Sawtooth Scenic Byway

Sawtooth Mountains from Redfish Lake
Sawtooth Wilderness from Redfish Lake
Hiking in Sawtooth National Forest

At the southern end of the Sawtooth Scenic Byway is the town of Shoshone. The northern end of the byway is at Stanley, 116 miles away. This route starts on the deck of the Snake River Plain and slowly rises to the majesty of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area with the Sawtooth Mountains (and Sawtooth Wilderness) to the west and the White Cloud Peaks to the east. The route follows Idaho Highway 75 all the way, through Bellevue, Hailey, Ketchum and past Sun Valley (and the Sun Valley Ski Area), over Galena Pass and then down into the headwaters area of the Salmon River before dropping into Stanley and ending at the intersection with the Salmon River Scenic Byway and the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway.

About 20 miles north of Shoshone is the turnoff to the Shoshone Ice Caves. The caves were created by the dual action of glacial ice and volcanic heat. As most lava tubes are natural refrigerators, the caves are about 3 city blocks long and are full of some unique formations. The underground glacier beneath your feet averages 16' thick. When you get back on the road, it isn't another 10 miles to the edge of Sawtooth National Forest. Then you'll pass through the towns of Bellevue, Hailey and Ketchum. Just northeast of Ketchum is Sun Valley, home to the famous Sun Valley Ski Area. Sun Valley Ski Area was built by Averill Harriman (former chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad) and opened for business in 1936. It was America's first destination ski resort and was an instant success. We're 70 years down the road now and Sun Valley is still one of America's premier destinations.

Redfish Lake

From Ketchum it might be another 20 miles to Galena Pass, high point on the journey. If you are up to it, get out and follow the hiking trail to the top of Galena Summit (8,701') for some incredible views over the Salmon River Valley. For maybe 60 miles west, north and east, the skyline is populated with the peaks of the Sawtooth, White Cloud and Boulder Mountains. Then when you're ready, head back to the car and start the drive down the hill into that beautiful valley you were just looking at. Make a stop at the Redfish Lake Visitor Center and learn a thing or two about what you see all around, then head on into Stanley.

All the "official" data says you can drive this route in about 3 hours... but what's the hurry? This is an area where you'll want to stop and get out often and enjoy the sights (and what is probably the freshest air in North America).

Snake River Valley from Galena Overlook
The Snake River Valley from the Galena Overlook
Wood River Valley near Hailey
Wood River Valley near Hailey, on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway
Castle Peak in the Boulder Mountains, Sawtooth National Recreation Area
Castle Peak in the Boulder Mountains, from the Sawtooth Scenic Byway
Sawtooth Scenic Byway area mapPeaks to Craters Scenic BywaySoldier Mountain Ski AreaCraters of the Moon National Monument and PreserveSalmon River Scenic BywayPonderosa Pine Scenic BywaySun Valley Ski AreaSawtooth Wilderness
Sawtooth Scenic Byway area map
Photo of the Sawtooth Wilderness from Redfish Lake courtesy of J. Crane,
Photo taken from the Galena Overlook courtesy of AE Crane,
Photo of Wood River Valley near Hailey courtesy of
Small photos and photo of Castle Peak courtesy of the Idaho Department of Tourism.
Area map courtesy of National Geographic Topo!
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