By Michael Lanza

Picture a chain of peaks rising to over 11,000 feet, some composed of chalk-like rock that looks, from a distance, like snow. Scores of crystal-clear lakes above 9,000 feet ripple in the breeze and creeks run with trout and salmon. Mountain goats, elk, bighorn sheep, black bears, even gray wolves roam this wilderness. And backpackers find the kind of solitude you can’t find in many wild lands.

That’s the White Cloud Mountains of central Idaho. Put this relatively new American wilderness on your radar—and get there before every other backpacker discovers how gorgeous and quiet it still is, as you’ll see in the photos below from the backpacking trips and one long dayhike I’ve taken in the White Clouds, including to Quiet Lake, below the range’s highest peak, 11,815-foot Castle Peak (lead photo, above).


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

After countless backpacking and hiking trips across the country over the past four decades, including the 10 years I spent as the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog. I find myself drawn more and more to those places off the beaten paths followed by others.

The White Clouds are that kind of place, less well-known but similar to the neighboring Sawtooth Mountains, which I rank among “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips.”

A hiker above Scoop Lake in the Boulder Chain Lakes, White Cloud Mountains, Idaho.
” data-image-caption=”Scott White hiking above Scoop Lake in the Boulder Chain Lakes, White Cloud Mountains, Idaho.
” data-medium-file=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Cloud1-023-Above-Scoop-and-Hummock-Lakes-White-Cloud-Mountains-ID-2.jpg?fit=300%2C199&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Cloud1-023-Above-Scoop-and-Hummock-Lakes-White-Cloud-Mountains-ID-2.jpg?fit=900%2C598&ssl=1″ data-attachment-id=”44774″ data-permalink=”https://thebigoutside.com/photo-gallery-12-nicest-backcountry-campsites-ive-hiked-past/cloud1-023-above-scoop-and-hummock-lakes-white-cloud-mountains-id-2/#main” data-orig-file=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Cloud1-023-Above-Scoop-and-Hummock-Lakes-White-Cloud-Mountains-ID-2.jpg?fit=1200%2C797&ssl=1″ data-orig-size=”1200,797″ data-comments-opened=”1″ data-image-meta=”{“aperture”:”8″,”credit”:”Michael Lanza”,”camera”:”NIKON D90″,”caption”:””,”created_timestamp”:”1373622255″,”copyright”:”\u00a9 Michael Lanza\/The Big Outside”,”focal_length”:”18″,”iso”:”200″,”shutter_speed”:”0.004″,”title”:””,”orientation”:”0″}” data-image-title=”” data-image-description=”A hiker above Scoop Lake in the Boulder Chain Lakes, White Cloud Mountains, Idaho.
” data-image-caption=”Scott White hiking above Scoop Lake in the Boulder Chain Lakes, White Cloud Mountains, Idaho.
” data-medium-file=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Cloud1-023-Above-Scoop-and-Hummock-Lakes-White-Cloud-Mountains-ID-2.jpg?fit=300%2C199&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Cloud1-023-Above-Scoop-and-Hummock-Lakes-White-Cloud-Mountains-ID-2.jpg?fit=900%2C598&ssl=1″ srcset=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside
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