Exploring the Sawtooths – A Comprehensive Guide was published in 2012. When Matt was writing his popular guidebook to the Sun Valley area, he intentionally stopped the coverage at Galena Summit. Not only was this a logical stopping point, but it left open the possibility of an additional guidebook north of the summit.
Research: With the opportunity to hike or bike the more than 600 miles of trails in the Sawtooth Mountains, Matt’s wife Christine readily agreed to the project. They purchased a used Jayco motorhome and headed north with Sarah (4) and Max (2) in tow. While one parent did the research, the other played with the kids. The motorhome provided the needed flexibility to move around the periphery of the mountains and hike the trails in the most efficient manner possible.
Design Challenges: While it was convenient to work off the design template developed in Exploring Sun Valley, the Sawtooths presented some specific layout challenges. So many of the trails are interconnected that it was a challenge to differentiate between a day hiking destination and a backpacking route. The same big-picture Overview Map showing all the trails and major trailheads is included in the Sawtooth guidebook. New, however, are the Regional Overview Maps.
Regional Overview Maps: In order to better describe the recreational opportunities (backpacking, day-hiking, mountain biking, motorcycle riding) the guidebook included Regional Overview Maps. Based around a major trailhead, the maps show the trails and off-trail routes in one of 10 different “regions.” A more detailed description of the landscape and recreation opportunities is included with each regional map.
Trail Descriptions: Similar to Exploring Sun Valley, each trail includes a “Title Box” with vital statistics, “Directions” to the trailhead (from downtown Stanley) and a “Highlight and Info” section describing what hikers will experience on the trail. A specific “Description” based on a thorough understanding of the surrounding landscape will succinctly guide readers to their destination.
Mountain Biking: While the Sawtooths are not known as a mountain biking destination, there are several good rides in the north and south of the range. The “Regional Overview Maps” describe the mountain biking potential in a particular region, and the “Highlight and Info” section for each trail describes the mountain biking opportunities.
Off-Trail Scrambling: While space was limited for specific Off-Trail route descriptions, the Sawtooth Guidebook is a great resource for anyone planning a peak climb or other off-trail adventure. Off-trail routes are marked on the maps with a blue dashed line with the specific “Class” rating. Where appropriate, more detailed information about off-trail scrambling is included in the “Regional Overview” or the “Highlights and Info” sections.
Technical Climbing: There is a long history of technical rock climbing in the Sawtooth Mountains. While not a rock-climbing guide, Exploring the Sawtooths has plenty of useful information for climbers. Specific descriptions about technical climbing are included in the “Regional Overview” or the “Highlights and Info” sections. Named climbing features are identified on the trail maps and yellow dashed lines indicate walls or ridges with potential for technical climbing. In addition, the history section
History: In addition to the essay on technical rock climbing, the history section covers the movement of early fur traders, miners, and scientific exploration of the Sawtooths. Additional information on early recreation, the Civilian Conservation Corps, Sun Valley resort and the push for a National Park is also included.
Geology: While a thorough background of the geologic history of central Idaho was covered in Exploring Sun Valley, the Sawtooths have their own unique geologic phenomenon. An original geologic map of the Sawtooths identifies all of the major rock units in the range and includes a brief description of each. In addition, some of the major structural features and glacial history of the Sawtooths are discussed.
Wildflowers: The back of the guidebook contains more than 60 photographs of the most common Sawtooth wildflowers. Organized by color, the photos include a brief description of each species making identification in the field a snap!
Exploring the Sawtooths is easily the most comprehensive guidebook to this stunning range. Whether out for a multi-day backpack (there are several route suggestions included) or just a day-hike to a beautiful alpine lake, the pages of this guidebook will help make the most of your time in the mountains.