Mountain Biking the Redfish Lake Loop
The Redfish Lake Loop was recommended to me by Bruce from Backcountry Mountain Sports in Sun Valley. I had done the three best rides in the Sun Valley (according to Bruce’s coworker – Brian). I wanted to do some of the rides in the Stanley area but only knew about the Fisher Creek Loop.
Camping at Redfish Lake
Bruce suggested we camp at Redfish Lake. He said the western end of the lake offered incredible views, with jagged peaks and cliffs hanging just above the water. So we packed up our campsite in Sun Valley and headed to Redfish Lake. We were a little worried as most of the campgrounds surrounding the lake only offer reserved spots. Cindy checked into reservations and found we needed to put in for a spot at least four days in advance. Of course, we had not planned that far ahead!
Note** If you find these photos distorted or the map below does not show up, please click Redfish Lake Loop to view the actual page rather than the email version.
We had no luck at the first come first serve campgrounds. Worse than that, the speed bumps were so severe my bike rack partially tore the top off my trailer bumper.
We decided to check the Glacierview Campground even though they required reservations. As we began to enter we read, “Campground Full.” I suggested to Cindy, “Let’s go ask the campground host if they have any cancellations.” Cindy jumped out of the truck and hustled over to ask.
Upon return Cindy hurriedly said, “They have only one spot left … number eighteen. The guy said to hurry up and occupy the site,” she shared as she jumped back into the truck.
- Below you will find a map for Redfish Lake Loop.
- Click the green or red balloons for driving directions to the trailheads.
- Click Tracks or Icons for Specific Info
After we secured our spot and began to set up the camp we began to notice a haziness in the sky. We had witnessed these conditions several different times the previous two weeks so we knew a fire must be somewhat close.
We made sandwiches for lunch in the shade of our camp trailer as our site offered little shade from a hot summer sun. Once finished I packed my stuff and headed out for a ride.
I knew the Redfish Ridge Trail (#045) started at the west end of the Sockeye Campground (one of the ones with the severe speed bumps) so I made my way down to the end of the paved Redfish Lake Road. By the way, a Sockeye is a Salmon with bright red skin … thus the name of the lake, road, and the trail.
Starting the Ride
I found the trailhead right behind a bathroom and quickly began to ascend.
The Redfish Ridge Trail climbs well over 700 feet in a little over one mile, then begins to flatten out a little (up 250 feet in 2.7 miles). See the diagram below.
I rode the Redfish Lake Loop in the clockwise direction (as Bruce had advised) so I could do most of the steep climbing while under the forest canopy. The tread was mostly smooth singletrack on a pine needle base. Occasionally I ran into a rocky section and a few times I had to do a short hike-a-bike as the trail was too steep and rocky.
Bad Photo Day
The thick forest prevented me from taking photos of the lake until I neared the top of my climb. I was totally disappointed when my first photo opportunities occurred. The smoke in the air seemed like a blanket between me and my subjects. I took a couple of shots of the lake from atop the ridge and I could barely see the water.
From the ridge to the shoreline the Redfish Ridge Trail dropped over one thousand feet in 1.4 miles. A relatively smooth tread and well-rounded switchbacks made this descent a pleasure to ride.
The West End of the Lake
The thick forest continued right down the steep, rocky slope to the shoreline. I encountered several small bridges while circling the lake along the shoreline.
While riding I could see and hear several youngsters jumping off a large boulder. The thought of sliding into the cool liquid made me pedal faster.
By the time I got over to the other side of the lake all but two of the kids had left via motorboats. The two remaining fellas were yelling out across the lake while pounding down beers at an alarming rate! Based on the shape of the two kids I think they probably indulged while eating too.
I left my bike near the trail and made my way to the boulder, where I removed everything but my jersey and shorts. I knew the water on the west side of the lake was going to be cold due to the frigid creeks entering Redfish Lake from the glaciers thousands of feet above.
The icy water was still quite a jolt! From hot and dripping in sweat my body went into temporary shock in less than a second. With muscles clenched into a state of “near rigor mortise” I managed to dog paddle my way around the face of the boulder and climb up some scree. After a couple of shudders I began to put my socks back on … feeling great!
As I was putting on my shoes one of the young guys climbed up onto the rock from where their boat was anchored. He seemed to have trouble just maintaining balance as he announced in slurred speech, “I’mmm gooonna.” burp, “Dooo a froont fliip,” burp, “With two twists!”
I told him if he was going to do that I was going to video him on my phone. He said, “Okaaaay man.” But when l looked up after retrieving my phone from my bag he was just entering the water.” So, I did not see his dive but based on the splash I don’t think his front flip with two twists would have earned him a medal.
A couple of minutes of riding took me across a substantial bridge and into the Redfish Inlet Campground … only accessible by foot, bike, horseback, or boat. Several campers had their tents set up in the spaces closest to the water.
After checking out the kiosk and all the signs I selected the trail heading toward Bench Lakes, which I knew would eventually lead to the Redfish Lake Trailhead located near the Redfish Lodge.
The North Ridge
The trail climbing away from the lake on the northern side offered many opportunities for photos. Unfortunately the smoke had thickened and my pics of the looming peaks and the lake below all looked hazy.
Once I reached the top of the northern ridge I knew the climbing was over. I thought I would be able to zoom down to the lodge and quickly finish the ride. However, I hadn’t anticipated how rough I would find the trail. Loose rubble was scattered all over the place … conditions most likely caused by a lot of trail use including a lot of horse traffic.
I crossed the final bridge and exited at the Redfish Lake Trailhead next to the Redfish Lodge. A short ride on pavement brought me to our campsite.
Photos at Campsite
After I arrived I noticed Cindy on the road in front of our spot with her phone. I went out onto the road and found her taking photos of the sun behind the smoke. I went back and grabbed my phone and joined her. As the smoke accumulated the sun steadily became more and more red.
During most visits I take many more photos than I can place on a page. To view every image I captured … 67 photos in all, please visit my Photo Gallery Site.
The following link can give you all the stats for this ride … just click on the box below.
Would you like to try this ride? You can copy my GPX file from the Strava Link below.