OverviewPatterson Peak stands prominently above popular Fourth of July Lake near the middle of Central Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains. The area falls within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. You’ll experience primarily class 2 conditions on the summit approach, but the footing can be somewhat loose in places. The summit itself is fairly stable rock and offers excellent views of nearby Castle Peak, Four Lakes Basin, David O. Lee Peak, and Blackman Peak . A loop hike including Patterson and Blackman is a highly recommended goal.
Although generally lacking the white limestone features common to many of its neighboring peaks for which the White Clouds are named, this peak is still a worthy goal for anyone interested in getting a blended taste for the area. Spectacular views from the summit give clear visibility to the East and infamous Castle Peak with its serrate ridge connecting to Merriam Peak. To the North lies the striking alabaster David O. Lee Peak and numerous other peaks, with scenic and seemingly always green Ant’s Basin in the foreground. You will also see the contrast between high alpine Four Lakes Basin to the East and the once thickly forested (now burned) Fourth of July Basin to the West. On your way to the top, you may encounter quite a bit of traffic early in your climb during weekends (many day hikers heading to Fourth of July Lake), but it’s pretty likely that you’ll have the summit to yourself.
Getting ThereFollow Highway 75 about 45 miles north from Ketchum (or 17 miles South from Stanley), then head East on the gravel Fourth of July Creek Road, and continue 10 miles to the Fourth of July Lake Trailhead.
From here, there are a couple of prime options, both of which eventually utilize the West ridge:
- Trail via Fourth of July Lake (Class 2, ~3.5 miles one way): Follow the trail East from the trailhead for about 1.5 miles to the lake where the trail forks. Take the North branch up to the ridgeline overlooking Ants Basin and D.O. Lee Peak. At this point, leave the trail and follow the ridgeline East to the summit. The South side of the ridge is easier going as you get higher.
- Blackman Peak Loop (Class 2, ~3.5 miles one way): This route is roughly the same distance but adds around 400’ of gain/loss by including Blackman Peak along the way. From the trailhead, look for a jeep trail (which is fairly overgrown) heading generally Northwest towards Strawberry Basin. After about 0.75 miles, the trail meets an obvious ridgeline where you leave the trail and follow Blackman’s Southwest ridge to its summit at around 1.5 miles. Soak in the view for a while, then drop down the East ridge to the saddle where the trail crosses from Fourth of July Lake to Ants Basin. Continue along Patterson's West ridge to the summit.
Red TapeNo permits required.
When To ClimbThis climb can usually be made free of snow, from mid July through September. A winter ascent may not be desirable due to avalanche danger
CampingCampsites are available at the trailhead, or by hiking in about 1.5 miles to Fourth of July Lake, however these may not be ideal based on the forest fire that ravaged the area in September 2005.
Mountain ConditionsMuch of the Fourth of July Basin was consumed by a 40,000+ acre forest fire in September 2005, so exercise caution during the drive to the trailhead and the lower portion of the climb through unstable burned timber. The following are good sources of information:
Sawtooth National Forest - NF Current Conditions.
NOAA Pinpoint Forecast – Weather
Idaho Outdoors Forum – Message board monitored by many local climbers.
Boulder White Clouds Council
ClimbingIdaho.com descriptrion of the area.