Is the Sawtooth National Recreation Area the most spectacular in Idaho?

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Sawtooth NRA is one of the most amazing places in the country and one of the least visited. Here one can enjoy the solitude and serenity of nature.

Idaho is arguably a vastly underrated state in the United States when it comes to outdoor natural beauty. It is home to parts of the Rockies and has untouched wilderness areas that are the domain of gray wolves. One of its beautiful areas is the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA).

Idaho is an adventurer’s paradise and it’s more than potatoes and has some of the most serene and stunning scenery in the United States. It includes everything from the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in the south, to the high desert, to the stunning Rockies that adjoin Montana’s famous jagged peaks.


What to know about Sawtooth National Recreation Area

Sawtooth National Recreation Area is a breathtaking region of 756,000 acres of endless scenic beauty.

“The NARS has over 700 miles of trails, 40 peaks rising over 10,000 feet and over 300 high mountain lakes which add to the spectacular scenery and views. Recreational activities include camping, hiking, hiking, hiking, fishing, boating and canoeing, rafting, nature observation, photography and biking.”

Visit Idaho

Unfortunately, large parts of the lodgepole pines across the Sawtooth Valley were decimated by a mountain pine beetle epidemic between 1998 and 2010. Since then, forest management has increased the use of prescribed burning as well as commercial logging and thinning of dead trees. and diseased trees throughout the NARS.

  • Established: August 22, 1972
  • Trails: Over 700 miles of trails
  • Some lakes: 300-400 mountain lakes
  • Cut: 730,864 acres (2,957.70 km2)

The mountains themselves are an amazing work of nature – having been heavily glaciated in the past. Remnants of these Ice Age glaciers can be seen as glacial lakes, moraines, hanging valleys, cirques and ridges throughout the region.

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area includes the Sawtooth Desert.

  • Peak of the castle: NARS highest point at 11,815 feet (3,601 meters)

Related: It’s One of Mexico’s Most Spectacular Parks, and Features Stunning Volcanoes and Crater Lakes

Sawtooth National Wildlife Recreation Area

Unfortunately, the grizzlies have disappeared, and calls and attempts to reintroduce them have been abandoned. Yet, there are many other animals that inhabit the Sawtooth Mountains. A successful reintroduction to these mountains includes the gray wolf – which was also reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and is about to be reintroduced to Colorado. Mammals that can be found here include:

  • bighorn sheep
  • black bears
  • Bobcats
  • Canada lynx
  • Cougars/Mountain Lions
  • Elk
  • gray wolves
  • momentum
  • Pronghorn

Other animals include beavers, badgers, coyotes, mountain goats, gophers, porcupines, foxes, wolverines, skunks, hares, and a number of other smaller animals.

Managed by the US Forest Service

Unlike most nationally protected areas, it is not managed by the National Park Service but by the US Forest Service and is managed as part of the Sawtooth National Forest.

If one wishes to contact the U.S. Forestry Service, one can contact the Sawtooth NRA Headquarters, open Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at (208) 727-5000 – or the Ketchum Ranger Station (208) 622-0090, or Stanley Ranger Station (208)774-3000. Currently (March 2022), the Forest Service here does not receive any visitors to its offices or information centers – so it is recommended that you call them.

Related: You Won’t Need a Spaceship to Visit Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

The jagged desert

The Sawtooth Wilderness spans 217,000 acres and offers a journey of spectacular beauty and solitude. It is considered by many to be the “Crown Jewel” of the Gemstone State and was first protected in 1937 as a “Primeval Area”.

In the Sawtooth Wilderness one will find outstanding scenic beauty with high granite peaks and narrow glacial valleys. Visitors are mesmerized by the hundreds of jagged peaks of the wilderness, 50 over 10,000 feet high, lifting hundreds of alpine lakes above the land around them.

Exploring deep into the region, one will find secluded valleys covered in huge stands of trees.

  • Trails: Nearly 350 miles of trails

If you want to come here and explore the beautiful wilderness by hiking, plan for the seasons. The hiking season is short while alpine wildflowers bring the high meadows to life with color during the months of July and August.

  • Wild flowers : Bloom on the high meadows in July and August

Although there is probably no place in the United States as rich in wildlife as Yellowstone National Park, Sawtooth is abundant in wildlife. Here, one will see wildlife thriving in the lush, grassy meadows as well as many species of fish that live in the thousands of streams.

  • Permit: All wilderness users require a wilderness permit (can be completed at the trailhead)
  • Cost: Permits are free
  • Pets: Must be kept on a leash
  • Campfire : All campfires must be on a fire stove or fire blanket
  • Nearest towns: Stanley and Grandjean, Idaho

If you want to escape the crowds while experiencing the best of America’s wilderness, consider visiting Idaho!

Next: Want to make the most of your time in Yellowstone National Park? Consider a wildlife tour

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