Backpack to Alice Lake

Idaho Tin Cup Traihead

Added by Dusty Klein

Alice Lake is the top destination in the Sawtooth Wilderness. Take this scenic route with creeks and waterfalls, jagged mountain peaks that tower over the lake, wildlife sightings galore, and crystal clear water and clean mountain air.

Alice Lake is a must-see, jaw-dropping alpine lake in the Sawtooth Wilderness. Whether it's a day hike or a multiple night backpacking trip, it surely won't disappoint. Put on the Idaho playlist, we're headed to Stanley!

In Stanley, hang right at the T in the road and continue 17 miles south along Highway 75. Turn right at the sign for Pettit Lake and follow a gravel road for 2 more miles, this time obeying signs to Tin Cup Trailhead. If you're getting a late start on the hike, there's a campground at Pettit Lake as well as cool camping spots along Highway 75 on the Salmon River.

The hike will begin along Pettit Lake and run you by the wilderness boundary line at 1.2 miles. Be sure to fill out the free permit at this time. There are 4 creek crossings along the way, so keep your sandals in the top of your bag. The meaty part of the 1,600 ft climb is on the latter half of the hike. The steep climb combined with creek crossings, rocky terrain and high elevation makes for slow going, so be sure to take stops as necessary and pack enough water to get you up there.

The first thing you'll notice upon arriving at Alice is the towering mountain peak opposite the lake. This is Idaho's "El Capitan" that stands guard over the lake. Insider tip: on a calm day the reflection of El Capitan on the water makes for sweet pictures.

Continue down the trail to find close-to-perfect camp spots along the water. Alice Lake can be a destination or a stop on a 2-3 day backpacking trip. The trail continues up to Twin Lakes and around to Toxaway Lake before returning to Pettit Lake. The loop, known as the Alice Toxaway Loop, is an 18 mile trek.

Deer are very popular in the area so don't be surprised if one walks right through your camp. Although rare, black bears have also been spotted at the lake, so be sure to take the necessary precautions and come prepared for anything. For anglers, brook trout are the predominant fish in the lake. Throw some lines in the mornings or evenings for best luck.

Back in Stanley, stop at Papa Brunees for tasty pizza and cold beers. Definitely spend some time in the beautiful, historic town and check out some of the local hot springs. If you've ever been to Stanley, you know why it's so special.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Light, comfortable backpack
  • Warm clothes and extra pair of socks
  • Hiking shoes and a pair of sandals
  • Water and filtration method(s)
  • Food (love me some Mountain Houses)
  • Whiskey
  • Headlamp
  • Bug spray (3-4 cans, seriously)
  • Sunscreen
  • Poopin' paper
  • Camera
  • Deck of cards
  • Playlist of Idaho country tunes (see: Muzzie Braun)
  • Your best friends
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Backpacking, Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



11.2 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1600 Feet




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How to Get There

3 months ago

Exquisite Alice Lake

Alice Lake is one of the crown jewels of Sawtooth day hikes. If your legs (and lungs!) allow, circumnavigate the lake for unique views.

3 months ago

4 months ago

Peaceful and Beautiful

An uncrowded alpine lake with a really fun hike. It can also be a day hike if you want something shorter.

4 months ago

Added by Dusty Klein

Boise is home base. @dustykleiner

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