Very few mountain bike trails come this close to being "within" the Sawtooth Mountains beside the Redfish Lake Loop. This fun, but rough, loop is worth the effort. Be prepared for some steep climbs and rocky areas with great views overlooking the 5.0-mile long lake.
I've ridden this loop in September and passed very few people, but there can be lots of hikers on the north ridge heading towards the popular Bench Lakes during the summer.
From the trailhead below Redfish Lake, cross the road heading north towards the Fishhook Trail #186
. You'll begin climbing through beautiful stands of aspen. Pass by the Fishhook Trail #186
, climbing the west ridge above Redfish Lake towards the Bench Lakes Trail. Parts of the west ridge are rocky and challenging but rideable.
Once on top of the ridge, the riding becomes easier with great views overlooking the lake. Pass by the Bench Lakes Trail and soon begin descending to the inlet campground. This is my favorite part of the ride with great views of the Grand Mogul. At the inlet campground, continue heading around the lake and prepare for a steep and loose climb to gain the east ridge.
The upper end of Redfish is lush with vegetation and streams. You'll have to hike-a-bike in some places. After a steep ascent of the east ridge (the most difficult part of the loop), begin riding northward along the ridge. There are plenty of rocks to slow you down. The trail will descend to the campground on the east side of Redfish Lake, where you can ride the paved road a couple miles back to the trailhead.
We rode this loop twice in August 2016 and both times rode clockwise around the lake. The climbs were reasonably easy and we thought the rocky descent on the west side of the lake was more fun to descend than ride up. The descent to the head of the lake is also good in this direction, whilst the climb from the head of the lake around the west side is all rideable.
There is the odd carry section around the head of the lake but they are quite short.