White water rafting Sun Valley, Idaho

What to do in Stanley, Idaho.

Writing about my favorite things to do in Sun Valley last week got me thinking about all the things I love to do in Stanley too. Embedded in the middle of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Stanley is a spectacular place. A visit here will leave you wanting to come back again and again. For those of you coming from far away, especially if it is your first time to the area, here is my list of must-do’s in Stanley.

  1. Spend the day at Redfish Lake—I never get bored at Redfish. The kids and I go there several times a week to hang out. If we tire of the beach we might take out a canoe or paddle boat for an hour to two. Then we might get an ice cream cone from the gazebo, walk to the dog beach, explore the nature trail at the visitor’s center or hike along the river looking for critters. Later in the day, Dave might join us for live music on the lawn and maybe a cocktail or two on the porch. A special treat is dinner in the beautifully rustic lodge. It never gets old at Redfish.
  2. Soak in Sunbeam Hot Springs—Once the spring runoff subsides and the river level lowers, the undeveloped pools at Sunbeam come out. Some are shallow, some are a little deeper, some are colder and some are really hot, but they all offer a wonderfully relaxing riverside soak.
  3. Go river rafting with The River Company—There’s no better way to experience this area than by floating down the Salmon River with us. Hold on tight during the rapids, float by singer/songwriter Carol King’s wilderness ranch, be on the lookout for wildlife, learn about the area’s history, jump into a deep pool at Jump Rock, and experience delicious world cuisine at our beautiful riverside lunch camp. All of these things add up for a most enjoyable day.
  4. Explore the ghost towns of Bonanza and Custer—A visit here really shows the rich history of the area. I love that several of the buildings in Custer have been renovated as it helps me envision what life was like back in the late 1800’s. Don’t miss the cemetery in Bonanza!
  5. Hike around Stanley Lake—This is where I take the kids with bug catchers, fishing nets and our dog in tow. Exploring the shallow streams and the lake’s edge provides hours of entertainment and great exercise as we hike along the trails. Also, the beach here is rarely crowded.
  6. Visit the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery—Learn all there is to know about the life cycle of a Salmon and even see them alive in various life stages. So cool to actually see them in the traps after returning from the Pacific Ocean, 900 miles away! There is also a really fun fishing pond here for kids.
  7. Have a leisurely breakfast at the Stanley Baking Company—For the best breakfast in Stanley and a great latte don’t miss this ideal little place located a block off the highway. Don’t let the line scare you, it moves fast and it is worth the wait.
  8. Go horseback riding with Mystic Saddle Ranch—We usually go on the hour-long loop ride along Fishhook creek, although this year I plan on going on the half-day Bench Lake ride. Jeff and Deb’s guides are amazingly patient with me and my lack of horse-riding prowess and their horses are surefooted and mellow.
  9. Go shopping at Riverwear—This little store will amaze you with the variety and quality of the goods it carries. When I worked there “back-in-the-day” I loved hearing the constant customer comments about how they didn’t expect to find such a great store in such a small town.
  10. Get an ice cream shake or latte at Peaks & Perks—On a warm afternoon, nothing beats stopping at Peaks & Perks for a shake or a coffee treat and taking in the beautiful Sawtooth scenery.
  11. Fly a kite on a windy day—Every now and then we get a good windy day in Stanley. When the wind picks up we head to the city park with our kites and let ‘em rip. The scenery here can’t be beat and is a great place for a picnic too.
  12. Take the historic walking tour of Stanley—From the minute you come into Stanley you sense that you are in the Old West. Going on the walking tour allows our imaginations to drift back to how life used to be here. The kids’ favorite place is the Stanley museum with its relics, artifacts and short videos to watch.
  13. Mountain bike the Elk Mountain Loop—This is a beautiful, moderately easy mountain bike ride that gives great views of Stanley Lake, the Sawtooth Mountains and Elk Meadows. Because my mountain biking skills are not as good as I’d like them to be, I find this is the perfect ride for me.