Southern Idaho's Sawtooth National Recreation Area is a favorite place for locals and visitors alike to play outdoors and be amazed by the region's vast natural beauty.
The 770,000-acre area is one of the largest and most magnificent National Recreation Areas in the United States, located at the northernmost end of the Sawtooth National Forest and adjacent to the Sawtooth Wilderness Area, which was protected from development by Act of Congress in 1972.
In the summer and fall, favorite activities include fishing, hiking, mountain climbing, nature trails, wildlife viewing, mountain biking, birdwatching, canoeing, kayaking, and whitewater float boating. Other warm-weather activities include water-skiing, horseback riding, picnicking, hunting, airplane tours, llama trekking, and swimming.
During the winter and spring, popular activities are cross-country skiing, sledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, steelhead fishing, winter camping, and ice skating. The area includes about 150 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and more than 70 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails. Backcountry skiing is quite popular and helicopter skiing is available with a heli-ski outfitter.
Most trails within the Sawtooth NRA are open to mountain bike users, with the exclusion of wilderness trails. Other trails are open to motorized off-road vehicles.
There are more than 1,000 high mountain lakes here, as well as the headwaters of four of Idaho's major rivers: the Salmon, South Fork of the Payette, the Boise, and the Big Wood. Many of the lakes are open to motorized boating.
Family camping attracts more recreationists to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area than any other single activity.
There are 37 developed campgrounds with a total of 700 individual sites along the Salmon River in the Stanley, Redfish, and Alturas Lake areas and in the Wood River Valley.
Camping outside of developed campgrounds is allowed with some restrictions.
Evening campfire programs and interpretive activities are available at the Wood River Campground and Redfish Lake Amphitheaters Wednesday through Saturday during the summer season.
The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is heaven for those looking for scenic drives.
Four mountain ranges — the Sawtooth Mountains, Boulder Mountains, White Cloud Mountains, and a small portion of the Smoky Mountains — provide scenic landscapes in every direction, with more than 50 major peaks.
Three National Scenic Byways—the Sawtooth, Salmon River and Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byways—converge in Stanley, Idaho, the largest settlement in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.
Tape tours describing the Forest Service management of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, geology, history, and natural history are available from the area headquarters, the Stanley Ranger Station, and the Ketchum Ranger Station. The tape tour and cassette players are available on loan free of charge for area visitors.
Read about more great nature sites in Twin Falls, ID.