Edna Lake

Location: Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho
Distance: ~12 miles one way
Elevation gain: ~2,300 feet to Sand Mountain Pass
Date: August 6-10, 2008

Edna Lake. My campsite was next to the trees on the left on day 2.

Edna Lake sits at an elevation of 8,400 feet and is one of the approximately 1,000 lakes in Idaho's Sawtooth Wilderness. You can get to Edna Lake from a number of trailheads and via several routes, but the lake is in the heart of the wilderness, so the shortest hike is about 12 miles one way.

Parks Peak from below Farley Lake on day 1

I spent four nights camped on the north shore of the lake in August 2008 as we surveyed tributaries of the South Fork of the Payette River for bull trout. My hike to the lake began at the Yellow Belly Trailhead in Sawtooth Valley. This trailhead is accessible only by high clearance vehicles. The next closest trailhead for those without high clearance is at Pettit Lake. The trail begins by gently gaining elevation through the forested glacial valley. After a few miles the trail gains elevation a little faster before it arrives at Farley Lake.

The view from Sandy Mountain Pass day 1

Halfway between Farley and Toxaway lakes the trail reaches a fork. The route to Edna Lake turns up the side of the valley and more rapidly gains elevation through a few switchbacks. The trail passes Edith Lake at 8,650 ft and continues up a series of switchbacks to what is known as Sand Mountain Pass at 9,415 ft. The pass is the highest point on the hike, and you have views all the way back down to and across Sawtooth Valley to the White Cloud Mountains. You can also see down the South Fork Payette River Valley and several of the major peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains. Several trails intersect in the Edith Lake-Sand Mountain Pass area. From here you can go in different directions to Farley, Imogene, Toxaway, and Edna lakes.

View from Sandy Mountain Pass day 1. The hike began in the valley at the right next to Yellow Belly Lake in the distance and passed Farley Lake (barely visible at right).

From the pass the trail descends down switchbacks for a couple miles, passing Rendezvous Lake before reaching Edna Lake at 8,400 feet. Very close to Edna Lake are Virginia, Vernon, Ardeth, Hidden, and numerous unnamed lakes.

From Edna Lake I spent a day each on Tenlake, Benedict, and Fall creeks. Fall Creek was the furthest, being a 10.5-mile hike one way from Edna Lake. It was actually about 9 miles and 1,700 feet of elevation loss on the trail and another 1.5 miles and 650 feet of elevation gain off trail to a meadow that Fall Creek flows through. This trail along the Payette River is mostly forested and has only one decent view. The trail also passes Smith Falls and requires walking across the river at least once.

Snoyside Peak at right and Toxaway Lake from Sand Mountain Pass day 5.

The weather during this trip started off nice, but on the first day by the time I reached Sand Mountain Pass many clouds had moved in. It began raining with occasional thunder and lightning before sunset that night. The weather pattern was the same for the second day, starting off clear but then raining. But on day three it rained on and off all day, and by the time I returned to camp it appeared that it wouldn't rain that night. But soon enough the strongest storms of the trip with intense lightning moved in and lasted several hours. On day four there was some rain during the day, but in the evening there were storms again, and lightning had ignited a group of trees high up on a ridge above the lake. The fire burned for several hours before I went to bed, and by the next morning the fire was out and a few clouds remained. It was cold every morning, but the morning of the last day was the coldest, and a few snowflakes fell but did not stick.

View of the South Fork Payette River Valley from Sand Mountain Pass day 5. Rendezvous Lake is at right and Virginia Lake is barely visible left of Center.

As I hiked out on the last day the clouds cleared and the temperature had warmed up by the time I reached the pass. The hike out back to Yellow Belly Lake was the nicest of the trip, and it was such a relief for it not to be raining. My total hiking distance over the five days was about 65 miles.

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.


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