I've never managed to get the Instagram camping shot. That perfectly framed alpine lake, the subtle drape of the tent opening... unfortunately, Mat always makes us pick campsites based on the site (flat, not too rocky, well positioned) rather than the view. Luckily for me, Sawtooth Lake in Idaho doesn't seem to come with imperfect sites or less than stellar views.
Near Boise, Sawtooth Lake is one of the must-visit spots in the Sawtooth National Forest. Because it's so popular, I was worried we wouldn't get a campsite at all.
From the Iron Creek trailhead, it's a pretty flat hike alongside a creek (a creek that came in handy when we desperately needed an impromptu shower the next day) before starting the dreaded switchbacks up the mountains. Switchbacks are a part of any good hike that gets good elevation, and these ones were made tolerable by beautiful mountain views.
After 6 km, you'll hit Alpine Lake to the left, but while this is a decent snack spot the prize is just a little further (up more switchbacks).
Eventually you'll hit the end of the uphill as the trail flattens out alongside a river, some small lakes and log-jams as you approach Sawtooth Lake. There are places to camp along the way, but we kept going until we hit our destination. Several high campsites overlooking the water dotted the promontory, and - despite all my concerns - we were the only ones there.
After setting up camp, we explored the paths and cliffs, discovered a rock shelf that made the perfect lawn chair, used our inflatable mattresses as floaties in the (freezing) lake and watched the sunset calm the lake and turn it into glass.
The next morning was even better, the quietness you only get in the mountains coupled with a spectacular lake ringed by mountains. We made our oatmeal and coffees and headed off into the day. No idea why we were the only ones up there that day, as Sawtooth Lake's reputation as a must-visit is totally deserved.