Fourth of July Lake
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Northwest Ridge route already listed for this mountain. It is clear, simple, and direct, and it is also a little shorter than this one. But this route has two things going for it that the other doesn’t: a maintained trail for more than half the way; a stop by the shores of pretty Fourth of July Lake; and no bushwhacking, even though the NW Ridge bushwhack is a short one.
I recommend taking one of these routes up and the other down so that you can see more of the mountain and enjoy a little more of the beautiful White Clouds. The trail to Fourth of July Lake is a popular one, and though a crowd of the size you might find in the White Clouds would be considered sparse visitation in the Tetons, those who like their solitude may find it sorely lacking out here on a sunny summer Saturday or Sunday.
If you start early in the morning, take the NE Ridge up since the trail will be empty or at least very uncrowded then. If you go up in the late afternoon, use the NE Ridge for your descent to allow the trail to quiet down and clear out a bit while you are up above it.
Follow the instructions given on the main page for this mountain. All I will add here is that driving south from Stanley, you will find the road for Fourth of July Creek about 10 miles south of the turnoff to popular Redfish Lake in the Sawtooths. You make a left on Fourth of July Road, which heads east.
View from the ridge Ally Peak comes into view
The trailhead is at about 8800’. The hike to Fourth of July Lake, elevation 9365’, is about 1.5 miles. From the lake, it is about one mile and 1400 vertical feet to the summit. Total distance and elevation gain (approximately): 2.5 miles/1900’.
From the lake, the trail continues southeast to a pass at 9560’. At the pass, which overlooks upper Washington Basin, there is a tiny lake on the right side of the trail. Leave the trail here and start heading southwest up the loose ridge to the summit. There are no tricks or crux pitches here; just watch your footing. As you ascend, the incredible beauty of the White Clouds, largely unsung because of the famous Sawtooths nearby, throws itself at you. If you aren’t impressed by this scenery and filled with a longing to be atop all the amazing peaks you keep seeing, then perhaps nothing in the mountains can impress you and you need to find something else to do.
Click on the Topozone map for a clear representation of the NE ridge and the area’s topography.
Here are a few of many. I just wish I’d gone later in the day and brought something better than my Canon Sure-Shot Z-135 (now out of commission courtesy of the Zion Narrows), but I never expected the White Clouds to be what they were (and are), and I owe it to myself and these mountains to get back to them and give them the time and the attention they deserve. I went to Idaho to see the Sawtooths, and I left in love with the White Clouds!
Ally Peak, my heart's favorite out here, from Salmon Cat Peak
D.O. Lee Peak, a signature summit of the White Clouds
Castle Peak, the White Clouds' highest
Some picture titles and captions on this page indicate the names “Ally Peak” and “Salmon Cat Peak.” Officially, these titles do not exist; they are, respectively, names I gave to the unnamed peak that most caught my eye from the summit and to this mountain itself, unofficially (but sensibly) named, anyway. The names have purely sentimental value to me, and an upcoming trip report will go into all that. I hope you will read and enjoy it.
None except some good hiking boots. Because the rock is fairly loose and you may need your hands occasionally, I think trekking poles would be a hindrance.