On your way through the Sawtooth Valley, there are several small lakes just a few miles off the main road, Idaho Rte. 75 — Alturas Lake, Pettit Lake, and Yellow Belly Lake — all of which lie at the foot of the Sawtooth Mountain Range. (There’s also Redfish Lake, a much larger body of water, a few miles down the road. We’ll visit that one on the next page.) Each of these lakes is peaceful and beautiful, and you should take a few minutes to detour over to at least one of them.
[tmt_info =””]Pettit Lake (as well as Arturas and Yellow Belly) are located just a few miles west of Idaho Rte. 75. The road to Pettit Lake was well-maintained dirt, and I expect the others are the same.[/tmt_info]
I chose Pettit Lake, the middle of the three lakes I listed above. Once you emerge from the trees, there’s a serene, clear lake waiting for you, surrounded by mountain peaks.
Unfortunately, given the cloudy skies and choppy waters, everything looks a bit more grey than it should. I’d love to return here on a sunny, blue-sky day, when the water is perfectly still, and reflecting the nearby mountains.
This is the view from the boat-ramp area, which opens onto a small inlet on the lake’s eastern side.
[tmt_info =””]I’ve read that there is an 18 mile trail that encircles Pettit Lake, although I can’t imagine the views get any better than those on the lake’s eastern edge.[/tmt_info]
I stopped for this picture along the road to Pettit Lake. This is the area where the foothills meet the valley floor.
Redfish Lake, Idaho
I mentioned that Redfish Lake is larger than many of the neighboring lakes, along the foothills of the Sawtooth Mountains. It’s also the easiest to access, with a paved road, campsites, a lodge, and even a visitor’s center.
[tmt_info =””]Redfish Lake is just south of Stanley, off of Idaho Rte. 75. Look for Redfish Lake Road — it’s well marked.[/tmt_info]
As you arrive at the lake, you’ll enjoy this view of 10,299 foot Mt. Heyburn, directly in front of you.
By the time of my visit, most of the activity at Redfish Lake had ended for the season. I found one solitary sailboat on the choppy water, and almost no people on the shores.
Since the weather was lousy, and everything nearby had closed for the season, I didn’t spend much time here. Since I can’t offer you much in the way of personal experience, I’ll tell you what I’ve read elsewhere. Redfish Lake is great for scuba diving, because its water is amazingly clear — you can reportedly see the bottom of the lake, even at points 20 feet deep. It’s also great for boating, wakeboarding, and water skiing — boats are available for rent. The lodge receives rave reviews from most visitors, and the campgrounds fill up quickly with city-folk.
[tmt_info =””]Redfish Lake derived its name from the sockeye salmon that returned here every year to spawn. So many would gather here, according to one account, the water appeared red. In recent decades, their numbers dwindled. Efforts are underway to restore the population, and you’ll probably see some salmon-management facilities during your visit.[/tmt_info]
Note: This trip was first published in 2006. Much of the same area was covered in the Big Sky trip in 2014.