Leave No Trace in the Sawtooths

Leave No Trace in the Sawtooths

Pack it In, Pack it Out

Most of our trailheads do not have trash facilities. Please be prepared to pack out all your trash from the trail and the trailhead.

Stay on the Trail

Please don’t cut switchbacks! It causes erosion, destroys vegetation, and ruins the trail. Switchbacks are designed to make your hike easier and minimize erosion by reducing the grade (or slope) you hike.


Some of our trails have become so popular access to the trail can be challenging an issue. Trailhead parking lots are often small. Be ready with a back-up plan if you cannot find a parking spot. Some trailheads have overflow parking, others do not. Please do not park in the sagebrush or trees on the side of the road, it destroys the delicate alpine habitat.


The Sawtooth National Recreation Area includes three Wildernesses. The Sawtooth Wilderness, Cecil D. Andrus White Cloud Wilderness and the Hemingway Boulder Wilderness. Aren't we lucky!

What is wilderness? Wilderness areas are lands designated by an Act of Congress. The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines wilderness as, “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The Act’s purpose is to preserve and protect the natural ecosystems and wild areas. It also provides opportunities for solitude, retrospection and undeveloped recreation. Our wilderness areas have regulations to help protect them and to help provide everyone with a true wilderness experience.

Sawtooth Wilderness

A permit is required. Don’t worry, these permits are free. You can pick one up at a permit box at the trailhead. Please fill it out completely. The tan copy with stay with you during your trip. You will need to deposit the white copy in the permit box. Be sure to read the back of your permit, it has the wilderness regulations you are agreeing to uphold. 


White Cloud Wilderness:

Boulder Wilderness:


There are some trails that bikes are allowed on in the area. There are several loops popular with mountain bikers. Mountain bikes are allowed on many hiking trails but they are never allowed in the Wilderness. Keep in mind most hiking trails are not designed for bikes and can make for a challenging ride.

E-Bikes: A few trails allow e-bikes but most don't. E-bikes are classified as a motorized vehicle by the U.S. Forest Service. Pick up a Motor Vehicle Use Map from a ranger station or check out one online to determine if e-bikes can be used on the trail.

Ride responsibly! There are hikers and horses on the trails as well. Bikes should yield to both hikers and riders.

Motor vehicle use maps


The Sawtooths are home to black bears. New regulations in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area require bear attractants, like food, sunscreen, toothpaste, pet food, and trash, to be stored in a hard-sided vehicle, a building, or a bear-proof container. There are many ways to safely store your food while recreating in the Sawtooths. A fed bear IS a dead bear. Please help keep our wildlife wild!

Bear Resources


Human and pet waste are becoming an issue in the Sawtooths. If you are going out for a hike, the best practice is to 'go' before you go. If nature calls while you are on the trail, or camping, you must dispose of it properly.

If a restroom or outhouse is not near by, human waste must be buried in the ground 6-8 inches deep. Learn how to dig a cathole like a pro (link). All toilet paper, wipes, and feminine products must be packed out! Why? In our high alpine ecosystems toilet paper will not decompose quickly and is often dug up by critters, yuck!

In some areas, due to the high use and lack of natural soil, packing out human waste is strongly recommended. Help protect our water quality and fragile alpine ecosystems by using WAG bags. WAG bags are a nifty waste disposal system that makes packing out your waste a breeze. You can purchase them at the Redfish Visitor Center, Stanley Ranger Station, North Fork Visitor Center or online. Check out restop.com for some options.

Dog poop can be packed out or buried 6-8 inches deep away from water, just like our poop.


The Sawtooths have some important rules regarding campfires. Check fire restrictions before you head out!
In many areas campfires are never allowed regardless of the season.

There are many reasons why campfires are prohibited. High alpine ecosystems do not produce much firewood. The slow growth of plants and trees at higher elevations makes dead and down trees you would use as firewood rare and important to the ecosystem. Some popular lakes have too many people visiting to provide enough fuel for everyone’s fire without removing those nutrients from the ecosystem. Additionally, many areas have only one trail in or out and a wildfire started by a campfire could trap other hikers and campers. Help protect the beautiful and fragile ecosystems of the Sawtooths and respect other visitors by knowing the campfire regulations.

If a campfire is allowed in the Sawtooth Wilderness, the fire must be built on a fire blanket or in a fire pan. In many areas campfires are never allowed. If you see a rock fire ring on the ground, it is illegal, please don’t use it. Wilderness Rangers and volunteers clean up hundreds of campfire rings each season from the Wilderness. Consider bringing a camp stove to prepare food you were planning to cook.

How to use a fire pan and fire blanket (links).


Stock are considered horses, mules, goats, llamas and any other pack animals. Stock use is allowed in most of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, however there are some locations where stock are not allowed, and others where specifically pack goats are not allowed. This is to help protect our water resources, wildlife, and your animals.


Hikers and bikers must yield to stock. Step off the trail where it is safe to do so. Greet the riders or leaders. The stock know what a person sounds like, so say hi to make the animals aware of your presence. For everyone's safety, keep dogs on a leash and under control, especially around stock.