Idaho is full of adventure for the outdoor enthusiast. Stanley, located just two and a half hours northeast of Boise, is a hub for hiking, biking, horseback riding, rafting and more. If you've ever been rafting on the Middle Fork of the Salmon, chances are you met up with you group in Stanley, and that is exactly where our Middle Fork of the Salmon trips start. Since you arrive in town at least a day before the actual rafting trip starts, you'll have some time to tour around the area, and it's well worth exploring! Whether you're in Stanley for whitewater rafting or passing through on a road trip, here are some ideas for things to do while you're there.
Stanley is surrounded by beautiful, towering peaks that offer an abundance of outdoor fun. Only about an hour drive from Sun Valley, the Stanley Basin is the focal point between the Sawtooth, White Cloud and Salmon River Ranges. Think of Stanley as a more remote and less touristy Jackson Hole (not that we don't love J-Hole, but it's a busy spot!). The Stanley Basin is choc full of outdoor recreational sports and adventures to keep the whole family entertained. Here are a few ideas for activities to try.
- Hiking - Go Big or... Go a little smaller: If you're looking for a longer day hike, you can't go wrong with a visit to the 10-mile roundtrip loop to Sawtooth and Alpine Lakes on the Iron Creek Trail. Head a couple of miles west of Stanley on Highway 21. Make a left onto Forest Road 619, and follow for a few miles until you arrive at the trailhead. You'll get to see both Alpine and Sawtooth Lakes, plus have a great view of Mt. Regan. This hike will definitely get you sweatin' so be prepared with plenty of water and snacks, and be sure to take breaks when you need to. And of course, bring a map! If you want a quicker, easier hike, turn back at Alpine Lake before the trail gets a bit more difficult (roundtrip loop to Alpine Lake is about 8 miles)
- Biking: Seemingly endless trails and no crowds; what more could you want! Fisher Creek Loop is a great moderate ride and comes equipped with incredible views of the mountains surrounding Stanley. Head 20 minutes south of Stanley on HWY 75. You'll find the Williams Creek Trailhead parking area. From there, bike south a few miles to Fisher Creek Road (on the left). Enjoy the gradual climb, but don't get too comfortable; it will get steeper! There is some single-track trails if you're into that sort of fun (it is pretty fun!). After you reach the highest point of the trail, you get to coast DOWN! It is a great ride back down the hill; enjoy the scenery and treat yourself to a cold beer after those 18 miles of hard work!
- Fishing: Stanley has some incredible fishing! From the higher mountain lakes to the lower elevation lakes, and not to mention all of the surrounding rivers, you will have plenty of water to fish. Your best bet for the best fishing is to check with a local shop to find out where the fish are biting and what they're going for. This site is a great resource for information on fishing in the Stanley area.
- And Beyond! Aside from the above, try horseback riding, rock climbing, floating, and more... Stanley is your adventure-oyster!
Food & Drink
Whether you're looking for a casual, quick bite, a foodie's fix, or the best breakfast in town, Stanley has it all. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Rise & Shine: If you're in need of a tasty cup o' joe and a hearty breakfast, head to the Stanley Baking Co. This Stanley institution offers homemade breakfast items, including some incredible pancakes you don't want to miss out on. Be sure to pick up a few of their freshly baked goods on the way out!
- Small Town Charm, Big City Taste: Looking for a spectacular meal that you might not expect to find in a small town? Stanley has just what you're looking for. BackCountry Bistro is delicious "Southern Fusion" with a worldly touch. Their Prix-Fixe seasonal menu will satisfy your appetite, a great wine and beer list will quench your thirst, and the elegant yet rustic feel of the place will reassure you that you're far from any big cities.
- Good Ol' Stops: Maybe youre looking for something a little more low-key after that long day of hiking and exploring the mountains surrounding Stanley. For more casual dining, head to The Redd Restaurant or Papa Brunee's. The Redd offers more of a restaurant's take on at-home-style dishes, and the menu changes daily. Papa Brunee's is all about that tasty pizza and a cold beer.
Where to Stay
While there are quite a few lodging options that are sure to satisfy what you're looking for, we suggest the Mountain Village Resort. Plus, if you are joining us for a rafting trip, you'll be staying there the night before you take off on your adventure!
- Has it All and a Bed: Looking for that rustic mountain lodge that makes you feel like you're... in the mountains? But still want comfort and cleanliness (who wouldn't!)? The Mountain Village Resort truly has it all - a restaurant, saloon, RV park, it's within walking distance of downtown Stanley, and they even have a private hot spring! All against the backdrop of the beautiful mountains.
No matter what you decide to do in Stanley, you are sure to have a ton of fun, breathe in a lot of fresh mountain air, and step away from the busy hustle and bustle of everyday life. Happy travels!