Located an hour’s drive north of Sun Valley, the Alice Lake trail rewards the hiker with a variety of terrain and a beautiful destination. While the slope of the trail isn’t overly challenging, it is a long hike. Plan for at least 5 hours to hike the total 10.4-mile trail (5.2 miles each way) with 1,700 elevation gain. Just make sure you give yourself time to enjoy the lake.
To get to the trailhead from Sun Valley, head north on Highway 75, and turn left (west) at the sign to Pettit Lake. Follow signs to the Tin Cup Hiker Trailhead, which is located on the north side of Pettit Lake. While there are plenty of parking spaces nearby, it’s always advisable to get there early, especially on busy summer weekends.
The first mile or so of the trail follows skirts the north of the lake and is fairly flat. The pitch of the trail doesn’t get too bad as you enter the Sawtooth Wilderness but becomes increasingly more difficult as the trail continues.
Most of the hike follows a stream up the mountains, crossing it several times. I imagine in the spring that some of the stream crossings could be very challenging. However, in early August there’s no problem finding enough exposed rocks to get across without getting your feet wet.
At several points during the hike, it felt like Alice Lake would appear around the next bend. Ultimately, we did see a lake, or rather a pond. While beautiful, it didn’t seem right. And in fact, it wasn’t right. Two ponds need to be passed before getting to the main event. Don’t worry, once you’ve reached the first pond, it’s only another 10 minutes before Alice Lake appears.
We brought our fishing poles and a hammock. After 5 miles of hike in, the hammock won. Anyway, tt didn’t sound like people were very successful fishing. So, be sure to bring some food with you (and perhaps a hammock and bottle of wine).
For us, this was the end of the road, but there are more options. First, Twin Lakes are a fairly short distance from Alice Lake. They can be added to the Alice Lake hike and still make it a day trip. For the more adventurous, you can head over the Snowyside divide to get to Toxaway and Farley Lakes. This makes for an 18-mile loop hike. That might be doable in a day, but we’d much rather tackle that with plans of staying overnight.