Originally called Saddleback Peak, the mountain lies immediately southwest of the Grand Mogul Peak (9733 foot mountain visible from Redfish Lake Lodge). The peak was named for its distinct shape - a saddle-like ridge (oriented SW-NE) with two highpoits located at either end. The summit elevation given is that of the NE summit - a seldom climbed spire (class 3 route reaches its summit).
Elephants Perch is the lower (but much more popular with climbers) of the two peaks located at the SE end of the ridge. Its east, south, and west faces drop off sharply forming the most dramatic granite faces in Idaho (up to 1200 feet in height). The rock is generally solid and has a striking gold-orange color. Unlike most peaks in the Sawtooths which are generally characterized by jagged ridges and protruding spires,
Elephants Perch is dome-like when viewed from west, south, or east. According to Tom Lopez's book, 25 routes have been established on Elephants Perch. The easiest route to the top is a "class 3" dirty gully scramble (it's got a low 5-th class chimney on it - so much for class 3). It is however the highly aesthetic technical climbs that draw "crowds" to the Perch.
I wish to thank Nic, Dan, and Sean D. for the Sawtooths beta and the route topo(s). If you do any climbing in the area (and you're out of town) you'll soon realize that getting climbing info. is not a trivial matter. aaron weaver and brutus of wyde provided updates and corrections for some sections on this page (thanks!).
Saddleback Peak (Elephants Perch) is located inside the Sawtooth Wilderness in south central Idaho. As the crow flies, the peak is approximately 70 miles northeast of Boise, ID. Driving distance from Boise however is approximately 140 miles. The most common starting point for the hike in is Redfish Lake. Town nearest to the trailhead is the beautifully positioned Stanley, Idaho.
From the town center in Stanley (junction of Idaho highways 21 and 75), take highway 75 south for approximately 5.5 miles to the Redfish Lake turnoff, a paved road on the right hand side of the highway. Take that road following signs for the Redfish Lake Lodge (approx. 4 miles). The Lodge operates a high speed boat shuttle between the north and south ends of Redfish Lake. The boat ride reduces the hike in distance by about 4 or 6 miles (?) EACH way. The cost is $7.50 per person each way and is payable at the marina.
The boat shuttle makes several scheduled runs per day (check with marina - those times have been changing) but it also leaves on demand from the lodge end of the lake (north end) for two or more passengers. The boat ride is approximately 7 minutes each way. For more information regarding the boat shuttle contact the Redfish Lake Lodge at 208-774-3536.
The Lodge operates a general store and a restaurant - both within 50 yards of the marina. Note that although it is convenient to drop off your packs right in the marina parking lot, you are not allowed to park here if you're going for an overnight trip. Overnight parking area is approximately 1/8 mile earlier along the Redfish Lake access road. If you do not wish to use the boat shuttle, you can hike the trail along the lake's northwest shore.
Once across the lake at its southern end (Redfish Inlet Transfer Camp), hike the Redfish Lake Creek trail southwest for approximately 2 miles (passing the junction with Bench Lakes trail shortly into the hike) to an unmarked junction with the climbers' trail heading off to the left (SE) toward Elephants Perch. The main trail takes a sharp turn right immediately after the junction. At the junction, you're about 100 feet (only) from the stream and you should be able to see the logs on which you will cross the stream. The turn off from the main hiking trail to Elephants Perch is also identified as the only time you are close enough to see the river since the start of the trail. If you find a talus field soon after you see the river, turn back.
Once across the stream (you cross the first set of logs to reach a mini-island and then cross another set of logs immediately thereafter), follow a decent climbers' trail right and uphill. The trail becomes easier to follow higher up - cairns mark your way through the slabs low on this trail. The trail follows the base of the slabs beneath the west face of Elephants Perch and then crosses the Saddleback Lakes drainage just before the first lake. The trail is steep and reaches the lowest (of three) Saddleback Lakes in about a mile from the junction (elevation c. 8200 feet). Good camping spots can be found around these lakes - these make for a perfect staging area for climbs on Elephants Perch.
All routes on the rock face (east, south, and west) are easily accessible from Saddleback Lakes. Hike back to the outlet from the lowest of Saddleback Lakes, cross it towards the face and scramble up the scree/boulder field avoiding the steep slabs to your left. Once near the base of the rock, make your way to the route of your choice.
Total approach time is about 2 - 3 hours from the marina.
Saddleback Peak (Elephants Perch) is located within the Sawtooth Wilderness Area, operated by the National Forest Service. However, the Redfish Lake trailhead is run by Sawtooth National Recreational Area which used to have its own pass. As of July, 2005, $5 fee for parking at the trailhead is no longer required. This was confirmed in conversations with the staff at the store and also with several locals climbing in the area.
Dogs are allowed. Please keep them leashed and pick up after them (they're also allowed on the boat shuttle).
"Normal climbing season" - July through September - offers the most stable weather. Thunderstorms are a major concern during early summer months. Additionally, Idaho highway 21 (Boise to Stanley connection) is subject to seasonal closures due to snow.
Camping at large is allowed within the Sawtooth Wilderness. Several established bivy sites can be found at Saddleback Lakes immediately southeast of Elephants Perch. Please observe the usual backcountry camping regulations (in particular, please pack out solid waste as the lakes are largely stagnant in late season).
For most up to date conditions, contact the Sawtooth National Recreational Area office located in Stanley, Idaho at 208-727-5000.
This page is not to be missed by anyone planning climbs on The Perch: www.piquaclimber.com. Several route descriptions given with excellent photos and TR's.