Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Stanley, ID

  • Published 2022/07/22

Surrounded by beautiful, untouched wilderness, Stanley, Idaho, has been one of the top-notch places to go any time of the year.

It was in the 1820s when the Hudson’s Bay Company fur traders discovered the Stanley Basin, although it was taken for granted due to the lack of beavers.

A Confederate Civil War veteran named Captain John Stanley led a group in discovering more treasure in 1863 through the south end of Sawtooth Valley.

In 1919, Stanley became a town in Custer County after its lots and streets were surveyed and officially recorded.

Remarkably, the 2017 solar eclipse gathered many visitors in the Stanley area, where the Milky Way is visible.

It was when the town also sought the International Dark-Sky Association’s seal of approval.

The town’s natural beauty, beautiful scenery, exciting outdoor excursions, and wildlife, among other things, will leave you in awe.

So if you plan for a quick escape from the city’s buzzing noise, here are the best things to do in Stanley, Idaho:

Go River Rafting with Hughes River Expeditions

When adventure calls, Hughes River Expeditions is just right in the heart of Stanley.

Established in 1976 by Carole and Jerry Hughes, the outfitting service offers river rafting that stretches from Middle Fork of the Salmon, Main Salmon, River of No Return, Salmon River Canyons, and the beautiful Selway River.

Meals are included during the trip, complete with utensils, water, soda, juice, beer, wine, and more.

Your camping and rafting gear are also included in the trip.

Hughes River Expeditions is permitted and licensed by the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Visit the Stanley Museum

Located on the outskirts of Stanley at State Hwy 75, the Stanley Museum showcases historic artifacts ranging from mining, ranching, and more.

It also exhibits the restored Ice House, where visitors can walk in and check how food was preserved or refrigerated long ago.

The Civilian Conservation Corps built the museum in 1930, and rangers lived and worked here until 1972.

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area developed the building until it was opened to the public as a museum.

You can enjoy a meal on the lawn with picnic tables and a great view.

Admission to the Stanley Museum is free, but donations are also accepted.

Hike across the Sawtooth Range

Whether you’re an experienced hiker or new to this adventure, hiking across the Sawtooth Range is definitely worth your time.

See the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains Range up close and personal, surrounded by gorgeous creeks, stunning alpine lakes, and breathtaking viewpoints.

It’s also great for a family hike, so you don’t have to worry about how the kids would settle during the trip.

The most famous starting point of the hike is at Redfish Lake Lodge, located at 401 Redfish Lodge Road.

It includes a boat trip, which gives you a chance to see one of the most stunning lakes in the country.

You can either do a half or full-day hike, and 9:00 a.m. would be the best time to start the trip.

The Sawtooth Range got its name from its picturesque jagged mountain peaks.

Relax and Soak in the Mountain Village Hot Spring

After a long day of hiking or any other outdoor excursion, you can take time and relax at the famous Mountainn Village Hot Spring.

The hot spring is complimentary to all guests of Mountain Village Resort.

Upon arrival, you will need to reserve your time, but private soaks may not be available at all times due to the hot spring’s popularity.

The man-made pool is piped with natural hot water and can cater to eight peoplesimultaneouslye.

Depending on the season, the pool maintains a 98° to 104°F temperature.

The pool is in the small log building, which is a walking distance from the lodge with two changing rooms and benches.

You can open the pool’s barn-style door to get stunning views of the creek and the spectacular Sawtooth mountains.

The Mountain Village Hot Spring is located in Mountain Village Resort at 220 Eva Falls Avenue.

Enjoy the Beautiful Views at Stanley Pioneer Park

After a long day hiking or biking, you can drop by Stanley Pioneer Park to see magnificent views of the Sawtooth mountains.

If you have kids, you’re in luck.

The park has several playground equipment for them to enjoy.

It’s spacious enough for the kids to run around, and there are some grills to do a barbecue if you want to have a picnic.

There’s also a frisbee golf course and a baseball field, which is excellent for those who want to play in the mornings or afternoons.

What’s more exciting is that at night, you can go stargazing in the park, where you can see the clearest skies front-row.

You can find Stanley Pioneer Park at 1-1102 Airport Road.

Channel Your Inner Equestrian at Mystic Saddle Ranch

Since 1969, Mystic Saddle Ranch has provided premier horseback riding through the gorgeous lodgepole pine forests, along the morainal ridges, and mountain meadows.

You can ride for an hour or up to a whole day of adventure to enjoy the beautiful and majestic views of lakes, aspen trees, and much more.

But the adventure doesn’t stop there.

You can also go backpacking, fishing, camping, and hunting with the help of the experienced guides that the outfitting service has.

Mystic Saddle Ranch is located at 75 Redfish Lake Road.

Experience Fly Fishing at the River of No Return

With the help of Salmon River Anglers (SRA), you can experience a world-class fly-fishing adventure in the free-flowing Salmon River (also known as the River of No Return) and in the Middle Fork of the Salmon.

You can enjoy a half-day or full-day fly fishing, lasting from five to eight hours, with delicious, catered riverside lunch and drinks.

Or, if you’re a beginner, there is a two-to-four-hour class that includes dryland fly fishing instruction at the headwater part of the Salmon River.

The class equips you with a drift boat, fly rod, flies, a fishing instructor, and all other fishing equipment.

Salmon River Anglers is headquartered at 166 Niece Avenue.

Explore the Stanley Basin

The Stanley Basin offers hundreds of well-groomed and scenic trails where you can go hiking, biking, skiing, or snowmobiling.

The latter is something that Sawtooth Traxx offers.

A motorsports rental company, Sawtooth Traxx, provides ATV and snowmobile rentals for you to explore the gorgeous Stanley Basin.

Enjoy the exciting trails against the backdrop of the Sawtooth mountain ranges.

Sawtooth Traxx is located at 555 Eva Falls Avenue.

Bike and Discover the Wonders of Sawtooth Valley

In Stanley, it’s not just about hiking, fishing, river rafting, or camping.

It’s also about biking, where you can see and discover the fantastic trails of the Sawtooth Valley.

The valley offers the beautiful lakes of Stanley, Alturas, Redfish, and Pettit with a headwater of the Salmon River.

You will also see the gorgeous mountain peaks of Sawtooth, White Cloud, Salmon River Mountains, Boulder, and Smoky.

Sawtooth Valley, in 2017, became a part of the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve.

If you need a bike, you can visit Balance Bike Works at 300 Eva Falls Avenue or its satellite shop close to Red Fish Lake Lodge.

Dine at Papa Brunee’s Pizza & Subs

Of course, food is one important part of visiting a place, and Papa Brunee’s Pizza & Subs doesn’t disappoint.

Located at 645 Ace of Diamonds Street, the restaurant gives a scenic view of the Sawtooth Mountains.

They have pizzas, sandwiches, calzones, beers, and wines.

And if you need to carry out food, the restaurant also offers the service.

Go get a taste of Idaho at Papa Brunee’s Pizza & Subs.

Book a Stay at Mountain Village Resort

For your planned Stanley wilderness escape, make Mountain Village Resort a part of your holidays.

Located at the intersection of Highway 75 & 21 in Eva Falls Avenue, the resort also has an in-house bar, restaurant and saloon, mercantile, and a complete automotive service station.

There’s also a dance hall where you can find entertainment and live music.

Most of all, it’s where the hot spring is housed in a barn-style building, with a breathtaking view of the Sawtooth mountain ranges.

Mountain Village Resort officially opened in May 2014.

Buy an Artwork at the Gerheim Gallery

Leaving Stanley filled with joy and adventure is one for the books.

But leaving Stanley with a beautiful artwork made by a local artist is another story to tell.

Located at 250 Niece Avenue, the Gerheim Gallery is owned and operated by a talented, skilled, and experienced photographer named Thad Gerheim.

At the gallery, you will find his photography featuring the beautiful Sawtooth mountain ranges, rivers, lakes, and all other Stanley wilderness, as well as its neighboring places.

It also features different artworks by local artists, such as woodworks, furniture, glass, and sculpture.

Hike or Backpack at Alice Lake

Stretching from Pettit Lake to Salmon River, Alice Lake is worth a day trip to hike or go backpacking.

It’s an alpine lake in the Sawtooth Mountains offering pristine sparkling blue-green water, towering jagged mountain peaks, blue skies, and green vegetation.

The lake, though, can stay frozen until the beginning of the summer season.

The routes are also a little steep, which can’t be considered a leisure walk like you’re in the park, but it’s gorgeous and worth a try.

You can find and start the adventure head-on at State Highway 75, where Alice Lake is easily accessed.

Enjoy the spectacular scenery in the Sawtooth Wilderness, and leave Stanley with a smile on your face and a great story to tell to your friends and loved ones.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Try Skiing at Alturas Lake & Park Creek Ski Trails

The gorgeous and scenic Alturas Lake & Park Creek Ski Trails offer another fun adventure if you visit Stanley.

With groomed trail loop of about 32 kilometers, you can enjoy snowmobiling and snowshoeing.

But the most popular snow activities on the trail are cross-country skiing and backcountry skiing, where you can enjoy the gorgeous views of the mountains.

Park Creek is also nearby, with beautifully groomed 12 kilometers of scenic routes.

You can enjoy winding through the gorgeous meadows and forest and experience a fun-filled winter adventure!

Alturas Lake & Park Creek Ski Trails is 32 minutes away from Stanley.

Go Fishing and Camping at Little Redfish Lake

If you’re into camping, there’s a fun way to do that at Little Redfish Lake, less than 10 minutes south of Stanley.

While camping, you can also go fishing at the lake, where you can find different varieties of fish, including bass, brook trout, kokanee, bull trout, salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon, among others.

To keep the lake clean and safe, motorized boats are prohibited.

Drinking water, parking, and flush toilets are also available in this stunning 66.6-acre area.

The lake was named after a red-scaled sockeye salmon that goes to the area every year via Salmon River, making it a guest-favorite lake since the 1880s.

You can camp up to 10 days with pets as long as they’re kept on their leashes.

Little Redfish Lake is truly a magnificent place to visit in Stanley!

Final Thoughts

Lush vegetation, pristine water, picturesque jagged mountain peaks, and exciting trails are just among the outdoor adventures Stanley offers.

You can also find talented local artists and historical artifacts preserved for the next generation.

Most of all, it’s where you can create great memories to take with you for a lifetime.

Hurry now and start planning your visit to the gorgeous wilderness of Stanley, Idaho!

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