The Baron Lakes – Backpacking the Redfish Valley

As usual, the last weekend of August signaled the end-of-summer alarm in our head, and we were off to the Sawtooths for another weekend of backpacking before fall. The region directly west of Redfish Lake was uncharted for us, so we decided on a lake (or several) to explore. We had plenty of choices for an overnight campsite – The Saddleback Lakes under Elephant’s Perch, The Cramer Lakes and The Arrowhead, or even Alpine Lake, but in the end we decided to make the 8.5 mile trek to the Middle Baron Lake. I had learned of the beautiful Monte Verita ridge and the famous Baron Spire for years, and now was a better time than ever to explore and photograph the area.

After scrambling to leave Boise completely packed at a decent hour, we arrived to Redfish Lake just in time to meet the 12:30 shuttle ride that would cut off around 4 miles of our trip each way. The boat ride back to the other side of Redfish is well worth the $16 per person after a weekend of hiking and sore feet.

We spent the Saturday hiking under a cloudy, overcast sky that I hoped would break for a nice sunset, but would eventually be skunked with dull light. We continued our death-march up towards the Baron Divide, opting to pass Alpine Lake and hit it on the way back. At the top, the views were stunning, and the downhill became a love-hate relationship. While the physical exertion of downhill hiking is less, it can be painful for the knees, especially after a long march.

Exhausted from the hike in, we retreated to our tent after a dinner of homemade chorizo-jambalaya we rehydrated in camp – better than any Mountain House or freeze dried meal I’ve had. That night a torrential thunderstorm rolled in, and any chance of sleep was ruined from cracking lightning and thunder echoing throughout the Baron valley. We ran into a man from Texas on the hike out the next day, and he described the storm as “the scariest thing he’d ever been through.”  I thought that was impressive, especially considering the massive storms Texas receives! I was glad Idaho could leave a solid impression on its visitors.

When I woke up for a sunrise shot I was slightly disappointed – the sky was clear. After a night of trying to sleep through thunderstorms, I was sure there would be some straggling clouds to make an interesting sunrise shot. This time I’d have to settle for crystal clear sky – and was happy to have winds for a reflection.

Baron Lakes, sunrise, Baron Spire, Monte Verita, Sawtooth Wilderness, backpacking
August sunrise reflected over the middle Baron Lake with Monte Verita on the left and the Baron Spire to the right.
August sunrise reflected over the middle Baron Lake.
August sunrise reflected over the middle Baron Lake.
Morning light poking through the forest illuminates Monte Verita.
Morning light poking through the forest illuminates Monte Verita.
backpacking, Baron Lakes, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho, wilderness, morning
Saša takes in the view as we leave the Baron Lakes.

I just couldn’t get enough of the morning light – Monte Verita and the Baron Spire really put on a show. Sunlight perfectly filtered through the trees as we hiked up the divide.

Upper Baron Lake, Sawtooth Wilderness, mountains, Idaho
Wispy clouds blanked the sky above the Upper Baron Lake.

The hike out was about as good as it gets in the Sawtooths, aka perfection. Mid 60s and puffy and wispy clouds lining the sky make for my favorite hiking conditions. The previous night’s storm had cleared the air, and when we arrived at the top of the Baron Pass we were treated to marvelous views of the Redfish Valley. The remaining hike out was a breeze, and we passed every hiker we saw – one of the benefits of packing light, even on an overnight trip.

Marching to the top of the Baron Divide enroute to the Redfish Valley.
Marching to the top of the Baron Divide enroute to the Redfish Valley.
Overlooking the Baron Divide.
Checking out the weekend’s accomplishment.
Beautiful light over the Baron Divide.
Beautiful light over the Baron Divide.
backpacking, Baron Lakes, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho, wilderness
Taking one last view of the Sawtooth Wilderness.
End of summer colors.
End of summer colors.
southern Alpine Lake, Sawtooth Wilderness, backpacking, Idaho
Lunch break at Alpine Lake.
Relaxing at Redfish
Relaxing the feet while waiting for the shuttle.

We got to Redfish Lake where a number of other hikers were already waiting for the shuttle.

This article has 4 comments:

  1. Great photos! Planning an off trail 14 day hike with my daughters and we are defiantly going to the Baron Lakes and Goat Lake. Thank you! :)

  2. Thanks so much for the great photos and itineraries. I’m headed out to Idaho and the Sawtooth Wilderness from Chicago with two of my best friends in July. We have a few overnight hikes planned, but I wanted to know if you have any experience with the mosquitoes in late July. I’ve heard they’re pretty horrid, and I wanted to know if you have any advice. Also, are there any MUST sees when we’re there? I don’t want to miss anything big. Thanks again!

    Tim Macasek
    Chicago, IL

    1. Thanks for the comment Tim. I don’t think the mosquitoes will be too bad come late July, but I’d pack a bottle of bug spray just in case. In terms of must-see overnighters, I’d recommend Alice Lake, Sawtooth Lake, and even taking the Redfish Shuttle and hitting either the Cramer or Baron Lakes. Enjoy your trip!

  3. Planning an out and back hike from Redfish to Baron Lakes. Just wanted to make sure that the shuttle comes back to the far side of the lake? Certain times of the day? Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *