The Sawtooth Range runs its jagged course across Central Idaho, beginning in a canyon not far from Boise and slicing across the middle of the state with many peaks over 10,000 feet. And yet, many people have never heard of this range or visited it. I was about to find out that the Sawtooths contained so much rich nature, wild backcountry, and chances for adventure that one visit simply isn’t enough — I am already heading back this summer. These epic photos of the Sawtooths are just a few reasons why.

1

Razorback mountains

The Sawtooths have that particular look like they are sharp enough to cut the sky open. The range has 57 peaks - the highest being Mount Thompson - that are over 10,000 feet high, and more that are over 9,000 feet high.

2

Brilliant sunsets

This is the view from the top of a waterfall connecting Upper and Middle Cramer lakes - and just a thirty second walk from several established backcountry campsites in the area. Not only is it a great spot to refill your water supply, but why not plunk down on a rock, dangle your feet in the stream, and watch the sun set?

3

Hammock-worthy views

The Sawtooth National Forest offers hundreds of backcountry campsites, complete with perfect views. Taking a full day off from hiking to relax by any number of the alpine lakes in the area is something you should allot time for. You didn’t come this far to not soak it all in.

4

Peaks for days

If craggy mountains are your jam, the trails in the Sawtooth National Forest is for you. As you make your way in, you’ll be stopping every ten minutes to snap a photo of the ever-changing scenery, with some peaks bending in ways that feel like another planet.

5

Adventure in every direction

Whatever you are into, there are options for you in this range. Swim the lakes, hike up to peaks or through old forests, fish the rivers and streams, sway in a hammock, climb the sheer cliff faces. You name it, you can probably do it here.

6

Wake up, for real

Fall asleep and wake up to the sound of crashing waterfalls or running rivers. The mountains cut the morning light into a haze, so you get to wake up with dew and golden light, like some kind of hiking fairy tale. Just remember to obtain a permit, stick to LNT principles (always pack our your trash!), and be aware of fire regulations and potential burn bans in this area as well. In this particular part of the national forest, fires are only permitted if you have a metal container or a fire blanket, and it’s always best to check with rangers if you’re in doubt. Fires can get out of control fast here in the summer, so don’t be a jerk about it.

7

Find your heart

The Sawtooths were carved out in part by long-gone glaciers, but the swaths of ice left behind many lakes - more than 400 lakes are found in the range. This heart-shaped lake was one of the coolest spots I stumbled across during my four days in the Sawtooths, and I still don’t know the name of it. We stumbled upon it while hiking to Upper Cramer.

8

Soak your weary bones

One of my favorite things about Idaho is the abundance of hot springs, and this is an especially awesome way to soothe your aching muscles after a backpacking trip. Many of the hot springs have had some help from humans over the years to help regulate their temperature, but when they come with a view like this, I’m the last person to complain about it.

9

Watch the mountains wake up

If you are badass, you’ll get up at dawn to watch the first light come in on the peaks. And you’ll probably be completely alone as well. Bring a blanket, there are often mosquitos.

10

And watch them go back to sleep

Depending on how far you hiked, you might be alone for sunset too. Watching it dip down and turn the hills all different shades of orange, then blue, is worth the wait.

11

Car camping is legit, too

When I’m done with a multi-day backpacking trip, I’m usually on the hunt for the closest motel so I can shower and rest my bones on a real bed, and there are quite a few rustic lodging options in the charming town of Stanley. However, if you’re interested in sticking around for a bit and want an epic place to car camp, look no further than the Redfish Lake area, which has numerous campgrounds with flush toilets, picnic tables, and this view, among other perks. However you go and see these mountains, just go.

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