Idaho is arguably a greatly underrated state in the USA when it comes to outdoor's natural beauty. It is home to parts of the Rockies and has untouched wilds that are the domain of gray wolves. One of its stunning regions is the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA).
Idaho is an adventurer's paradise and is much more than potatoes and has some of the United States' quietest and most stunning landscapes. It includes everything from the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in the south, with the high desert, with the stunning Rockies that abut Montana's famously stunning jagged peaks.
What To Know About the Sawtooth National Recreation Area
Sawtooth National Recreation Area is a breath-taking region of 756,000 acres of endless scenic mountain country beauty.
"The SNRA has over 700 miles of trails, 40 peaks rising over 10,000 feet and more than 300 high mountain lakes that add to the spectacular scenery and vistas. Recreational pursuits include camping, hiking, backpacking, fishing, boating and canoeing, rafting, observing nature, photographing and bicycling."
Unfortunately, large parts of the Lodgepole Pines across Sawtooth Valley have been decimated by an outbreak of the Mountain pine beetle between 1998 and 2010. Since then forest management has increased the use of Prescribed Fire as well as commercial logging, and thinning out of the dead and diseased trees throughout the SNRA.
- Established: August 22, 1972
- Trails: Over 700 Miles of Trails
- Lakes: 300-400 Mountain Lakes
- Size: 730,864-acres (2,957.70 km2)
The mountains themselves are a stunning work of nature - having been heavily glaciated in the past. The remnants of these ice age glaciers can be seen as glacial lakes, moraines, hanging valleys, cirques, and arêtes throughout the area.
The Sawtooth National Recreation Area includes the Sawtooth Wilderness.
- Castle Peak: Highest Point In The SNRA At 11,815 ft (3,601 meters)
Wildlife of Sawtooth National Recreation Area
Unfortunately, grizzly bears have been extirpated, and calls and attempts to reintroduce them have been abandoned. Still, there are plenty of other animals that call the Sawtooth mountains home. One successful reintroduction to these mountains includes the gray wolf - which was also reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and is about to be reintroduced to Colorado. Mammals that one can find here include:
- Bighorn Sheep
- Black Bears
- Canadian Lynx
- Cougars/Mountain Lions
- Gray Wolves
Other animals include beavers, badgers, coyotes, mountain goats, gophers, porcupines, foxes, wolverines, skunks, jackrabbits, and a number of other smaller animals.
Managed By The U.S. Forest Service
Unlike most nationally protected areas, it is not managed by the National Park Service but by the U.S. Forest Service and is managed as part of the Sawtooth National Forest.
If one would like to contact the U.S. Forestry Service, one can contact the Sawtooth NRA Headquarters, open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am-5 pm at (208)727-5000 - or the Ketchum Ranger Station (208)622-0090, or the Stanley Ranger Station (208)774-3000. Currently, (March 2022) the Forestry Service here is not receiving any visitors into their offices or information centers - so it is recommended to call them.
The Sawtooth Wilderness
The Sawtooth Wilderness spans 217,000 acres and offers a trip into spectacular beauty and solitude. It is considered by many as the "crown jewel" of the Gem State and was first protected in 1937 as a "Primitive Area."
In the Sawtooth Wilderness, one will find exceptional scenic beauty with high granite peaks and narrow glacial valleys. Visitors are left spell-bound by the wilderness' hundreds of jagged peaks, 50 over 10,000 feet in height lifting hundreds of alpine lakes high above the land around them.
As one explores deep into the region, one will find secluded valleys covered with enormous stands of trees.
- Trails: Nearly 350 Miles of Trails
If one would like to come here and explore the stunning wilderness by hiking, then plan around the seasons. The hiking season is short while alpine wildflowers bring the high meadows alive with color in the months of July and August.
- Wildflowers: Blossom On The High Meadows In July and August
While there is possibly no place in the United States as rich in wildlife as Yellowstone National Park, Sawtooth is abundant in wildlife. Here one will see wildlife thriving on the lush, grassy meadows as well as many species of fish that make their home in the thousands of streams.
- Permit: All Wilderness Users need A Permit For The Wilderness (Can Be Filled Out At The Trailhead)
- Cost: The Permits Are Free
- Pets: Must Be Kept On A Leash
- Campfires: All Campfires Must Be On A Fire Pan or Fire Blanket
- Closest Towns: Stanley and Grandjean, Idaho
If one would like to escape the crowds and still see some of the best of the US's wilderness, then consider visiting Idaho!