Scouting for a new campsite in the Sawtooths is always fun – the excitement of exploring a new location often makes the upcoming trip highly attractive. I often try to choose a location that balances beauty and solitude – I attempt to pick the prettiest locations that will make a nice sunrise or sunset photo, yet I still seek the solitude of wilderness. For a weekend warrior there are a number of considerations to make when heading out for a one or two night adventure: proximity to the trailhead, the type of route, and of course length. Most trips end up being out and backs, or even simple day hiking as time allows.
The Trail Creek Lakes met most of my criteria: they’re fairly close to Grandjean at about five miles, and appeared to be a beautiful yet relatively overlooked area of the Sawtooths – at least compared to the Alice Lake and Sawtooth Lake areas. A shorter drive from Boise, starting a trip from the Grandjean Trailhead trims about 70 miles off of your total distance instead of driving all the way to Stanley. With a relatively short hike and little snowpack left at high elevation, we assumed the trek would be fairly effortless and a nice early season backpacking primer. However, choosing the hottest week of the year left us sweaty and fairly miserable during our uphill march, and crowds of fellow Boise hikers had the same idea to beat the the heat. We traversed through an area contrasted by a burned forest and sea of young plants and wildflowers. With a low snowpack this year, stream crossings were easy and made a great way to cool off.
This was a great spot to eat dinner. If you look closely, you can see a waterfall from the upper lake in the center of the photo.