Backpack to Trail Creek Lakes

Grandjean Trailhead

Enjoy a steep hike up a cascading mountain stream to a series of secluded mountain lakes.

Based in Grandjean, one of the lesser utilized access points to the Sawtooth mountains, this trailhead is one of the most accessible in the range. A short trek on a dirt road, smooth for even Prius standards, off the highway is the gateway to mountainous adventure.

The hike starts at 5200' above sea level at the Grandjean campground, where there is befittingly "backpacker parking" so you don't have to pay camping fees. The unmistakable trailhead starts at the campground itself, but don't forget to sign the (free) permit.

Over the course of 5.5 miles ascends to 8100' along Trail Creek eventually to Trail Creek Lakes. There are three or four instances where you'll have to cross the Trail Creek - a creek that can roar down the side of the mountain the right conditions. I would recommend an extra pair of socks and Chacos for the camp site as your feet are likely, but not guaranteed, to get wet. The trail is generally marked clear, but we did have an issue where the map (recently purchased in Stanley) indicated the trail to go in a different direction. Trust the trail, as it is well trodden, to take you in the right direction.

Once arriving to the first lake, you'll hear a waterfall on the far side. The best spot for making camp is on the north/northeast side of the lake.

The area along the trail experienced a fire a few years ago, so there are spotty areas where pine trees would normally flourish. However, the undergrowth has come back strong and has provided some of the best wildflowers that I've hiked through in the Sawtooths. This is a good reminder to use a fire pan, or better...don't light a campfire at all.

Pack List

  • Tent 
  • Sleeping Bag 
  • Sleeping Pad  
  • Fishing Pole 
  • Water filtration system (UV stick recommended since this water is SO GOOD) 
  • Gore-tex hiking shoes/boots 
  • Extra pair of socks/shoes for the unlucky creek crossers 
  • Trekking Poles 
  • Fleece and other layers for the chilly nights 
  • Dog (on leash July 1 - Labor Day) 
  • Bear spray 
  • Friends 
  • Wilderness permit (free)
Show More
RT Distance 11 Miles
Elevation Gain 2900 Feet
Activities Camping, Fishing, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Summer
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Beautiful chain of lakes

Pretty hard hike, but worth the effort. Upper part of the trail is hard to follow and covered with fallen trees.

Beautiful Area

The Trail Creek Lakes are stunningly beautiful! We camped 1 night at the lowest lake. Be sure you are ready to take on this hike as the elevation gain is very significant and had us exhausted. The last couple miles of the hike have a lot of downed trees and made the path a little difficult to follow, but we were still able to stay easily on the trail. There are a few creek crossings but are easy to rock hop across in the mid summer when the water is fairly low. There is a great patch of huckleberries at the beginning of the hike which are usually ripe around late July. After we arrived at our camp we hiked up to the other lakes which were also gorgeous! It is a steep hike to get up to the lakes but provides a great view of the Sawtooth range at the top. Be sure to pack bug spray because there are a lot of mosquitos in the summer! The lakes had a lot of fish but didn't want to seem to bite. Still pack your fishing pole though because the creek has a lot of nice cutthroat and rainbow trout. Overall a gorgeous area and a highly recommended hike!

Hiked in late summer 2013

Great hike, but elevation gain had us wheezing a little at the lakes. Camped 1 night at Grandjean, then 2 nights at Lower Trail Creek Lake. Plenty of fish in the lake at that time and it was almost boiling with fish during the hatch the first night. Very beautiful.

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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