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Head out and get to know Idaho's alpine lakes

by JOHN HECKEL Contributing Writer
| September 6, 2022 1:00 AM

Idaho is unique in having abundant opportunities available to get away from crowds and explore the high country filled with alpine lakes. But, you may ask, how will I get to one of these high mountain gems? Well, the first place to start is refer to Idaho Fish and Game’s Alpine Lake Fishing resource. From there, you can decide on what type of experience you are seeking; whether it’s a one day trip, multi-day adventure, or weeklong expedition. After that, then you can decide what type of travel is necessary to reach your destination.

The most classic way to get into the high country is to lace up your sturdy hiking boots, sling a pack on your back, and head up the trail. Idaho is filled with hiking trails and multi-use trails that can lead you through national forests and into wilderness areas. Hiking can provide you with various amounts of exercise depending on how far you want to travel, and you can enjoy the scenery as you walk at your own pace. Hiking and backpacking require a little bit of meal and gear preparation, but it is quite rewarding when you reach an alpine lake all on your own.

However, if you like to hike, but you want to take some extra gear, stay a little longer, or you don’t want to carry any gear consider a pack llama! These critters are low maintenance and they have a split toe similar to the split hoof of a bighorn sheep or mountain goat, which gives them superior stability and confidence in steep, rocky terrain. They can carry up to about 80 pounds (approximately 20% of their body weight) of gear and are very alert and predictable animals in the backcountry. It’s also possible to lead a train of llamas just like leading a train of mules or horses.

But, if you don’t want to carry any gear and you don’t want to hike, then take some pack horses! Horses have been visiting alpine lakes as long as we have been stocking them. Horses require a little more preparation and maintenance than llamas, but they sure make the trip up and down easier and they can also carry about 20-30% of their body weight.

Well, if you don’t have any horses or llamas, and you still don’t want to hike or carry your gear to an alpine lake. No worries, take an ATV or side-by-side! There are still unique opportunities to visit and fish alpine lakes in Idaho with the assistance of off-highway vehicles. In fact, there is a chain of lakes in the Upper Snake Region offering fishing opportunities to catch five different species of trout! What’s more, all of these lakes can be accessed using an OHV. Remember to always wear a helmet and follow the laws and regulations of OHV use in Idaho.

But, if you don’t have access to an OHV, don’t despair, we have alpine lakes that you can drive to as well! For example, Green Lake in the Upper Snake Region has 4x4 road access that ends about 1/4 mile from the lake. Preliminary research on where to find 4x4 trails or roads that lead to alpine lakes can be done through an office or website visit at the U. S. Forest Service, Idaho Parks and Recreation, Bureau of Land Management, or Idaho Department of Lands.

Idaho has abundant opportunities to explore the high country and cast a line into beautiful lakes. Check out IDFG's Alpine Fishing page and plan your next, or your first, alpine lake fishing trip.

John Heckel is a fisheries biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish & Game.

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