Jagged peaks, crystal clear lakes, abundant wildlife, and rarefied air give riders plenty of reasons to horseback through the vast Sawtooth Wilderness in central Idaho. But there's another, perhaps more important than just scenery: Solitude.
"That's a popular opinion," says Darl Allred, owner of Sawtooth Adventure Outfitters of Garden Valley, Idaho. "We'll go into the backcountry and go four or five days without seeing anyone."
Within the wilderness, the sprawling Sawtooth National Recreational Area (SNRA) is 756,000 acres of federally protected land that's free of all motorized traffic, including bicycles, as well as industry. Though, legendary Western actor Clint Eastwood managed to film the visually arresting Pale Rider (1985) in the SNRA. The scene for the dramatic opening credits was shot near Stanley. In fact, Eastwood (and many other well-healed stars) often vacation in Sun Valley and the Sawtooths.
"This is probably one of the most scenic places in the United States," says Allred. "The Sawtooths are often referred to as the American Alps." Just bring a jacket for the cool elevations, a fishing license for the 140 alpine lakes, and your chaps for the many hours of rugged trail riding.
Sawtooth Adventure Outfitters-guided ride (208-462-3416, sawtoothadventures.com) in Garden Valley offers two- to 10-day horsepacking trips for $225 per day. Horses can ascend to about 8,000 feet in the Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho and access 300 miles of U.S. Forest Service trails.