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.

June light on the lowest Trail Creek Lake in the Sawtooth Wilderness.
June light on the lowest Trail Creek Lake in the Sawtooth Wilderness.
 

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.

Camping in the forest burned from the Grandjean Fire.
Camping in the forest burned from the Grandjean Fire.
 
New growth in an area scarred by the Granjean Fire.
New growth in an area scarred by the Granjean Fire.
 
Golden hour on the rocky cliffs at the far end of the lake.
Golden hour on the rocky cliffs at the far end of the lake.
 
Evening light on a young tree.
Evening light on a young tree.
 
A ladybug near the Trail Creek Lake outlet.
A ladybug near the Trail Creek Lake outlet.
 
Wildflowers were in full effect very early this season.
Wildflowers were in full effect very early this season.
 
Upper Trail Creek Lake, with Peak 9711 in the center.
Upper Trail Creek Lake, with Peak 9711 in the center.
 

Alpine Relaxation

Relaxing with my feet in the water after a steep hike.
Relaxing with my feet in the water after a steep hike.
 
Saša relaxing on a boulder on Trail Creek Lake.
Saša relaxing on a boulder on Trail Creek Lake.
 
Hiking to the Trail Creek Lakes in the Sawtooth Wilderness.
Hiking to the Trail Creek Lakes in the Sawtooth Wilderness.
 
Afternoon light on the lower lake.
Afternoon light on the lower lake.
 
Moonrise over one of the many sharp ridges in the Sawtooth Wilderness.
Moonrise over one of the many sharp ridges in the Sawtooth Wilderness.
 

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Wednesday, Sep 2, 2015 at 21:05

Great photos and a nice blog posting. I’m adding this hike to my list.

Monday, Jul 4, 2016 at 11:49
Dave

Great piece and photos. One question: were there many mosquitoes or black flies where you camped?

Monday, Jul 4, 2016 at 11:55
Robby Milo

I don’t think the bugs will be too bad this time of year, but there were some biting flies on the hike in.

Tuesday, Jul 5, 2016 at 22:27
Dave

Thanks! We’re headed to the trailhead Thursday afternoon.

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