Frog Lake

Location: Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho
Distance: 11.5 miles one way
Elevation gain: ~2700 feet
Date: July 2, 2008

The East Fork valley at the beginning of the hike

Frog Lake is on the eastern side of the White Cloud Mountains, but can also be accessed from the Fourth of July trailhead on the western side. Since I was at Jimmy Smith Lake the previous day doing amphibian surveys, I hiked to Frog Lake from the trailhead along the East Fork of the Salmon River. From this trailhead it is 11.5 miles to Frog Lake with moderate (for that distance) elevation gain of 2,700 feet. I did this 23 mile round trip hike as a day hike before making the 1.5 drive back to Stanley.

A bullsnake on the trail

The beginning of the trail is the worst part. It begins by rapidly gaining 500 feet in elevation through the high desert on BLM land. There are no trees here, and even in the morning the sun was very hot. But soon after this climb trees appear in the valley and the elevation gain is more moderate. The majority of the trail follows Little Boulder Creek, and there were really only two good views along this section. The first was at the end of the initial climb overlooking the East Fork valley, while the second was about 3/4 of the way up the valley where there was a great view of Castle and Merriam peaks (below).

Castle Peak (left) and Merriam Peak (right)

After crossing a meadow and reaching the intersection with another trail, the route to Frog Lake begins to gain elevation a little more quickly. The trail soon reaches Willow Lake, which is the lowest of the 13 Boulder Chain Lakes. Willow Lake is at about 8,700 feet, and another trail follows the valley along the other lakes. The Boulder Chain Lakes are much more scenic in my opinion than Frog Lake, and the highest of the lakes is Lonesome Lake, which is at over 10,400 feet.

Frog Lake

The trail to Frog Lake passes the lower end of Willow Lake before turning up the side of the Little Boulder Creek Valley. From here it is less than a mile and 200 feet of elevation gain to Frog Lake. At Frog Lake in early July it was clear how the lake got its name: there were thousands of juvenile western toads and Columbia spotted frogs around the lake. From the lake you can see several of the nearby peaks, including Castle Peak. The trail continues past the lake, over Red Ridge, and down to Big Boulder Creek.

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