Elmore County High Point Trip Report

Snowyside Peak

Date: August 9, 2002
Author: Edward Earl

This one is a beautiful alpine hike in the heart of the Sawtooth Wilderness.

On ID-75 about 15 or 20 miles south of Stanley, take the FS-signed good dirt road to Pettit Lake. Follow signs to the Tin Cup Hiker Trailhead, for which parking requires a $5 permit, which is available at the ranger station a couple of miles south of Stanley and at some retail stores nearby. The area hums and throbs with many kinds of recreation, and there are some cabins along the shore of the mile-long lake. A self-issue permit, available at the trailhead, is required.

The trail heads along the north shore of Pettit Lake before climbing gradually, with a few steep interludes, to Alice Lake. Before reaching Twin Lakes, I encountered a trail junction not shown on the map. The collapsed sign there said the left branch went to Twin Lakes and the right branch went to Toxaway Lake. Knowing that my route climbed through the pass between Twin Lakes and Toxaway Lake and that Twin Lakes was in the same basin where I was now and that Toxaway Lake was in another basin, I took the right branch. After about 10 minutes, however, the trail veered considerably east, definitely not matching the trail shown on the topo map. Also, the trail appeared relatively new and I think it has been relocated. I became fearful that the trail would go to Toxaway via some other pass, so I returned to the junction and took the trail to Twin Lakes, which did match the trail shown on the topo. The trail has apparently been abandoned by the Forest Service and is faint and overgrown in places, but I stuck with it because it showed every sign that it would top out at the pass 1/2 mile northeast of Snowyside Peak, which it did.

The final 1,300-foot push to the summit is a rock scramble up the left side of the peak, gradually veering around to the right before surmounting the summit ridge. About 1,000 feet of elevation is gained with a choice of easy class 3 or lots of loose crud; I usually chose the former. I negotiated two or three false summits with prominence ranging from 15 to 40 feet before finally gaining the true summit.

While on the summit, I noticed that the right-hand trail below (the one I bailed on because I thought it wouldn't go where I wanted) did, in fact, go through the correct pass. I used it on the return, and found it to be better than the old trail by Twin Lakes. I recommend that future HPers use this trail, which is the Lake Toxaway-signed right branch at the junction after Alice Lake.