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Sawtooth – Thompson Peak

Location Sawtooth National Forest, ID
Redfish trailhead
Distance 12 miles (round trip)
Total Elevation Gain 4400 ft
Topographic Map

Super fun hike to the highest point in the Sawtooth Mountains. There are several routes up to the peak, the easiest (and only one I’ve attempted) is a class 3 scramble with no exposure. Ideal!

The trail up can be slightly confusing, as there is no official route. From the Redfish trailhead parking lot, cross the road and follow the Fish Hook Creek trail. Then follow signs for Marshall Lake. About three miles up that trail, you’ll likely see a pretty obvious “anti-cairn” and use path right next to a large tree.

Ignore the anti-cairn! This is Idaho, goddamnit. This will take you up a steep, short trail and then around a narrow, rocky path. Eventually you’ll hit a small creek and alpine valley.

Continue up the snow (or rocky field in late summer) above the unnamed lake below Thompson (which I call Lake 9000) and take a right. Eventually you’ll get to a small tarn (or slightly above it). From here, I’ve always taken the snow wall on the north-east slope of Thompson to get to the pass above the tarn. One year though, I did see some weirdos side-hilling north of the tarn and they manged to get up. ¯\(°_o)/¯

Once over the small “pass”, loop around on the snow and rock to get to dip between Mickey’s Spire and Thompson. From there the chute to the summit should be pretty obvious.


  • In my opinion, this hike is best done earlier in the hiking season. Having the snow wall to cross makes life simpler. However, I wouldn’t recommend attempting without spikes or poles or some other aid.
  • There is also an “anti-cairn” which blocks a trail going down to that swampy pond below Lake 9000. Don’t follow that! Be civil!
  • If doing this as a day hike, start early. You’ll want crisp, hard snow to get over to the west slopes of Thompson.
  • If the summit ain’t your thing, the hike up to Lake 9000 is pretty nice too.

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