Driving through Idaho’s Wood River Valley on a bluebird day headed north, with the town of Ketchum dropping from your rearview mirror, you travel the gorgeous tree-lined highway that will take you to the base of Galena pass. The headquarters of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is also just north of town. Next you will wind your way up a route that was once the passage of hard-working men and mules mining this rugged terrain. Galena Lodge is your last chance for a meal just at the base of the steeper part of the roadway.
Once you reach the crest of the summit and just begin your descent, at the Frank and Bethine Church Overlook, you are struck smack in the face with the profoundly beautiful Sawtooth Mountain range framing the pristine beauty of the valley floor below you. The crazy dizzying distraction of spectacular scenery makes the pull-off a necessity for photo ops.
A scene for the senses
At the overlook you can take in the Stanley Basin spread out below. Forty years ago, the northern portion of this valley was threatened with a housing development that would be a significant detriment to the visual values of the area. Since the establishment of Public Law 92-400 in 1972 which created the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, private homeowners must follow the private land regulations (and any easements) of the SNRA including maintaining the rustic character of their properties and keeping homes out of the visual corridor of the highway. Rather than seeing homes from the overlook, you are greeted with a landscape that awakens the senses. What you cannot see leaves you in awe and humbled by the existence of such a pristine landscape.
This majestic 756,000-acre expanse in central Idaho encompasses the Sawtooth and Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness areas. The SNRA boasts over 900 miles of trails, 40 peaks rising over 10,000 feet, and more than 300 pristine alpine lakes that add to the area’s spectacular scenery and vistas. It is home to an abundance of wildlife, including elk, deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and bears. It is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, boating, and skiing.
Our good fortune to enjoy such an incredible area is the cumulation of decades of work and ongoing conservation efforts. The mission of the Sawtooth Society is to keep the Sawtooth National Recreation Area preserved and protected forever.