Expect and Prepare
Plan out your re-supplies. The Smoky Mountains to the South of the Sawtooth Wilderness is also a roadless area.
Be prepared for mosquitos and bugs.
Temperatures can drop below freezing every night, come prepared.
The Sawtooth Mountains
As the trail climbs out of the flat, dry landscape of the Owyhee Desert, the Sawtooth Mountains take over the horizon. With altitudes over 10,000 feet, these craggy mountain peaks offer stunning visuals.
Before entering the Sawtooth Wilderness, the trail traverses through the Smoky Mountain roadless area. Just south of the official wilderness, this stretch of roadless mountains increases the wilderness feel of the hike.
The Wild West Trail follows the ICT as it weaves into the Sawtooth Wilderness. The many glacial lakes are remnants of the last ice age. Perennial snow still sticks to the mountains and the cold air can be felt year round. The waters are crisp and clear, providing excellent trout fishing.
While beautiful, this section of Idaho is famous for mosquitos, extreme weather, and even snow. Even with the hardships, the trails are fairly popular and well maintained in this section. Open fires are banned in certain high-use campsites and it is recommended to bring a stove.
Enjoy the beautiful lake views and some of the cleanest air in the country.
Sawtooth Mountain History
Sawtooth National Forest was set aside by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905. The ruggedness of the landscape kept it free of roads until the late 1960’s. The forest service designated the landscape as a primitive area and kept cars and logging away.
In 1960, Frank Church, Idaho’s Senator at the time, originally suggested making the area a national park. Eventually, support across the state grew and it became a federally designated wilderness area.
While large in size, this is only the precursor for the Frank Church River of No-Return Wilderness and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.