Sawtooth National Recreation Area
1 of 2
Ron Thomas/Getty Images

Key Info

Details

Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation Type
More than Full Day Time to Spend
4.3scorecard
  • 4.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

Comprising 756,000 acres and 40 peaks rising more than 10,000 feet, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is as breathtaking as it gets when it comes to nature in the Northwest. More than 700 miles of trails snake through this massive wilderness in central Idaho, which provides ample viewpoints and campgrounds. Outdoor enthusiasts can do it all here, including hiking, backpacking, fishing, boating, biking and rafting.

If you're visiting Sawtooth for the first time, try the 11.4-mile Redfish Lake to Alpine Lake trail. This journey is unique because it starts with a short boat ride across Redfish Lake (with the help of guides and for a small fee). From there, you'll pass through colorful meadows and impressive rock fields while hopefully catching a glimpse of some local wildlife. Though this is an intermediate hike, there are some steep switchbacks before you make it to Alpine Lake, which sits at more than 8,000 feet and is a nice place to cool off in the summer.

If you're looking for something that is a bit easier, consider the Fishhook Creek Trail. Though this trailhead is a bit far from Ketchum (it's a 60-mile drive from downtown), it offers panoramic views of the Sawtooth Mountains and ample photo and picnic opportunities. The trail comprises 4 miles of forested and open-air paths that wind next to meadows, a creek and a lake. Plus, there is very little elevation gain, so the whole family can join in.

Recent travelers said the jagged peaks and thick forests felt unspoiled by tourism. Because this area is so remote, it enjoys thinner crowds all year round, but it's best to visit in the summer when wildflowers bloom and the trails are in peak condition.

If you want to go to Sawtooth, you'll likely need a car, as most of the main trailheads are about an hour from downtown Ketchum by car. However, a trip here is worth it for the sparse crowds and stunning views. Plus, there is a ranger station in downtown Ketchum, called the Ketchum Ranger District, which can provide visitors with information regarding trails, safety and campsites. The station is open year-round from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. There are fees charged for some activities in the recreation area.

See all Hotels in Sun Valley »

More Best Things To Do in Sun Valley

Sun Valley Ski Resort
Hiking and Mountain Biking
Type
Time to Spend
1 of 6
#1 Sun Valley Ski Resort

If you're visiting Ketchum in the winter, it's hard to resist the powder and astounding vistas offered by Sun Valley ski resort, where about 220 inches of snowfall accumulate every year. Experienced skiers and snowboarders will love the nearly 100 trails at Bald Mountain. From groomed runs to glades to bowls to terrain parks, this massive winter wonderland will keep you entertained for days. And if you're just starting out, you'll find easy trails and group lessons at nearby Dollar Mountain.

Read more
Karl Weatherly/Getty Images
See full list of Best Things To Do in Sun Valley »

Explore More of Sun Valley

Recommended

10 Excellent Educational Vacations for Families

Make sure your next getaway is both enjoyable and informative.

Holly JohnsonMarch 14, 2019

15 Epic Outdoor Adventures to Enjoy Across America

Plan an unforgettable trip in your own backyard or on the opposite coast.

Will WalkeyMarch 12, 2019

The 30 Most Famous Landmarks in the World

Explore the globe in search of these intriguing historic sights.

Gwen PratesiMarch 11, 2019

The 50 Best Hotels in the USA 2019

U.S. News ranked 3,877 top properties for 2019. Check out the 50 best.

Zach WatsonFebruary 5, 2019

30 Hot New Hotels to Check Out in 2019

See which new properties offer surprising and fun features.

Lyn MettlerFebruary 5, 2019

10 Top All-Inclusive Resorts in the USA

Go all-in for these luxe resorts flush with amenities.

Will WalkeyFebruary 5, 2019

The Caribbean Comeback: 12 New and Renovated Caribbean Hotels to Visit

These island properties are sure to impress travelers.

Erin ShieldsFebruary 5, 2019

17 Amazing Kid-Friendly Hotels

Discover which properties offer ample amenities for children.

Christine SmithFebruary 5, 2019

AAA Announces 2019 Diamond Award Winners

Of the more than 27,000 properties evaluated, 1,843 hotels earned Four and Five Diamond awards.

Zach WatsonJanuary 31, 2019

30 Cheap Beach Vacations for Travelers on a Budget

See which waterfront escapes won't burn a hole in your wallet.

Kyle McCarthyJanuary 24, 2019