Backdrop Peak is located in Central Idaho. Baker Lake is a very popular hike for people in the Wood River Valley. It is a short hike to the lake from the trailhead. So naturally, with so many people visiting Baker Lake, many venture up one of the ridges that lead to the summit. They offer class 2 to 3 scrambling. This makes it one of the more visited summits in the range but you shouldn't have problems finding isolation on this peak.
The Smoky Mountains are near on the west side of the Wood River Valley. This is west of Ketchum and Sun Valley. The range is south of the Sawtooth Range. It is 40 miles to the flats of the Camas Prairie. The Big Wood River and ID-75 form the eastern boundary of the range. The South Fork Boise River and the Soldier Mountains are on the western side of the range.
Backdrop Peak is not very noticeable in elevation but it is an attractive mountain and provides a stunning setting at Baker Lake. This is a beautiful area that attracts many visitors unlike most of the Smoky Mountains. Many believe the summit is located at the top of the impressive east face that rises dramatically above the west end of the lake but the true summit is just a bit further to the west on the main crest of the Smoky Mountains. Viewing Backdrop Peak from the west or east is as different as day and night. From the west or south it appears as a benign, tree covered bump along the crest of the Smokys. But the east and north faces are quite rugged and made of broken and sheer rock that rises from Baker Lake, which appropriates its name giving a beautiful backdrop to the lake. The summit is on a boulder covered ridgeline that is connected to other peaks, most notably Big Peak.
In Central Idaho, drive north on Idaho Highway 75 for about 16 miles from the city of Ketchum. Turn onto the Baker Creek Road and continue for about 9 and half miles to its end. Here you will find a nice parking area complete with restrooms at the trailhead.
From the trailhead, it is a two mile hike to Baker Lake on a maintained trail with about a thousand feet elevation gain.
From the lake, two routes are possible. The east and north ridge are similar in length and in technicality. I took the east ridge up which is rated class 3. Start by hiking toward the southeast end of the lake and make your way up the ridge. It started off as a boulder hop which then led to a quick steep scramble and a very mellow ridge. The route goes to the left of the actual pinnacle. For people interested in climbing the pinnacle above Baker Lake it is quite enjoyable. The ridge is narrow in a few places and the rock is loose.
The summit is actually quite a bit further to the west than appears from the lake but the views on top are well worth it! If you're doing the loop down the north ridge make sure that you don't descend too early or you'll end up on some cliffs. Stay near the ridgeline until you see a forest filled gully. Hike down this and you should end up near the north end of Baker Lake. Just follow the trail around the lake until you end up back at the main trail junction. From here hike back to the trailhead.
Compared to other mountain ranges in the Sun Valley region, the Smokys are one of the most wet in terms of precipitation. Storms traveling across the Snake Plain move up the canyons from the south, west, and northwest, freely without other mountain chains and then creating a shadow affect, similar to the Sierra and Cascades.
The Smoky Mountains are more forested and lush than the surrounding Boulder and Pioneer Mountains, that lay in a small rain shadow of the Smokys. Thunderstorms in summer, like any mountain chain, can be erratic and unpredictable so take neccessary precautions before heading into this mountain range.
Here is the weather forecast for Ketchum and Sun Valley.
When To Climb.
Normal summer months apply for the typical hiking season of Backdrop Peak. Generally, late May to late September, is a good time to hike. Temperatures will be around 70-80 degrees in the summer. Although, the summit is usually breezy. You can expect ocassional summer thunderstorms.
Experienced climbers can climb year round. In winter the temperatures will be 30-40 degrees in the day but may be much colder at the higher elevations. If attempting in winter, Baker Creek is very popular with snowmobilers. I have never been to this area in winter, but seeing Backdrop Peak and a frozen Baker Lake would be quite a sight.
Backdrop Peak is easily climbed in one day. Baker Lake is the best place to camp in the area. There are several nice campsites around the lake.
There are campgrounds located along the Wood River corridor northwest of Ketchum along Idaho Highway 75. They are open between Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. All of them are on a first come, first serve basis, except for Easley Campground and North Fork Campground which you can reserve in advance. At established campgrounds the cost is between $10 and $22 per night.
Campground reservations: Easley Campground and North Fork Campground.
There are dozens of campsites available along Baker Lake road. Most campground sites are clearly marked. These sites tend to fill up during summer weekends. You may also choose to car camp at the trailhead. Other campgrounds include: Boulder View Campground, Wood River Campground and Murdock Campground.
None. There are no fees or permits.
Backdrop Peak is located in Sawtooth National Forest.
Office Address: 2647 Kimberly Road East, Twin Falls, ID 83301.
Idaho: A Climbing Guide: Climbs, Scrambles, and Hikes
By Tom Lopez. The Smoky Mountains are in this book. Backdrop Peak is known as Peak 10,099 because it is unofficially named.