Nestled in the Sawtooth mountains, Imogene lake is arguable one of the most impressive lakes that Idaho has to offer. Locals and tourists alike say that if you are going to hike within the Sawtooth mountains, this is it.
We agree and did the Hike to Imogene Lake on a lovely Wednesday morning. The following is our experience on this wonderful trail, filled with lakes, views, wildlife and tranquil time in the forrest.
Hike to Imogene Lake via Hell Roaring Trail
Miles: 18 ♦ Elevation Gain: 2,300′ ♦ Trail Type: Out and Back ♦ Trail: Moderate to slightly difficult
The Hike to Imogene Lake can either be 18 miles or 12 miles depending on where you can park. We started at the lower parking lot, which made it 18 miles because we did not have a 4×4/high clearance car to get to the upper parking lot. Parking information is below.
Our hike started at the small parking lot, known as the “lower parking” area. When you turn off hwy 75 it is easy gravel road to the parking area. Any vehicle can get you there and it is marked with the Hell Roaring Lake Trailhead sign.
This is the easiest part of the hike, which is nice that it comes at the very beginning and the very end. Five miles of strolling through the forest.
3.1 miles in you will hit the Wilderness area.
Just a short distance afterwards, you will reach the Hell Roaring Trailhead. You will need a permit at this point, so fill out the free permit and if you have your pup, check to see if you need a leash.
3.86 miles in you will reach a T in the trail. This is where the upper parking lot hikers meet up with the trail.
At five miles you will reach Hell Roaring Lake. Take a left at this point to continue on to Imogene Lake. Cross the bridge and be rewarded with one of the most amazing views.
We were lucky enough at this point to see a fox up close and personal. It ran right across the trail and decided to have a seat and just stare at us. I am mesmerized by these creatures. They are an absolute favorite and this was only the 3rd time that I have ever seen them in the wild. We ended up leaving first and never got too close to disturb.
There are a few great camping spots along the trail, but as a reminder, do no camp right along the water. This is a watering hole for the locals. Respect their space.
The trail becomes moderately hard as you leave the lake. The elevation is gradual and never steep. Take your time if you are not used to elevation because with less oxygen you will feel winded and your legs may feel heavy. At the same time your shoulders might become stiff and you could feel dehydrated. Water helps, so make sure to bring enough water, not just for heat but for elevation.
Right around 8 miles you will hit the first lake with lily pads.
Walk about a quarter of a mile and then you reach one of the most beautiful lakes in my opinion. This lake didn’t have a name, but it was perfectly picturesque.
During peak summer months, this trail can get very hot. Shade is intermittent but the water seems to be plentiful. Great for dogs and cooling off throughout the trail. At 8.5 miles you reach a small bridge that runs right along a waterfall. Crystal clear, cold and perfect to dunk your head.
Then as luck would have it you are .3 miles away from Imogene Lake. With all the points of interest along the way this hike goes fast! Enjoy one of the many spots along the lake or hike around it to find a camping spot. We were the only ones there!
We were able to do this hike in 7 hours. 6 hours of hiking time and 1 hour of snacks, pictures and the fox!
Hike to Imogene Lake via Hell Roaring Trailhead Information
I am not sure about the upper parking lot but the lower parking lot is just a parking lot. No toilets. As mentioned above, to get to the upper parking lot you need a high clearance 4×4. The lower parking lot any vehicle could get to but nothing longer than 22′ could park. During the summer months respect where there is and is NOT parking.
ALWAYS PRACTICE LEAVE NO TRACE.
Dog Friendly: Yes, on a leash at certain times.
Family Friendly: Yes
There is a lower and upper parking lot.
Lower Parking Lot: 44.025657, -114.841965
Upper Parking Lot: 44.028252, -114.895504
Parking Fee: Free
Permits: Yes (FREE)
Trailhead: See Parking coordinates
Best Time: Late Spring through Fall
Forest: Sawtooth National Forest
Other Uses: Fishing, Birding, Trail Running, Lake Use, Photography and Camping
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