Falling for Stanley 

Head to Central Idaho for fall hiking

The mountains near Stanley see no shortage of hikers during the summer. Meadows are awash with wildflowers, temperatures are perfect and the jagged peaks in the Sawtooth Mountains punctuate the blue skyline. But outdoor enthusiasts should think of a trip to Stanley in September and early October, when Indian summer lingers, holding off the frigid weather that is just around the corner.

One hike to consider after mid-September is the Fishhook Creek Trail near Redfish Lodge. This 5.8-mile out-and-back hike wanders under a canopied forest of conifers to the Fishhook Creek Meadow. On arrival to the meadow, a canvas of pointy granite peaks--including the 10,229-foot Heyburn Mountain and the 10,470-foot Horstmann Peak--command attention.

As a bonus, the ridge to the north of the trail contains an abundance of aspen trees, making this hike a fall-color pilgrimage. The thin, white-barked trees decorate the hillsides with a patchwork of gold, yellow, orange and red. It is nearly impossible to predict exactly when the leaves will turn but it's a safe bet they'll be heading that way by late September, early October. The fleeting color display normally lasts about 10 days, so you need to time it right.

This hike is rated "easy" as the total elevation gain is only 300 feet for the entire hike. Those looking for a little more physical challenge can turn right at a signed junction, seven-tenths of a mile from the trailhead. This cut-off gains 500 feet through a canopy of aspen in six-tenths of a mile to another junction. A left turn here rises on a ridge with superlative views overlooking Fishhook Meadows and deep into the Sawtooth Mountains.

To find the trailhead, drive south from Stanley for 4.2 miles on Highway 75 and turn right on paved Redfish Lake Road. Drive 1.7 miles and turn right again into a large dirt parking area. A small footpath leads northwest 300 feet and crosses the road that leads to Redfish Lodge. Here you will find the Fishhook Creek Trailhead.

Scott Marchant is the author of the Hiker's Guide to Cascade and McCall. Visit hikingidaho.com.

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