Michael DeYoung Photography

Mother Nature created a mountain masterpiece in the Sawtooth Valley.

Flora is in every speck of this wilderness. Dirt roads from the Sawtooth Scenic Byway lead off the beaten path into areas that will ‘WOW’ you.  Drive the 4th of July Road to see the dramatic contrast between burned forest and new growth.  Discover the wondrous plants that thrive on the banks of the creek and the wildflowers that bloom along the two mile hike to the 4th of July Lake in the White Clouds.

Wildflowers at 4th of July Lake

Wildflowers have adapted to the harsh environment of the Sawtooth Valley.  With only 30 frost-free nights a year, Stanley is considered one of the coldest places in the lower 48.  (I’ll let you decide if this is a bragging right.)  They have proven to be resilient through low temperatures, high winds and a short growing season.  Wildflowers are abundant in late spring as the ground warms while some species bloom later in the summer.  Buy a guidebook to identify wildflowers in their brilliant colors on any trail in the valley.

Lodgepole pine trees are the predominate tree in the valley.  Pure stands of aspen trees mainly on south-facing slopes enhance the landscape.

Sandhill Crane – photo courtesy of Max Beckwith

Keep your eyes on the skies, birding enthusiasts.  You don’t want to miss a chance to add to your life list.  Observe a day in the life of a bird as it moves, mates, feeds and nests.  Hunker down for the day and watch birds (as they watch you) in their natural setting.  Birds in the area include mountain bluebirds, bald eagles, osprey, Sandhill cranes, Wilson’s warblers, three-toed woodpeckers, Swainson’s hawks, western tanagers, willow flycatchers and many more.

Moose in the meadows

Wildlife roams free throughout the entire valley.  You’ll be amazed at the faunas you will see through your windshield.  Pronghorns, not to be confused with antelope, are the fastest mammal in the Western Hemisphere with speeds up to 60 mph and are fixtures in the landscape mainly between Alturas and Pettit Lakes. Elk and mule deer wander from one side of the highway to the other (drivers beware!).  Beavers, river otters and badgers can be found near water.  If you’re really lucky, a moose (or two!) will bless you with their presence in a meadow.

The snow-clad mountains provide shelter and diverse habitats for wildlife.  Gray wolves (reintroduced to the area in 1995), coyotes, black bears, mountain goats, wolverines and mountain lions traverse the rugged backcountry terrain, although it’s rare they would cross your path.  The main trail hazard is tripping over a root or rock while searching for these elusive animals.  The most common creatures you will see along the trail are mule deer, foxes, grouse, squirrels and chipmunks.

Nature in the Sawtooth Valley awakens all of your senses.  Embrace it!
Breathe in the scent of pine needles warmed by the sun.
Listen to the mountain bluebirds chatter.
Observe a beaver building its dam.
Touch Idaho Batholith granite created millions of years ago.
Taste a huckleberry growing in the wild in Redfish canyon or on the way to Sawtooth Lake.

Guest Blogger:  Erica Cole, Office Manager, Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch