The trail to Hell Roaring Lake is a great wilderness experience for hikers of all skill levels. With just a few short steep sections the trail climbs gently for most of the 5 miles to the south shore of Hell Roaring Lake nestled in a thick pine forest below the iconic jagged peaks that the Sawtooth Mountains are named for.


The Hell Roaring Lake Trailhead is located just off of Highway 75, about 15 miles south of Stanley, Idaho.

  1. From the Highway 21 Junction, drive south on Highway 75 for approximately 14.8 miles.
  2. Turn west onto forest road 209 (44.029032, -114.833462). This road may not be signed, but signage is present for Fourth of July Road, which is located just across the street and about 200 feet south.
  3. The dirt road immediately crosses the Salmon River and arrives at a junction.
  4. Turn left at the junction onto forest road 315.
  5. Continue south for 0.3 miles to the signed trailhead for Hell Roaring Lake (44.025713, -114.841975).

Very little parking is available at the trailhead, and there are no restroom facilities.

The Hike

From the parking area, begin hiking on the signed Hell Roaring Trail. This first part of the hike is the most strenuous as the trail climbs more than 300 feet up the foot of a glacial moraine. Thousands of years ago, glaciers carved out the peaks and valleys of the Sawtooth Mountains. The mass of rocks and sediment carried down the mountain in this process are deposited in a geological feature called a moraine. Stop to consider that the moraine the trail climbs marks the base of one of these ancient glaciers where rocks were pushed into a large pile.

Soon the steepness declines and the hiking becomes much easier as the trail continues up the canyon toward Hell Roaring Lake. The creek is visible at times, but for the most part, you will be hiking through a dense Lodgepole Pine forest. 

After about 3.5 miles, the trail enters the Sawtooth Wilderness. A hiker kiosk with a self-serve permit station located near the border provides detailed information about the rules and regulations (44.029783, -114.897678). All hikers, regardless of whether you are day hiking or overnight camping, must carry a permit to enter the Sawtooth Wilderness area.

Continue hiking beyond the wilderness boundary as the trail climbs the final distance to Hell Roaring Lake. The view where the trail meets the east end of the lake is one of the best vistas you will find in this densely forested area. 

A log footbridge (44.026787, -114.928510) spans the outlet stream from the lake, and the trail continues on the west side of Hell Roaring Lake. There are plenty of great campsites in this area, but please respect designated restoration areas. Campfires are typically allowed but only with the use of a fire pan or fire blanket. Be sure to check current restrictions. Due to the heavy usage in this area, firewood is sparse, so you may prefer to forgo a fire and enjoy the uninhibited view of the stars. The area is regularly patrolled by the forest service.

After crossing a small stream, the trail begins to climb along the steep, forested south shore. Beyond this point there are few, if any, campsites available. Those wishing to extend the hike may continue to Imogene Lake, approximately 4 miles ahead. Round trip hiking distance to Hell Roaring Lake and back to the parking area is approximately 10 miles.

Rules & Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed from July 1 through Labor Day.
  • All hikers must obtain and carry a free wilderness permit whether day hiking or camping. Permits are available at a kiosk near the wilderness boundary, approximately 3.5 miles from the trailhead.
  • Campfires are allowed only with the use of a fire pan or fire blanket. Seasonal restrictions may be in place.
  • Pack out all trash.
  • Hang food or use a bear resistant container.
  • Only camp in previously used sites at least 200 feet from water sources and trails.
  • Please observe restoration areas.
  • Check current regulations before beginning your hike as these may change at any time.

Special Considerations

This area is heavily used in the peak summer months. If possible, plan your trip in late spring or early fall to lessen impacts on the area and for more solitude.


This trail guide is provided by Backcountry Post.