Parks Peak is near the southern end of Idaho's Sawtooth range, arguably one of the prettiest mountain ranges in the U.S. Parks Peak is the highpoint in the ridge that separates the drainages of Yellow Belly Lake and Pettit Lake, and the loop hike that follows these two drainages is possibly the most popular three-day backpack trip in the Sawtooths. Also, the eastern face of Parks is imposing from the highway. With its high visibility, easy access, and situation in the middle of some of the prettiest country anywhere, Parks Peak should get more attention.
Parks Peak from Imogene Peak
[img:432877:alignleft:small:Bowl under Parks Peak, showing treed gully.] [img:432878:alignleft:small:Upper ridge and summit.]
Easy Class III.[img:432896:alignright:small:Map of standard route]
From the trailhead, walk up the trail toward Alice Lake. After about 5 miles, the trail cuts across a narrow ravine with a large bridge, at about 8400'. Walk back down the trail about 50 yards until you can easily start uphill, and proceed directly north, gaining altitude as you traverse scree fields.
Head toward an obvious 100' pinnacle in the middle of the hillside, aiming just below it.
After passing the lone pinnacle, you can see the south gully of the peak, a possible (but not recommended) route.
Instead, head up a treed gully on the south-east ridge of Parks (the far side of the gully).
When you reach the upper end of the trees, move to climber's right on the ridge and proceed to the summit. It's a wide-open area, so there are many possible routes.
The summit ridge has three bumps of similar height, but the northern-most seems to be the highest.
A 2000' couloir runs up the north face of Parks Peak. Due to rock fall and general looseness, it is not recommended when dry. [img:432883:alignright:small:North-side couloir in August]
[img:261182:alignright:small:Parks Peak from Imogene Peak]
Access to Parks Peak is from the Tin Cup trailhead at Pettit Lake, just two short and bumpy dirt-road miles from Highway 93, the north-south highway between Ketchum and Stanley. The turn-off to the lake is marked on maps, and signs on the highway call out Pettit Lake. The road is suitable for passenger cars, but at the time of writing, it is very dusty and washboarded. Follow the signs to Tin Cup trailhead.
At the trailhead, there is parking for approximately 50 cars. The usual Forest Service kiosk marks the trail.
Adjacent to the trailhead you'll find a Forest Service campground for those wanting to camp the night before hiking up the trail. The campground sits on Pettit Lake, so there is swimming (in season). There is also drinking water and a concrete outhouse. Note that the campground signs warn of bears.
Snow season access
Stanley, just 20 miles north, is often the coldest spot in the nation (check the Stanley cam link below). So the winter season in the Sawtooths is long. During the winter you can ski into the wilderness area, but you must start from the highway. Also, the steep valleys of this area present substantial avalanche hazards. Check the avalanche reports before attempting.
No red tape involved, except you are supposed to carry a Wilderness Permit, and the permits are self-issued on the trail.
To get an early start, you can camp at the campground adjacent to the trailhead. Forest Service fees apply, and be ready for the usual: generators, etc.
Alternately, you could camp at Alice Lake, a large alpine lake in one of the prettiest valleys in the Sawtooths. Alice Lake is about 6 miles from the trailhead, with a gain of about 1600'. However, if you hike to Alice Lake, you have gone past the Normal Route to Parks Peak.
External LinksTrip report
Sawtooth National Forest
Smiley Creek web cam (choose View 2)
Stanley cam and current weather
Sawtooth national Forest Avalanche Center
Other sources of infoList of SummitPost peaks in the Sawtooths
For additional information on this climb and other peaks in the area, please see Tom Lopez's excellent book, Idaho: A Climbing Guide.