Sawtooths Petit Lake Backpacking Trip

I have been failing miserably to update this lately due to an overabundance of adventurizing and funtivities, so I’m playing catch up. I (Tyler) went on a backpacking trip up in the Sawtooth’s in Idaho Sept 5th through Sept 7th with the old gang of High School buddies. Being spread out all over the West Coast, we don’t get to see each other much any more, so it was great to see everyone and a fantastic backpacking trip.

We planned to do an out and back trip in the Sawtooth National Forest, just North of Sun Valley, Idaho because we only had limited time and a few new backpackers. Tom, Shane, Austin, and I hiked to McDonald Lake the first night so that Jack and Alan could find us late that night after they got off work (in the dark, which didn’t go well – more on that later). The second day we all continued up to Farley Lake which was massive and quite the stellar camp spot. Then on the third day we headed back to the car early, the way we came, so that Shane could catch his flight out. It was a 2 mile hike to McDonald Lake, and another 2.5 miles to Farley Lake, so overall, it was a 9 mile out and back with about 1,500 ft of elevation climbing, which made it quite steep at times (as Austin found out).

Toxaway-Pettit Loop Trailmap

Toxaway-Pettit Loop Trailmap

Can't bring Tom anywhere

Can’t bring Tom anywhere

To start our trip, Shane flew into Boise and Tom, Austin, and Shane all met up to drive to the trailhead (marked with the P and circle just North of Pettit Lake) and I drove up from Salt Lake City. We met up around 1PM and started off on the hike. We made it to McDonald Lake in under and hour, which was planned since Alan and Jack would be starting the hike around 9PM after they got off work and drove up. The hike was very steep as we ascended a ridge then descended back to about the elevation we started at. Austin found out why you want your backpacking setup to be as lightweight as possible as he didn’t feel too hot climbing the ridge. We set up camp, ate some lunch (Tom ate at least 3 backpacking meals for lunch), and set off to check out Farley Lake.

The Camp spot for the 1st night.

Setting up the camp spot for the 1st night.

Shane and I dick around at the river on the way to Farley Lake

Shane and I dicking around at the river on the way to Farley Lake

Tom and Shane at the river

Tom and Shane at the river

Austin at the River

Austin at the River

After hiking to the lake, we trekked back to camp and made dinner and started in on the abundance of whiskey, which we had Tom to thank for. Now my memory of the night gets very hazy at this point, so I’ll do my best to recount the adventure (as I remember it – anyone correct me if I’m wrong). We decided that Jack and Alan would start hiking around 9PM and get to camp around 10PM since they were leaving after work at around 5PM. 10 rolled around and we were still waiting and just having a great time in the mountains, and were not yet worried as they’re both a little slow, both mentally and physically. 11 rolled around and we were starting to get very worried, we did put arrows down for them to follow and I told Jack to follow the neon green bag we set up. By 11:30, we decided it was time to go looking for them, which was a bold endeavor, as walking was a bit beyond my capabilities at that point. We set off down the trail and found that our neon bag marker was gone, which we presumed to be stolen by other hikers, it never occurred to us Jack and Alan had passed it since it was so close to camp. We made it maybe 500 feet and Austin and I decided hiking to find them was a bad idea since there was no one at camp and hiking was hard. Austin and I turned back and Shane and Tom continued on (their plan was to go all the way back to the car). Minutes after arriving back at camp, Jack and Alan found us, after taking a wrong turn at the bag, not seeing the arrows on the ground clearly pointing in our direction. Tom and Shane made it back shortly after having given up on hiking all the way back to camp. SUCCESS!!! We were all together and it was only midnight or so. We all had a drink together and headed to bed.

Hiking through the Sawtooths to Farley Lake

Hiking through the Sawtooths to Farley Lake

We woke up early the next morning with only half of the group freezing to death, as it did drop below freezing, and some of us (I won’t name name’s) were ill prepared. We decided we would spend the 2nd night at Farley lake that we had hiked to the previous day, so we ate breakfast, packed up, put on our packs, and headed out. The hike was pretty short and again steep, and we got to our camp spot with plenty of time left in the day. Shane, Jack, and I went down to the far the side of the lake and went for a little (EXTREMELY cold) swim as the others relaxed and napped. Back at camp we did camping things, had dinner, and Tom ate another 4 backpacking meals. The SteriPen battery died on us (downside of the SteriPen), which was totally my fault because I hadn’t charged it since the previous trip, but luckily we had a filter too. Everyone got really worried about not having enough water, even though we were camping 50 feet from a lake and hiking along a river the whole day, which perplexed me. But alas, we survived and had a great time that night hanging out and going to bed a fair bit earlier than the night before. I also realized I drank all the whiskey after it was in my belly, to which I give me dearest condolences to everyone else, I truly feel pretty bad about that.

Filtering water at Farley Lake below the jagged peaks of the Sawtooths

Filtering water at Farley Lake below the jagged peaks of the Sawtooths

Camp at Farley Lake

Camp at Farley Lake

The next morning we woke up early and headed to the car so that Shane could catch his flight that afternoon. We made it out with plenty of time (I think – Shane did you make your flight?), and everyone parted ways to cruise back home. We had a great trip and the trail is definitely one I will be going back to next year and doing the whole loop with Katie and company.

Good trail, good drinks, and even better company.

The Crew

The Crew

  • Distance: 9 miles (out and back)
    • 2 miles to McDonald Lake
    • 2.5 miles to Farley Lake
    • 4.5 miles back to the car
  • Elevation Gain: ~1500 ft
  • Trail-head Elevation: 7,000 ft
  • Farley Lake Elevation: 7,800 ft
  • Our time: 3 days, 2 nights
  • My rating: Moderate – Difficult
  • Their rating: Moderate – Difficult (for the whole loop)
  • Link to Gaia Cloud with GPX Coordinates: https://www.gaiagps.com/public/1FdWFFPcSGQZNTPV6utEasOs/
GPS Track of our route (battery died midway through so it isn't complete)

GPS Track of our route (battery died midway through so it isn’t complete)

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