16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

Are you ready to explore one of the best-hidden gems in my home state of Idaho? If so, keep reading. Stanley, Idaho a small town in central Idaho about 60 miles away from the well-known ski town of Sun Valley. In this blog, I’ll share my favorite things to do in Stanley!

Whether you enjoy hiking in the summer sunshine or snowmobiling in the winter snow, there are plenty of activities for all visitors to enjoy year-round in Stanley. Take a look at this list of epic things to do in Stanley, Idaho, as you plan your excursion.

Because Stanley, Idaho is somewhat off the beaten path and an Idaho hidden gem, please recreate responsibly by packing out what you pack in and be courteous to others. 

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Epic Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

How to Get to Stanley, Idaho

Stanley can be accessed as a day trip from Sun Valley or an easy weekend trip from Boise, Idaho. It is a remote small town, so roads in the wintertime can be icy, and the town basically shuts down in the winter. However, like many of the other popular areas in Idaho, Stanley is a perfect place to enjoy scenic views, participate in outdoor activities, and relax in the stillness of nature around you. 

The closest airport to Stanley is in Hailey, Idaho (SUN). Most people will opt to fly into Boise, Idaho, and rent a car to take a Southern Roadtrip (see my itinerary for that here) to get to Stanley.

16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

Places to Stay in Stanley, Idaho

Tiny House Big View

There are quite a few little cabins in the Stanley area. I recommend renting one of the tiny houses. We loved our stay here, and the views were spectacular! Book Here

Tiny House Big View | Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

Redfish Lake Lodge

Technically this property is on Redfish Lake, but it is a great place if you’d rather be closer to the lake. Book Here

Mountain Village Inn

If you stay here, be sure to ask for an updated room. I’m not sure if all rooms have been updated yet, so you’ll want to be sure you get one. This isn’t the nicest place, but you do get free access to their hot spring (make an appointment at the front desk)! I think it’s well worth staying here just for the hot spring! Book Here

Mountain Village Inn | 16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

Triangle C Cabins

These are cute, clean little cabins with great views of the area and walking distance to downtown Stanley. They have cute touches and little porches for sitting out and enjoying sunsets and sunrises! Book Here

Triangle C Cabins | 16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

16 Epic Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

1 – Backpack in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Stanley is an area that has gorgeous lakes and mountains, all open for hiking and other outdoor activities. There are over 700 miles of trails and 40 peaks rising over 10,000 feet. 

Try backpacking in the Sawtooth Mountains on a multiple-day trip. The Alice-Toxaway Loop is an incredible 3-4 day excursion of hiking and camping throughout the mountains. This hike gives fantastic views of the mountains and lakes, and you’ll find different wildflowers and animals depending on the seasons. Expect to see other people throughout the loop hiking or camping at various areas along the way. Check out my list of things to pack backpacking here (swipe through to see the list). 

16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho
Alice Lake | 16 Epic Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho
16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

2 – Day Hike to Sawtooth Lake or Alice Lake

Redfish Lake is the largest lake in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, and there are many impressive hiking trails right around Redfish Lake that all range in difficulty. Sawtooth Lake and Alice Lake are two other lakes located higher above Redfish in the recreation area. 

Each hike will give scenic mountain views and a taste of the great outdoors. While preparing for your hike, be sure to take a look at a map to plan out your hike and consider temperature changes depending on when you leave throughout the day.

Backpacking Sawtooths | 16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho
Alice Lake hike | 16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho
16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

3- Play on the Water at Redfish Lake

While you could take a quick dip in Redfish Lake while hiking, it could be better to plan a separate day on your itinerary for enjoying water activities on Redfish Lake. Redfish Lake is open for swimming, boating, waterskiing, and stand-up paddle boarding, which are all fun lake activities in the summer months. 

If you have your own boat, you can bring it right into Redfish Lake on your own. If not, then there is an opportunity to rent a variety of water accessories, such as kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, paddle boats, and motorized boats right on the lake.

16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

4 – Go Camping

Put your love for the outdoors to the test by camping for a night or two during your trip to Stanley. There are plenty of campsites to choose from right on Redfish Lake, including Chinook Bay, Mountain View, Mt. Heyburn, Sockeye, Red Fish Inlet, and Sunny Gulch. Some campsites run on a first-come, first-served basis, but others use reservations that can get booked up ahead of time. There are various campsites around Sawtooth Lake and Stanley Lake that are worth checking out as well. 

Here’s what to bring camping in Idaho!

Camping at Redfish | 16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

5 – Try Horseback Riding

How about horseback riding with scenic views of Idaho? Well, this is your chance. Redfish Lake Corrals and Mystic Saddle Ranch are two options for horseback riding in Stanley. There are various ride lengths to choose from, starting at a one-hour ride, a two-hour ride, a half-day ride, and an all-day ride with an included lunch. 

Each ride takes you on a different route with varying levels of steepness throughout the journey. These rides are family-friendly, so they are an excellent activity for children to enjoy as well. The lodge even offers a horseback riding special upon booking if you stay at the Redfish Lake Lodge during your trip. No matter which ride you choose, you are guaranteed breathtaking mountain views and a unique experience to remember.

Redfish Lake Horseback Riding

6 – Go Rafting Down the Salmon River

Many incredible river rafting trips begin in Stanley. The Salmon River runs right through Stanley, and the Payette River South Fork runs close by, making Stanley the optimal place for river rafting.

Since Stanley is such a hotspot for rafting, there are different intensity levels for river trips, from a one-day trip to six-day excursions through the Frank Church Wilderness. There are many companies to choose from that offer an assortment of trips, so check out the different river rafting options to book the best fit for you and your fellow travelers. My favorite guide for my white water rafting trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River was with Mackay Wilderness River Trips.

16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho
Rafting Salmon River | 16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho
rafting boats | 16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

7 – Soak in Hot Springs

Stanley is lucky enough to be close to some of the most amazing hot springs in Idaho, so be sure to carve out time for a hot spring soak while you’re here.

Boat Box Hot Springs is one of these wonderful hot springs, and it is located along the Salmon River. At one point, this hot spring was a larger pool, but it was washed away by the river years ago. Now, in its place is one metal hot springs tub that sits right on the river. The metal soaking tub may be small, but it is piping hot and ready for relaxation. 

If you stay at the Mountain Village Inn, you’ll get access to a great hot spring with breathtaking views of the Sawtooth Mountains. Just remember to use proper hot spring etiquette and pack out what you pack in.

Boat Box Hot Springs
Boat Box Hot Springs
Hot springs experience

8 – Go Cross-Country Skiing

Not many people venture to Stanley in the wintertime, but if you’re a cross-country or backcountry skier, this could be the perfect spot for you. The beautiful landscape turns into a gorgeous winter wonderland! You can find groomed cross-country skiing trails at Alturas Lake and Park Creek Ski Trails. These aren’t in town, but you can drive to both of these locations.

Cross-Country Skiing

9 – Hire a Fishing Guide and Fish on the River

Fishing is another great outdoor activity to enjoy on the water in Stanley. There are plenty of high-quality fishing spots along the Middle Fork and Upper Main Salmon Rivers in Stanley. This area is considered “a fisherman’s paradise” with endless access to great fishing. While you may just want to enjoy a fishing outing on your own, there are formal fishing trips that you can take through local fishing companies.

16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

10 – Take a Drive on a Scenic Byway

Many of the activities on this list require some adventurous spirit, but this activity can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own vehicle! There are plenty of scenic drives near Stanley, and you’ll see gorgeous views at every turn. Stanley is located at the intersection of three Scenic Byways: Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, Salmon River Scenic Byway, and Sawtooth Scenic Byway

These routes lead to the Boise National Forest, the town of Salmon, and Sun Valley, respectively. Each route has its own incredible views of the surrounding mountains and land, making a drive along any of the byways a great activity to do on your trip.

16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho
Sawtooth Scenic Byway

11 – Drive to Stanley Lake

A hidden gem near Stanley is Stanley Lake. Drive 15 minutes, and you’ll see one of the most jaw-dropping lakes that people will think you had to hike miles in to find! I got my engagement photos here, and they turned out unreal. You can also camp here if you get a spot in time, but it’s worth a visit just to look at.

16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

12 – Learn at the Stanley Historical Museum

Need a rainy-day activity during your time in Stanley? A visit to the Stanley Historical Museum for some local history is a great thing to do. The Stanley Historical Museum displays photographs and artifacts showing the early days of Sawtooth Valley. The museum is located on State Highway 75 between Stanley and lower Stanley on the Salmon River Scenic Byway.

13 – Eat Breakfast at the Stanley Baking Company Cafe and Get Coffee at Peaks & Perks

One of Stanley’s most popular breakfast and lunch spots is the Stanley Baking Company Cafe. The cafe opened in 2000 and has been a hot spot for tourists and locals when it is open for the warmer months of May to October. The restaurant serves classic breakfast favorites like egg dishes, pancakes, french toast, and assorted sides. The baked goods are also incredible, especially the homemade scones. Be prepared for a bustling cafe environment when grabbing your food here.

Peaks & Perks is a small seasonal cafe that serves delicious coffee, tea, smoothies, and bagels for breakfast in the summer months. It also serves ice cream and milkshakes for dessert. The stand-alone cafe is located in the Mountain Village parking lot next to the Riverwear store in Stanley.

Stanley Baking Company Cafe | 16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho
Peaks & Perks coffee shop

14 – Grab Lunch at Papa Brunee’s or Sawtooth Luce’s

Another stop on your food tour in Stanley should be Papa Brunees when you require a quick bite for lunch. Papa Brunees is a standard pizza and sub shop serving tasty pizza, calzones, sandwiches, beer, and wine. 

Another favorite for a burger and fries is Sawtooth Luce’s. They serve up an eclectic mix of American favorites with a gourmet twist.

16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

15 – Eat Dinner at the Sawtooth Hotel or Stanley Supper Club

Another must-visit in Stanley is the Sawtooth Hotel, which is owned by the same family as the Stanley Baking Company Cafe. The Sawtooth Hotel is a great place to stay but also a delicious place to dine for dinner. The hotel has a wooden lodge feel and overlooks the Sawtooth mountains, so you really can enjoy mountain views with every bite. The menu is delicious with various appetizers, salads, and entrees with meat and vegetables. There is a great wine and beer list as well. Plan your dinner around the sunset because those are views you do not want to miss!

Another great restaurant to add to your Stanley dining itinerary is the Stanley Supper Club. This is a fine dining experience with incredible food but feels comfortable and welcoming. This is precisely what they achieved with the Stanley Supper Club, which offers dishes like pot roast, roasted cauliflower ravioli, beef stroganoff, and many others. The food is delicious, making Stanley Supper Club a must-visit restaurant to experience during your trip.

Sawtooth hotel food

16 –  Road Trip to Local Idaho Towns

If you are just in Stanley for the weekend, then there is plenty to see within a small radius of the town. But if you are here for an extended period, then consider making a trip to one of the other spectacular Idaho towns just a drive away. 

Sun Valley and Ketchum are about 60 miles away from Stanley and are home to incredible skiing in Idaho in winter and a bustling downtown with restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. 

Boise is about 214 miles away from Stanley, which is a bit of a drive for a day trip but leave early in the morning, and you will get to or from Boise in no time. This could even be the scenic direction you travel on your way home from Stanley or while going to another destination.

Want to do an entire Southern Roadtrip Itinerary? Here’s the best route. 

sun Valley | 16 Epics Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

Interested in road tripping around Southern Idaho? Check out this Southern Idaho Roadtrip Itinerary

Stanley may be small, but it is pretty breathtaking. Now that you know what to do in Stanley, it is time to plan your trip and enjoy all this tiny Idaho town has to offer!


16 Epic Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho
16 Epic Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho
16 Epic Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

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