Hiking to Alice Lake from the Tin Cup Hiker Trailhead at Pettit Lake is a must do adventure in Idaho’s Sawtooth Wilderness.
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Length: 11 Miles Round Trip (Approx. – Depends on Wandering by the Lakes)
Trailhead(s): Pettit Lake – Tin Cup Hiker Trailhead
Elevation Gain: 1,600’
Trail Type: Out and Back
Dogs: Allowed on Leash
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Permit Required? Yes – Self Register on Trail at Wilderness Boundary
Considerations: Summer Mosquitoes; Elevation
Season: Best Summer to Early Fall
Hiking to Alice Lake is simply a must do adventure in the Sawtooth Wilderness. Why? Because it is that good. This hike showcases stunning scenery both along the trail and at the lake. Further, if time allows, an additional mile and another 400 feet of elevation gain is all that is needed to add Twin Lakes to the adventure.
TIN CUP HIKER TRAILHEAD & PETTIT LAKE CAMPGROUND
Tin Cup Hiker Trailhead
The Tin Cup Hiker Trailhead at Pettit Lake has a great deal of parking. However, during summer peak backpacking season the lot remains partially full around the clock. As such, get an early start for the best chance at snagging a spot. The main lot has direct access to The Pettit Creek Trail which is the trail to Alice Lake. It starts at the Tin Cup Hiker Trailhead signage near the pit toilets. If the trailhead lot is full, an overflow parking lot is only 1/4 mile back along the road.
Pettit Lake Campground
For those who may be interested, there is a small campground at Pettit Lake which has 12 tent sites. There are pit toilets and a shared potable water source in the campground. It is open all year, however services are only provided from May 25 through September 15. Because this campground is near the trailhead, hikers and backpackers often stay here either before or after their adventures in the Sawtooth Wilderness.
HIKING TO ALICE LAKE
The round trip hike to Alice Lake is long. Because of this, an early start allows for a more leisurely day. Plan accordingly to get the most out of the day in this special place.
Pettit Creek Trail 7095 to the Sawtooth Wilderness Boundary
The initial portion of the trail through the grassy tree covered hills above Pettit Lake is a lovely stroll with little elevation change. Hikers are afforded numerous peeks at the pretty lake as well as a great view of McDonald Peak. On a calm day it’s mirror reflection in the lake is gorgeous. Just under a mile and a quarter the trail enters the Sawtooth Wilderness. At this boundary hikers and backpackers are required to self register for permits before continuing on. The permits are free. Don’t forget to take your copy of the permit with you!
Pettit Creek Trail 7095 – Sawtooth Wilderness Boundary to Alice Lake
The trail remains mostly flat as it passes through beautiful forest. After the first couple of miles it begins a gradual climb beneath stunning views of white rock walls. Consider this a warm up for the more serious climb through the rocky cut below Parks Peak. This rocky climb begins about half way to the lake. Even though long switchbacks help, the climb may feel more strenuous due to the high elevation of the trail. As the elevation increases, enjoy the views. Turn around for excellent views of the distant White Cloud Mountains. Once up, the trail flattens out once again.
Six creek crossings will be encountered on the way to Alice Lake. Some have bridges, and one of them is a large flattened out log. The remainder are rock hops. Hiking poles are definitely helpful on the rock hops. Early season adventurers should expect higher water levels when snow melt runoff is greatest. As such, some wading may be necessary.
The first body of water encountered when the trail emerges at its edge is NOT Alice Lake, but the views of El Capitan from the shore are exceptional. Stunning, in fact! Take some time to linger here to admire this impressive rock before moving on. The rocky trail continues along the shoreline, leading hikers to the edge of Alice Lake. Ringed by numerous peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains, affectionately termed the Dragons Back, Alice Lake is jaw droppingly picturesque. Grab a rock and sit awhile to soak it in. Reluctant to leave this incredible scene, we lingered here for a long time before heading back to the trailhead.
Scroll down to learn about the GEAR WE USE and OTHER OUTVENTURES in this area.
Additional Information (Click below to follow links.)
Hiking to Alice Lake Slideshow
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Gear We Use for Day Hiking
To see descriptions of the gear Chris & Mac use for day hiking, as well as links to manufacturers and retailers offering the gear for sale, please CLICK HERE.
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