It’s safe to say there’s no place in Idaho like Elephant’s Perch. You could climb every mountain, hike every trail, and bike every path and still never find a spot quite as unique. The Perch has become famous across the nation, and tales of the rugged Sawtooth Mountains and whispers of the untamed wild have inspired all sorts of travelers to make a visit.
Finding The Perch
At nearly 10,000 feet high, Elephant’s Perch (formally called Saddleback Peak) towers above the trees in the Sawtooth Wilderness. Many folks who venture to this area choose to lodge in nearby Stanley, Idaho. From there, the common jumping off point for this journey is Redfish Lake.
From Stanley, take HWY 75 south for roughly 5.5 miles to the Redfish Lake exit. From there, continue on for four more miles to reach Redfish Lake Lodge.
Just about every traveler agrees the easiest route to Elephant’s Perch is via the boat shuttle offered by Redfish Lake Lodge for $16 round trip – you can even bring your dog!
Once you make it across the lake, hike along the main drainage for roughly two miles until you come upon a smaller trail, which can be difficult to spot. Follow it to the base of the Perch. Cross over three footbridges in close proximity to one another. Once you cross the third and final footbridge, look for the creek to your left. Leave the trail where it comes closest to the creek in order to cross over on a few logs (it’s much easier than it sounds and it will be fairly obvious). The rest of the trail is a pretty straight shot.
Once you complete the climb, you’ll find yourself between the edge of the valley and the first of the Saddleback Lakes. The beauty of camping in this picturesque spot is difficult to communicate. It is nearly impossible to overstate the perfection and solitude of this area.
The hike to Elephant’s Perch takes about three hours if you take the shuttle to shave off a few miles. If you leave early in the morning, you can set up camp around lunchtime.
Be sure to bring your Idaho fishing license and a fishing rod to capitalize on the trout that live in the Saddleback Lakes as well. If you are making your visit a day trip, make sure you leave with enough time to make the shuttle back across the lake.
Camping is allowed in the Sawtooth Wilderness, and if you want to stay overnight don’t forget to check the backcountry regulations.
When You Should Go
Most visitors make the trip to Elephant’s Perch between July and September. These months are often the most predictable for weather. Thunderstorms may be a concern in June and July so keep an eye out for changing conditions or check in with the rangers. For more information, the Sawtooth National Recreational Area office is located in Stanley, Idaho and can be reached at (208) 727-5000.
- Protect your feet during your hike. Wear properly fitting shoes or hiking boots to avoid blisters and other foot woes.
- Apply sunscreen generously and bring more for later. Don’t let the cooler temperatures fool you.
- Bring snacks and more food than you think you will need. The hike and the scenic views may make you extra hungry
Feature Image Credited to Idaho Tourism.