Sawtell Peak in Idaho: A Smooth Ride Up a Well-Graded Gravel Road

Sawtell Peak is a high mountain peak at an elevation of 3.017m (9,898ft) above the sea level, located in Fremont County in the U.S. state of Idaho. It’s one of the highest roads of Idaho. Because of the steepness of the road, trailers are not advised.

Sawtell Peak

How Challenging is the Road to Sawtell Peak?

Situated in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, close to the Montana border, the road leading up to the summit is well-graded gravel and is known as Forest Road 024 or Sawtell Peak Road. Despite its good condition, the road has a steep gradient with numerous sharp bends. Given its inclination, trailers are not recommended. Those with a fear of heights might find certain stretches daunting due to exposed sections. However, under regular conditions, a standard passenger vehicle can navigate it with ease, barring extremely wet weather. The road is well-maintained but can get busy, featuring many tight turns and switchbacks.

The Length of the Journey to Sawtell Peak

Originating from US-20 in Island Park, the journey spans 18.50km (11.5 miles). During this stretch, you ascend by 1,054 meters, with an average gradient of 5.69%. The summit houses a flight traffic control radar station used by various agencies for communication.

Is Sawtell Peak Road Always Accessible?

Located prominently in the eastern part of the Centennial Mountains, it's crucial to check the weather forecast before embarking on your journey. The local adage goes: "There are two seasons: Winter and July." Abrupt snowstorms can be a reality, and even summer can surprise with chilly winds. The road remains shut from November 1st to June 1st. While the FAA maintains it during winter, it's mainly for personnel associated with the summit's facilities. Winter paints a dramatic picture with snow depths reaching up to 25 feet, and avalanches remain a looming threat.

Is the Ascent to Sawtell Peak Worth Every Turn?

Absolutely! The route rewards with panoramic vistas of valleys, peaks, and fauna. The summit, in particular, offers an unparalleled view. Sawtell Peak, named for its resemblance to a Native American chief's resting profile, is sometimes also referred to as "Chief Rains in the Face." If you're stopping to admire the wildflowers, ensure safe parking and remain cautious of other vehicles. From this vantage point, the expansive Yellowstone National Park, Henry’s Lake, Montana's Centennial Valley, and Madison Valley unfold before your eyes. If you squint, you might even spot the Pioneer Mountains and the Grand Tetons in the horizon.
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