White Cloud Peaks Loop is a 28.1 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Stanley, Idaho that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, and backpacking and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length28.1 miElevation gain7,148 ftRoute typeLoop
Dogs on leashBackpackingCampingHikingForestLakeViewsWildflowersWildlifeRockyScrambleOff trail
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Waypoints (0)

Start at the Fourth of July Creek trail, and follow the trail uphill on wide, well-worn trail (horses and mountain bikes share this part of the trail) through sparse pine and fir to your turn off, at 1.7 miles. From here, you will follow the trail uphill, more steeply towards Born Lakes, and reach a small, unnamed tarn at 2.35 miles, and keep to its south banks to gain the ridge above. It’s all open now, so it will be easy to see where the best access to the ridge will be. Once on the ridge, follow it uphill to reach the summit of Patterson Peak, at 10,854ft of elevation and 3.3 miles in from the TH. The views from here are spectacular, in 360 degrees, as there is nothing but peak after jagged peak stretching out before you, with lake filled basins on two sides, one downhill to Born Lakes, just north from where you’re standing, and NE, down into the Four Lakes basin, your next destination. Heading down into the lakes from the top, you will see a faint climbers trail in the scree field that leads to the basin. At the bottom, you will walk a small division of land between Rock Lake, and Emerald Lake to just below Emerald, at 4.3 miles, where you will intersect a well-worn trail that leads down beside the lowest lake, Cornice Lake. Head uphill slightly east, and find a gully on the other side, that leads downhill, follow the gully down to a U shaped end, and you should see the marshy land below with pools of water amidst mounded humps of grass. Find the easiest route downhill, following this drainage to the southern edge of large Quiet Lake, at 5.4 miles. As you round the lake, you will have spectacular views of the dominant peaks of Serrate Ridge, lined up in a row like sharks teeth, on the east side of the lake. At the north end of the lake, make your way uphill to Scree and Shallow Lake, again off trail. At the northern end of Shallow Lake, at 6.87 miles, you will head straight uphill, steeply, to a small unnamed tarn on this bench. Now, angle away from the small tarn NE, to reach Windy Devil Pass, at 10,059ft elevation, and 7.47 miles in. Laid out before you at the bottom of the pass is the Boulder Chain Lakes Basin, several named lakes feed one another as the Boulder Chain Lake creek plunges downhill through this spectacular valley. You are now on established trail, and the going is all downhill now through several beautiful alpine lakes to your camp at Shelf Lake, 10.3 miles total. Day 2 will take you from Shelf lake downhill past Hatchet and Willow Lake, to a junction at .7 miles, where you will turn right on Little Boulder Creek trail. Now, through a meadow or two and around a bend on a ridge, and ahead to your SW, you will see magnificent Castle Peak in the distance. The trail runs along an open ridge for short distance, before switch backing downhill to the Chamberlain Lakes trail #47, across a small stream, at 2.14 miles. Turn right and it’s all uphill, gaining the ground lost, as you follow the trail steadily up 5.73 miles to the rolling hills at the base of Castle Peak. This massive white granite mountain towers over the terrain, topping out at over 11,000ft and blocks out the sky here. Now, leave the trail, head downhill to the base of the peak, and you can follow the rolling flat land to a cairn marked route at 6.23 miles. There is a well-established footpath that side hills the steep scree field around the NE ridge of Castle peak, to a large amphitheater that contains scenic Castle Lake, a worthy side hike that should not be passed up. Head back to where you left the trail, and follow a winding path to the top of Castle Divide, your high point pass for the day, at 10,000ft. Again, spectacular views are presented from this saddle perch. Now, its all downhill for some time through sparsely treed terrain to your junction to Upper Chamberlain Lakes, reached at mile 10.4, on the eastern edge of the largest of the Chamberlain lakes. Follow the trail across the meadow, then uphill along the outlet stream to the uppermost of the lakes, at 11.8 miles. There are a couple sites at the lower of the two, and a couple at the upper. Day 3 takes you back downhill to the junction at the lower lake, turn right and follow the trail steadily uphill for 1.4 miles where you will round a ridge, then begin another headlong descent through mostly forested hillside for the next 1.78 miles, until you reach the junction with the Germania/Washington Lake trail. Prepare for another uphill assault through mostly forest to reach the next trail junction, at Germania Creek/4th of July Creek in a large meadow at 6.45 miles. Turn right, and follow the 4th of July Creek trail uphill to Washington Lake, another large lake that sits at the base of Washington Pass, your final high point before heading steadily downhill past 4th of July Lake, and your junction back to the TH, a 10 mile trek.

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Reviews (46)
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Activities (44)
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Jennifer Williams
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 7, 2020
BackpackingGreat!No shadeOff trailRockyScramble

This is a really tough trail in a couple of parts and wouldn't recommended for beginners or those freaked out by scrambling, sliding, or sketchy steep hikes without clear trails. We did counter clock wise, 4th of July trailhead to Chamberlain onto Willow Lake then onto four lakes basin (incredibly windy and not more than a couple good camping spots). The trail marked on AllTrails for leaving the basin to get to 4th of July trailhead is wrong. Ended up scrambling and rock climbing to get up and around the mountain ridge and had several wrong tries. The descent is also a knee buster as it's very steep and loose. Doing it again I think we'd consider skipping four lakes basin and going out at the boulder trailhead instead. Quiet lake and lodgepole lake are gorgeous, clean and quiet. Overall good but be prepared for what you are signing up for.

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Matt Hyder
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 6, 2020
HikingNo shadeOff trailRockyScramble

2/3 of this loop was great. The last 1/3 (counter clockwise; from Windy devil through 4 lakes to 4thOfJuly TH was NOT). Total BS heading out from 4 lakes basin. AllTrails is completely off. Just a S*** show of random trails all over a scree field, with no main trail, and where AT pointed us had nothing; getting to the ridge just revealed cliffs on the other side; totally impassable. Finally made it out another way that wasn't listed on any maps we found (even with 3 other groups we discussed with). Never again.

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Rhianna Wallace
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 4, 2020
BackpackingOff trailRockyScramble

This trail is hard. Would not recommend for beginning backpackers. With that being said it is beautiful! We did a 3 night 4 day trip. The first day we hiked from the 4th of July Trailhead to Born Lakes. The trail is mainly uphill and well marked. The ridge overlooking Ants Basin is beautiful. We camped at the middle born lake, which we actually thought was the largest and most northern lake...if was not. The next morning we began our trek up a large boulder field, there is no marked trail and thankfully we had people assist us over the ridge to the four lakes basin. There is a very steep decline, with loose gravel and sketchy foot holds. We traveled from the rock field past the lakes down another incredibly sketchy boot path with multiple scrambles, steep descents and loose foot holds. I would not recommend the path we took. Quiet Lake was beautiful and very enchanting, dipped our feet in the water which was very refreshing. There are a couple camp spots here which I highly recommend! From here we scrambled over another ridge by staying the left side of the lake with the boulder field and scree. There is a second lake where another group found an actual path, which is to the right of scree lake l, instead of left and I highly recommend that versus continued bouldering and scree. Once you hit scree lake you ascend another off path climb which at this point is agonizing because all you want to a defined trail. At the top is windy devil pass which finally starts an actual trail with several switch backs to the beautiful Boulder Chain Lakes. From here we stayed at Lodgepole Lake which had a beautiful large camp ground. The next day we followed the trail over a large high pass to Merrian Peak which was gorgeous!!! Would not recommend Castle Lake as a side trip, it isn’t that pretty and the views from the top of the ridge are better. There is limited water once you leave the boulder chain so make sure you fill up your water at Willow Lake or one of the previous lakes. Once over the ridge you travel mostly downhill to the chamber lake basin. The lower lake is beautiful and has ton of great camp spots. The upper basin is pretty but quite windy and limited camping spots. Fill up your water before you leave camp because there is limited water for the next 5 miles. The hike out was about 10 miles with two passes that weren’t as difficult as the previous and well marked. Washington Lake is a great spot to have lunch before you head back to the trailhead. Pros: Beautiful scenery with amazing views Excellent camp spots Varied terrain with lakes, green forests, passes, boulders and ridges Cons: Not figo friendly. We took our dogs and both were pretty wrecked after due to the elevation gain/loss and scree Unmarked trails, with sketchy boot paths that involving scrambling and technical ascents/descents

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Bailey Wilcox
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 31, 2020
BackpackingOff trailRockyScrambleWashed out

Hardest trail I’ve ever done. Go clockwise and do not follow the all trails map rigidly as there is no existing trail miles 2-8. Go in general direction and follow the description along with having a map to know the lakes. Very beautiful views, but we did not appreciate them as much because of how much work and mileage we we’re putting in. Hiked going clockwise from 4th July TH to the lake at Chamberlin Pass in one day and I do not recommend going this far. Have more days, prepare to bush wack and climb mountain passes without trails. From Hatchet lake and on is on trail and much easier to follow.

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katie stodick
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 24, 2020
HikingOff trailRockyScramble

Challenging but entirely worth all the effort! Some of the directions were difficult to follow, glad we had a GPS.

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Parker W
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 24, 2020
HikingOff trailScramble

Amazing loop! Went clockwise and got the hard parts out of the way first. Devil’s staircase is intimidating from a distance, but not too bad when you’re on it. Coming down from it is pretty loose and will set little mini rock avalanches off so be careful where people are above and below you. I wouldn’t call the loop busy, but there were people camping at most of the lakes. When picking a tent site, pay attention to the trees and avoid sites where dead trees are in falling distance. They call them widow makers for a reason. Water was only scarce once you get on the established trail when you start the big climb on the east side of the loop.

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Jorge Orozco
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 17, 2020
HikingBugsOff trailRockyScramble

This trail can definitely be challenging. After you get to the base of Patterson Peak you’ll notice the trail on AllTrails is a steep scree slope up to the ridge- we did not take that route and instead hiked up a safer route further down the ridge. Climbing to the summit of Patterson Peak was interesting, as the AllTrails map isn’t really accurate and there’s tons of different paths to get there made by people. Be cautious here as it gets windy and the climb up can have loose rock- I recommend a pole or two and gloves to make your way up and then down the Devils Staircase. For the Devils Staircase, I recommend being familiar with controlled scree sliding and navigation as it’s quite the ride downhill to the first basin. We noticed some decently fresh cougar markings and scat/scratches in the first basin chain of hills that you hike through after the Devils Staircase. Past the first few lakes in that basin the trail starts getting funky. You’ll notice that it can be hard to follow and that often the trail is barely visible. We accidentally ended up following some game trails because they were clearer than the actual trail. We honestly went off trail on accident a few times as it was super hard to tell which trail was the right one because none are clearly marked. Creativity and safety is a must as you will navigate up and down some scree getting to Scree lake and up to the Windy Devil. Once you reach the Windy Devil, the trail will become way more visible and easy to follow the rest of the way out. Be prepared for many ups and downs in elevation the rest of the way out, and keep an eye out for bears in the Boulder Chain Lakes Basin (we spotted claw marks on plenty of trees, paw prints, and some older scat). Make sure to grab water before you get to the old mine as it won’t be present until a few miles up the hill. My biggest advice- bring bug repellent and perhaps a head net to keep the swarms of mosquitos at bay. They’re everywhere and seem quite hungry. Bear spray is recommended for your safety, and a way to tie your food/smelly supplies between trees is needed to keep it away from hungry creatures.

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Jace Mustagog
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJuly 9, 2020
Hiking

great view on every mountain. but the trail disappears so many times. we are camping out near the tallest mountain. this page says we go straight up it with no switchbacks. looks nearly impossible from our point of view.

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Jace Mustagog
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 7, 2020
Hiking

gorgeous hike. lots of incline. and a creek or two without a bridge

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Olivia Sweat
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 2, 2019
HikingBugs

This was our second trip up here. We finally made it to the lakes. Last year there was just too much snow and we couldn’t risk getting hurt with packs on. We stayed at Hatchet Lake for three nights. It was great. Lots of bugs... very few people.. lots of rain. Several fierce storms came over and literally shook the ground. We went up three more lakes though... Shelf, Sliderock, and Lodgepole. So fun. The company was awesome (some good friends and of course my husband) and we are so glad we were finally able to see the views that everyone has been talking about.

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James O'dell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 11, 2019
Hiking

good exercise

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James O'dell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 10, 2019
HikingOff trailRockyScramble

great scramble from upper upper big lake to the uppermost Chamberlain lake. about .2 miles in I would go further south if your not found of scaling cliffs.

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