This next area isn't technically in east Idaho as the region is altogether closer to Boise than it is Rexburg, but if you are in the mood to drive 4 hours, this is worth the trip! You can barely see the outer peaks of the wilderness from Rexburg, softly calling you to them as they rise above the vast sagebrush fields. But oh are they calling, and I definitely recommend answering! There are countless hikes, named and unnamed, throughout the Sawtooth wilderness. Lakes dot the landscape, some of which are accessible by car, others by hikes that range from 2-20 miles and more.
This trip, I barely scratched the surface of what the Sawtooths have to offer. However, from what I saw I am in awe! I highly recommend entering the valley from the north by taking highway 75 from 93 - Mackay and Arco. On that drive you'll pass Mt. Borah (the tallest peak in Idaho) rising beside you capped in snow and stark in contrast to the river valley below. The drive to the Sawtooths is honestly rather dull unless you really like high desert scenery or wide open skies, but once you enter the mountains and follow the Salmon River, the view for over 100 miles is breathtaking. The first view of the Sawtooths, as you enter the valley at Stanley, is also breathtaking in all sense of the word. I really don't have any more words for it. This place is beautiful!!
I made a point to visit each of the big lakes you can drive to in the Sawtooths. There are many more you can hike to, which I highly recommend doing. If you are simply on a drive, I highly recommend Redfish and Alturas Lakes. Each one has many hikes around them. There is plenty of opportunity for fishing, camping, boating, horseback riding, hunting, etc. This place has so much! Because of that, it is pretty commercialized in the valley, however the wilderness is notoriously wild. If you want to get away from people, get into the mountains. It is absolutely wild country. It will not disappoint with its views and vistas, I can promise that.
Camping is restricted in some areas, mostly around the lakes. You have to get into the wilderness to camp for free and unhindered, which is honestly better in my opinion. Take this trip! What else can I say? The little hike I did to a silent meadow was stunning too, and it was only 4 miles long. Take a hike! Find a road! Get out and explore, you'll love it!
Here are pictures from my brief Memorial day trip (which btw was less crowded than expected). Enjoy!!