Hyndman Saddle Hike

On Saturday, I woke up early and headed to the trailhead, intending to hike up to Hyndman Peak, the high point of Central Idaho’s Pioneer Mountains. The overall hike ended up being a difficult one, with more constant beauty than I had expected. It has easily become one of my favorite hikes of the year so far!

I spent the last week planning and getting excited about doing a difficult hike near where I’ve been camping. After doing Pioneer Cabin the week before, with a wonderful view of the mountains, I have had wonderful anticipation of the hike I had already begun planning.

Waking up early Saturday, I drove to the Hyndman Creek trailhead and set off shortly after 7:30am. The trail started off in mixed forest and plentifully wildflower full meadows. The trail remained occasionally muddy, or even fully washed over with running water throughout, but the occasional bridge at least reduced the full degree of foot soaking.

A slow, steady climb at first, the trail quickly began to turn into steep climbs, with only a nice, occasional break on level ground. The kind of steepness that leaves you wishing for switchbacks, none of which are truly found along this hike. As this continues, the trail also begins to become less and less maintained.

Near one of the first ponds, displaying a beautiful reflection of everything around it, I began to see some backpackers out enjoying the weekend, but one of the steepest followed immediately. Thankfully, as I reached the top, an amazing view of towering mountains and gorgeous creeks peaked into view. They would stay in view as the climb continued on from here.

Eventually, I finally crested onto the wonderfully beautiful Sundance Lake, surrounded by a variety of wildflower and with Hyndman towering above it. I began to stop to refill my water bottle and eat a quick snack, but the flies and mosquitoes quickly swarmed around me, getting in on their own feast. It wasn’t worth it!

So, I continued the climb. From this point, although the trail was still quite well worn, it quickly began to disappear. I found myself in a scree field, following a confusing series of cairns that seemed to go off in multiple directions. I just kept following whatever seemed good for the moment, climbing my way up. Here, the occasional snow field blocked the path, and the occasional stream dropping into the also gorgeous upper lake made the path unavoidably foot soaking. I was having a blast making the hike through this section as I approached the final, steep climb up to the saddle between Hyndman and Old Hyndman peaks.

Alas, I finally made it to the top of the saddle, where amazing 360 degree views opened up. I stopped to take some pictures and enjoy the absolute beauty surrounding me. At this point, I looked at the time and stared up at the remaining ascent up to Hyndman peak. Unfortunately, I had made the plan to be headed down the mountain by noon no matter what, and I quickly realized there was no way I was going to be able to make the summit and keep this plan, both. Actually, I wasn’t really bummed about this at all, though. The saddle, alone, was absolutely worth the hike, and I was entirely satisfied!

Admitting that I wasn’t going to make it to Hyndman Peak itself, I called it at the saddle and began to make my way back down the steep path to the trailhead. The wonderful views I missed for lack of turning around every step on the way up continued to amaze me all the way down before I arrived back at the trailhead shortly after 2pm to return to camp.

Overall, this hike turned out to be 12.57 miles with 4389.76ft of cumulative elevation gain. Given the difficult terrain, the steepness, and other factors, this is a pretty extreme hike, to be honest. Not something I would recommend to someone not in good hiking condition. However, it is a hike I would absolutely recommend for those willing to build up to it! I hope to do it again some day, hopefully arriving at the summit of Hyndman when that time comes!

Of silent note:

On Sunday, I took a relaxing day to drive up to Stanley and explore the area. I found a wonderful campsite on Nip & Tuck Road, just outside of the quaint town, which I quickly decided to take up. With a 16 day stay limit, I could secure this campsite all of the way through the upcoming “Great American Eclipse”. Although the view of the Sawtooths is amazing, I haven’t taken proper pictures yet, as the smoke from wildflowers across the region continue to block it. Nonetheless, it is a lovely campsite!

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