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Sawtooth Wilderness

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Area Management

The Sawtooth Wilderness is part of the 110 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of lands provides clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude. You play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness" as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964. Please follow the requirements outlined below and use Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the Sawtooth Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.

General Wilderness Prohibitions

Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited on all federal lands designated as wilderness. This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters, unless provided for in specific legislation.

In a few areas some exceptions allowing the use of motorized equipment or mechanical transport are described in the special regulations in effect for a specific area. Contact the Forest Service office or visit the websites listed for more specific information.

These general prohibitions have been implemented for all national forest wildernesses in order to implement the provisions of the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Wilderness Act requires management of human-caused impacts and protection of the area's wilderness character to insure that it is "unimpaired for the future use and enjoyment as wilderness." Use of the equipment listed as prohibited in wilderness is inconsistent with the provision in the Wilderness Act which mandates opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation and that wilderness is a place that is in contrast with areas where people and their works are dominant.

Wilderness-Specific Regulations

Wilderness managers often need to take action to limit the impacts caused by visitor activities in order to protect the natural conditions of wilderness as required by the Wilderness Act of 1964. Managers typically implement 'indirect' types of actions such as information and education measures before selecting more restrictive measures. When regulations are necessary, they are implemented with the specific intent of balancing the need to preserve the character of the wilderness while providing for the use and enjoyment of wilderness.

The following wilderness regulations are in effect for this area. Not all regulations are in effect for every wilderness. Contact the Forest Service office or visit the websites listed for more specific information about the regulations listed.


-- Group size is limited to no more than 12 people from May 1 through November 30 and 20 peple from December 1 through April 30. Oversized groups must split up and remain separated by a drainage or a day apart. Smaller groups are recommended when travelling off-trail to protect fragile areas.

-- All Wilderness users must have a permit for Wilderness use. The following Wilderness visitors must obtain their permit from a Forest Service Office: Groups with 8 or more people, or any overnight stock use. Self-issued Wilderness permits are available at trailheads for all other users.

-- Dogs must be leashed while on trails from July 1 through Labor Day. Loose dogs can harass wildlife and stock and disturb other visitors.

-- Dogs are not allowed in the Goat Creek drainage (tributary of the South Fork of the Payette River).

-- Firerings are prohibited. All campfires must be on a fire pan or fire blanket (use of gas stoves is highly recommended). If you must build a fire, use only use dead and down wood. Fires damage vegetation, sterilize soil and scar the land.

-- Campfires are prohibited in the following areas:

1. 1/4 mile from established trails from July 1st through Labor Day

2. in the following drainages: Alice/Twin Lakes, Toxaway/Farley Lakes, Goat Creek (tributary of the South Fork of the Payette River), and Alpine Creek

3. within 200 yards of Sawtooth, Goat and Alpine Lakes near Iron Creek, Alpine and Saddleback (Shangri-la) Lakes in the Redfish drainage, and Scenic Lakes.

-- Do not shortcut switchbacks.

-- Do not dispose of debris, garbage, or other waste in the Wilderness. Pack it out.

-- Wash 150 feet away from lakes and streams. Even "biodegradable" soap pollutes.

-- Human waste must be buried in a 6-8 inch hole at least 100 feet from any water source. Toilet paper must be packed out (doubled plastic bags work great for this!).

-- Do not disturb natural features.

-- Respect the quiet that Wilderness offers. Shouting, music, and other loud noises disrupt solitude and disturb wildlife.

-- Motorized and mechanized equipment is prohibited including: Bicycles, motorbikes, chainsaws, carts, drones, and hang gliders.

-- CLIMBING: Placing, leaving, or possessing fixed anchors is prohibited.


-- Use existing camps in high traffic areas. Good campsites are found, not made.


-- Groups are limited to 14 head of pack or saddle stock year-round.

-- Overnight groups with stock must obtain their permit from a Forest Service Office.

-- Feed is very limited. Carry pelletized feed or weed free cubed hay. Packing in loose hay or straw is prohibited.

-- If you must tie to live trees limit it to periods of less than one hour.

-- Pack or saddle stock may not be tethered within 100 feet of lakes, streams, or springs.

-- Grazing is prohibited withing 200 yards of lakeshores.

-- Grazing of equine stock is not allowed in the Salmon River drainage (east side of the Wilderness).

-- Equine stock are not allowed overnight at Edith Lake.

-- No stock is allowed in the Goat Creek drainage (tributary of the South Fork of the Payette River) or Alpine Creek drainage (near Alturas Lake).

-- Stock are allowed in campsites only when loading and unloading.

Learn more about why regulations may be necessary in wilderness.

Wilderness Permit System

A wilderness permit system has been implemented for this wilderness. This involves a mandatory permit, which does not limit use. Wilderness permit systems are implemented to collect information on use levels and patterns and as an education and information tool. People interested in visiting the Sawtooth Wilderness should contact the Forest Service office or visit the websites listed for more information about this permit system, which may vary by location or time of the year.

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