Payette Peak sits at the apex of several important drainages in the Sawtooth Wilderness Area. This location gives the summit an unique viewpoint, looking down into the headwaters of the S. Fk. of the Payette River, Imogene Lake, and Hidden Lake. You can see unique areas such as Toxaway Pass and Cramer Divide. Several of the lakes of 10 Lakes Basin are visible. And you can see many of the more important Sawtooth Peak, including Snowside, Cramer, Plummer and Everly, the Rakers, and the Monte Verita ridge. You also get a great view of Elk Peak.
The Sawtooth range gets quite a bit of snow, so approaching in the off-season could be difficult. In addition, winter-time temperatures in nearby Stanley often lead the nation for low temps (unofficially, because Stanley is too small to have an official weather station). During the winter it is not unusual for temperatures to be in the -20s, and sometimes down to -40°F.
Payette Peak can be reached most easily by two routes.
Imogene Lake: east face or north ridge
Go south from Stanley on Hwy 75 about 14 miles and turn west and cross the Salmon River to Decker Flats/ Hell Roaring Creek trailhead. You can start hiking here, or drive the abusive 'road' to the upper Hell Roaring trailhead. This second option cuts off about 4 miles of walking, but will take over half an hour (and possibly take several years off your life expectancy). Either way, head for Hell Roaring Lake. Cross the outlet and hike another 5 miles to Imogene Lake (sign says 4 miles, but the trail has been changed). From Imogene Lake, follow the trail around the west side of the lake (older topos show the trail on the east side) and follow the drainage past several beautiful unnamed lakes. From Lake 8800, either climb to the saddle north of the peak and then follow the ridge south to the summit, or if you are adventurous you can climb directly up through the slabs and ledges to the ridge.
Approx. 9 miles each way, with 3100' gain (from upper trailhead)
Hidden Lake: NW ridge
Go south from Stanley on Hwy 75 about 5 miles to the Redfish Lake turnoff. Park at the hiker's parking lot and walk the 1/4 mile to the lodge and boat dock. Take the boat across the lake (~$15 round trip, and well worth NOT hiking the 5 miles around the lake) and walk up Redfish Creek, past Cramer Lakes, and over Cramer Divide. From just above Hidden Lake, turn east and hike up to Lake 9050. From the lake, hike southerly and then westerly to gain the ridge. Follow the ridge until it is blocked about 100' below the summit, then swing out onto the (easy) southern talus slopes to gain the summit.
Approx. 13 miles each way, with 4700' gain (from the boat dock)
Wilderness permit required. You can self-issue at a kiosk on any of the trails.
As a Wilderness area, you should make an extra effort to use no-trace methods.
Camping is available at any of the gorgeous lakes in the wilderness area. Some areas have a ban on open fires. Check with the Forest Service, or just use a stove.
There are also many drive-up type campgrounds along Highway 75.
Sawtooth National Forest
Smiley Creek web cam (choose View 2)
Stanley cam and current weather
Sawtooth national Forest Avalanche Center
For additional information on this climb and other peaks in the area, please see Tom Lopez's excellent book, Idaho: A Climbing Guide.