By Michael Lanza

Our group of three adults and six teenagers crossed the 9,200-foot pass on the Alice-Toxaway Divide, separating Alice and Twin lakes from Toxaway Lake, on our third straight bluebird August afternoon backpacking in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Before us, an arc of spires and jagged peaks wrapped around a pair of alpine lakes appropriately named Twin Lakes. And although I had hiked over this pass many times before, I stopped in my tracks and just stared at our vista. Perhaps most impressively, even the jaded teens with us found themselves awestruck, too.

Living in Idaho for over 20 years now, I’ve hiked most of the trails in the Sawtooths over the course of at least 20 trips there, and climbed a number of peaks. While there remain many climbs and off-trail areas I want to explore, I’ve gotten to know much of the range quite well. And having had the good fortune of dayhiking and backpacking in some of the prettiest mountain ranges in the country over the past three decades—including many years as the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and running this blog—I’ve become convinced that few rival the Sawtooths for their jagged granite peaks and skylines and abundance of lovely alpine lakes.

I never tire of exploring the Sawtooths.

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.

This article describes my favorite dayhikes and backpacking trips in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, and includes links to several stories about trips I have taken in the Sawtooths (some of which require a paid subscription to The Big Outside to read in full). See my expert e-guide “The Best Backpacking Trip in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains” and my Custom Trip Planning page to learn how I can help you plan your trip in the Sawtooths or any other trip to read about at The Big Outside.

Click any photo below to read about that trip.

Please tell me what you think of these hikes or share your own questions or suggested hikes in the comments section at the bottom of this story; I try to respond to all comments.


Much of the best scenery in the Sawtooths lies far enough from roads to be hard to reach in a day, but there are highlights you can knock off in several hours—or at least between sunrise and sunset.

Sawtooth Lake in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains.
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