Packsaddle Lake is nestled comfortably in a thickly timbered canyon in the northern tip of the Big Hole Mountains of Eastern Idaho. It sits at an elevation of about 7370 feet and is surrounded by a mixed forest of douglas fir, subalpine fir, engleman spruce, lodgepole pine, and quaking aspen. There are a couple of quiet campsites on the eastern bank along with a rope, hung between two trees, for swinging out into deep water. The lake does hold trout.
This lake receives a fair amount of visitors, so there’s not a lot of wildlife evident, but we did see a snowshoe hare and an elk. Songbirds fill the woods with music. We watched a pair of red-shafted northern flickers carrying insects into their nest in a dead tree; and a great blue heron flew across the shadowed lake at dawn, making great rasping squawks, before perching in the top of a tree where the morning sun was just beginning to reach. We also saw an osprey, plenty of robins and crows, two hummingbirds, a couple kinds of sparrows, several dark-eyed junco, and a male and female ruby-crowned kinglet.
Getting to the Trailhead
In Eastern Idaho, Highway 33 connects Rexburg to Driggs. 8 miles north of Driggs, the highway goes through the middle of a small town called Tetonia. Beginning in Tetonia, go straight south on N. 3000 W. for two miles and turn right (west) on W. 4000 N. This road is paved, crosses the Teton River and comes right up to the foothills of the Big Hole Mountains. After driving through flat farmland and marshes for six miles, the road continues up a steep slope as a single-lane dirt road. The road widens enough for two vehicles once the steep part is past. Stay on this road for about two miles. It is good gravel and passes through private land, with a few farms mixed with patches of timber. We spotted a fox trotting through the new growth in a farmer’s field alongside some thick timber.
Stay on this good road for about 2 miles until it makes a sharp right-hand turn at the corner of a field. Don’t make the turn. Instead, go straight on a thin, poorly maintained road that disappears into the forest. Follow it for about 1 and 3/4 miles, where it forks. The left-hand fork has a sign that says “381”. Turn onto this left fork. Caution: The road gets quite a bit rougher here. It’s no problem for a pickup or SUV, but if you’re in a car, you may want to start looking for a place to pull off and park. It’s all uphill from here to the trailhead, but the distance is only about a half mile.
There is not much parking room at the Packsaddle Overview/Trailhead. Maybe enough for only 3 or 4 vehicles. On a clear day, the view is beautiful: You can see the entire Teton Mountain Range and much of the Teton Valley. You can also see Packsaddle Lake down below, peeking through the treetops. The trail is quite straightforward and easy to follow. It is a wide, well-used trail that goes steeply downhill directly to the lake with only a few switchbacks. It is only about ¼ mile long. No ATVs are allowed on this trail although there is another, lower, trail with a different access that ATVs can use to reach the lake.
Facilities at the trailhead: None
Facilities at the lake: None
Forest information: Caribou-Targhee National Forest
Fishing information: Go to Idaho Fishing Regulations. Click on Upper Snake Region for specific catch limits.
Please read my blog on Packsaddle Lake for the story on my last trip there.