Hike to Sheep Lake

Rate this Adventure Idaho Seven Devils Campground

Added by Benjamin Gaunt

This is a great day hike (2.5 miles out and back) if you don't have the time to backpack all 27 miles of the more popular Seven Devils Loop trail. It's a long road into the trailhead/campground, so car camping is recommended to get an early start and be able to enjoy a full day among the peaks.

DIRECTIONS TO THE TRAILHEAD:

From US 95 just south of Riggins, turn west (left if northbound from Boise/McCall, right if southbound from Grangeville) onto the signed Seven Devils Road (FR 517). The road (17 miles/45 min total) is paved for the first 5 miles and then turns to well-maintained graded gravel, twisting up in elevation; low-clearance vehicles and RVs/trailers aren't recommended, but it can be driven without 4wd/high-clearance in good weather. A fork about 9 miles in isn't signed, but you'll want to keep to the right (uphill) and continue ascending up the mountain to Seven Devils Campground, just past Windy Saddle Campground. 

There is ample parking for backpackers and day hiking, but since this hike may take all day, camping is best. I recommend setting up camp at Seven Devils over Windy Saddle since the former's campsites are much more private and wooded than the exposed sites at Windy Saddle; also, the trailhead for this particular hike is located behind the campsite next to Seven Devils Lake. Both campgrounds are no-pay, first-come-first-serve! Also, neither campground has running water, so you'll need to pack in enough water for hiking and/or camping -- if you have a filtration system though, you can use the lake behind Seven Devils campground.

THE TRAIL:

This trail isn't signed and doesn't show up in the guidebooks, but is moderately used and pretty well-defined. Most trail guides start you from the Windy Saddle trailhead and send you around the loop trail to Dry Diggins (north/counterclockwise) or Cannon Lakes (south/clockwise) and then tell you there's a spur trail down to Sheep Lake -- this one will shortcut you over a steep pass to go straight from the campground to Mirror and Sheep Lakes. Two to three miles of relatively strenuous hiking will get you to alpine ridges and lakes that otherwise require a much longer investment on the loop.

Starting behind the furthest campsite around the loop at Seven Devils Campground (just before the trail to Seven Devils Lake if you're traveling the loop counterclockwise like you're supposed to), a well-defined but unmarked trail leads uphill into the forest. After about half a mile, this trail will leave the trees and get into scree country, switchbacking steeply up to a ridge overlooking Mirror Lake. A high meadow here is a great spot for lunch or a snack and improvised fire rings indicate that backpackers have stayed overnight, but it is pretty exposed (wind/lightning) in bad weather. Keep an eye out for mountain goats!

The trail continues to the right of the meadow, high above the lake, to a saddle with a view of the valley below, featuring a pair of prominent rock fins and Devil's Tooth. The trail leads over this saddle to the left and descends for about a mile, along cliffsides and scree fields, to Sheep Lake -- it's about 2 miles total from the campground to this lake, plus another .5 mile or more depending upon how far around the lake you care to go. 

A shallow pond and marshy meadow precede the lake from this direction, with trails forking off right and left as you approach the lake itself. To the right, a rope swing (as of summer 2016) gets you off a rock shelf and into the bright blue alpine water. Trails with camping sites circumnavigate the lake, and a trail up the far end of the lake connects to the Seven Devils Loop trail -- you can follow it to Dry Diggins Lookout and back to the campgrounds the long way (or to Horse Heaven to the south to loop around the very long way). Otherwise, simply retrace your steps back up to Mirror Lake and down to Seven Devils Campground to return.

The total distance is about 5 miles, but the elevation and scree will take you a while to navigate -- plan on at least 6 hours to enjoy all the amenities and get home before dark.

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Day pack
  • Water (no running water at campgrounds)
  • Water filtration (there's a lake at Seven Devils CG)
  • Bathing suit
  • Insect repellant
  • Sun screen
  • Warm layers (storms easily at high elevation)


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Activities:

Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Swimming

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

5 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1000 Feet

Features:

Lake
Wildlife

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