Six Lakes Basin Cirque
Six Lakes Basin Cirque

Hiking, camping, fishing
and exploring

3 miles round trip to Heart Lake, 5 miles round trip to
Six Lakes Basin

Moderate (trail not maintained)









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Boulder-White Clouds Council
Post Office Box 6313
Ketchum, Idaho 83340

2003 All rights reserved.

Heart Lake & Six Lakes Basin


Heart LakeTrailhead elevation: 8,280 feet
High Point: Six Lakes Basin - 9,000 ft
Elevation gain: (Heart Lake) 560 feet; (Six Lakes) 720 feet
Access: late June through October
Road: 2-wheel drive, rough washboard surface
Maps: Sawtooth NF, USGS Washington Peak

Features (challenges?): Finding the trailhead, staying on route, finding all 6 lakes, and performing gymnastic moves on wooded, non-maintained trail.

Important: as you turn off Highway 75 and head up Fourth of July road, punch your trip odometer -- and at 8.7 to 8.8 miles -- you’ll find the Heart Lake "trailhead." It’s a pull out on the right (south) side of the road with room enough for several vehicles. There’s no sign, no trailbox.

But, there is an actual trail -- follow it to Fourth of July Creek and cross on logs or boulders. If you’re too early in the season, there’s simply no crossing the rushing water. The primitive path to Heart Lake follows flowered-lined Heart Lake creek on the right (west) side for most of the way. You’ll have to cross over and under deadfall, scramble up steep pitches, and just keep going upward.

At Heart Lake, to continue onward to Six Lakes Basin, cross the outlet and go left (east) around the lake. A few campsites are at the tree-lined lake, and fly fishermen can expect to catch more limbs, than fish.

Near a campsite at the lake’s southeast corner, follow a faint path, which will lead to Six Lakes Basin. Spectacular, rugged rocky slopes surround the upper basin. The upper lakes are shallow and vary in depth depending on snow depth and melt. Washington Peak is due south. To make a loop, experienced hikers can return to Heart Lake’s west shoreline -- there’s no trail and a Washington Peak USGS map is helpful.

Caution: We have reservations about recommending a backpacking trip for families to Heart Lake. The trail is currently miserable when carrying a big pack. Maintenance could change this dramatically. Also, Heart Lake has a cliff at the south end which can be a hazard for youngsters (and adults) attempting to circle the lake. Six Lakes Basin can be confusing and it’s easy to get off route. All these potential pitfalls (adventures?) are exactly why this wild place is so attractive to Heart Lake/Six Lake Basin fans! We welcome feedback on this destination!

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