white marsh marigold at washington lake

Fourth of July Lake Trail

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The Fourth of July Lake Trail is located in the Sawtooth National Forest 25 miles southeast of Stanley, Idaho.  It is a little bit farther from Stanley as compared to Sawtooth Lake and hikes around Redfish Lake and Stanley Lake. 

As a result, I saved if for the end of my visit, especially since it requires driving 10 miles on a dirt road.  Upon reaching the road which led into a burned forest, I thought to myself, “what have I done?”  Fortunately, the forest along the Fourth of July Lake Trail was mostly spared and only the drive went through charred threes.

burnt forest near Fourth of July Lake Trail

The trailhead features a small dirt parking area with a map and a pit toilet.  The trail leads to a variety of lakes.  While I had originally just planned to hike to Fourth of July Lake, I realized Washington Lake was on the same path and not too much further.

Hiking Fourth of July Lake Trail

For the most part, the trail follows a gentle ascent through the evergreen forest with lots of water.  Not only did Annie and I have to make a few easy creek crossings, many times we were avoiding water streaming down the middle of the trail.

Along with the creeks, came many lakes, the first being Fourth of July Lake.  With the snow still melting over the Fourth of July Weekend, the shores were muddy.  We stopped to snap a photo but continued our ascent to a second, smaller lake, better described as a tarn.

Washington Lake

From the tarn we descended to Washington Lake through patches of snow.  After weaving around some snow banks, Annie and I found a lovely spot near the shore where white marsh marigolds spread across the damp ground.

Not only did I enjoy seeing the flowers, I loved seeing the fish in the lake.  The brook trout with its red fins, outlined in white was just beautiful. 

Annie and I stayed at the lake a little longer than normal since there were no mosquitoes and almost no one on the trail.  In fact, this extremely peaceful state I felt might have been one reason why I really liked Fourth of July Trail.


Our return to the parking area was uneventful, but upon leaving the burnt forest in VANgo we spotted a deer (but didn’t capture a good photo) and enjoyed magnificent distant views of the mountains. 

view from the road to fourth of july lake trail

While in Stanley, I think I have seen a deer nearly daily and a herd of pronghorn on Nip and Tuck Road.  It’s funny, because last year when I was hiking in McCall, Idaho, I wrote about seeing a plethora of deer.  I wonder if their population in Idaho out numbers residents!  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

9 thoughts on “Fourth of July Lake Trail

  1. I plan to be there this next week-end and I was looking for more info. thanks for sharing your stunning photography. I guess I was really hoping to get a more accurate idea of what the weather is like (different sources online seem to say contradicting things and I’m trying to be prepared).
    Either way, I look forward to taking some cool photos there and enjoying the night sky.

    1. Well the snow should be melted. With this heat wave I couldn’t say how cold or hot it would be. But always pack layers in the mountains because you never know. For a normal day, I would expect it to be pleasant. But I always where long sleeves and pants to protect from sun, bugs, and scraping my legs on trees. Enjoy and happy hiking!!

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