White water rafting Sun Valley, Idaho

5 great hikes in Stanley

You come to Stanley, Idaho for the rafting.  But then,  as you are cruising back into town after a day of floating, the steep granite wall which comprises the Sawtooth mountains come into view.  Their deep folds hint of hidden lakes and tumbling waterfalls and you know you must stay, at least for a day, to explore.  There are innumerable hikes to choose from in the Sawtooth Mountains.  Lucky for you, the River Company is comprised of a group of people who, when not enjoying the swift moving waters surrounding Stanley, love hiking the dusty trails of the Sawtooths (afterall, it is our job to know the area, we must do that job well).  We’ve explored the terrain summer after summer and have narrowed it down to five “must do” hikes.

Great for kids and adults

The first, Bench Lakes, is a great hike for a variety of ages and abilities.  This hike starts at the beautiful Redfish Lake which is 15 minutes outside of Stanley.  The well-maintained trail runs above and parallel to the lake, through cottonwood and pine.  After a short, moderate climb, the trail is relatively flat.  The first of three Bench Lakes is about 4 miles from the trailhead.  All three lakes sit in deep rock benches (hence the name).  The swimming and views are incredible.

If you are looking for a shorter, and just as mellow a hike, the Fish Hook trail is perfect.  The trailhead is the same as Bench Lakes, yet instead of turning to follow the Redfish shore, go straight into a shaded pine forest.  The pinnacle of this hike is at the turnaround point about two miles in.  Here the forest opens up to a waterlogged meadow and stunning views of the Sawtooths.

Incredible views

If you are interested in starting your hike with a boat ride, Alpine Lake is a great option.  The trailhead is on the far end of Redfish lake.  There is a shuttle boat which can take you across the lake to the trailhead for a small fee.  From here is it a steep but beautiful hike to the lake.  You will pass under Elephant’s Perch which is a destination spot for rock climbers, and come to one of the clearest lakes in the Sawtooths.

Another hot spot for rock climbing is The Finger of Fate.  The name describes it all: a huge column of rock jutting towards the sky in the form of a pointer finger.  For those who love to be on the very top of things, no matter what the risk, climbing The Finger is a must.  For the rest of us, just getting within sight of the rock is pretty amazing.  To do that, the hike to Hellroaring Lake is a great option. Though is it five miles to the lake, it is a fast five miles. The terrain is flat and weaves through the forest so it stays cool.  The lake itself is a standard Sawtooth crystal clear and the Finger of Fate stands unobstructed in the background.


The trail at the inlet of Stanley Lake is the last on our “must do” hikes.  The well-maintained trail leads you through open meadows full of a variety of wildflowers, thick forests and eventually to two waterfalls.  The first, Ladyface Falls is difficult to get to: a steep scramble down loose rock. Once there, the falls are a series of steep short plunges through tight spaces in rock.  As a result, the air is misty with the strength of the moving water.  The second waterfall is called Bridleveil Falls.  It is farther down the trail and slightly easier to get to.  Bridleveil Falls is a long, straight curtain of water with clinging yellow flowers on either side.