There’s a lot of special spots to me in the United States, but Stanley, ID always makes my top 5 list! This mountain town found right in the Sawtooth Mountains with the Salmon River flowing next to it is literally heaven on earth for the outdoor adventurer. Here are 9 reasons why Stanley should be your next summer vacation spot.
Enjoy The Wildflowers During The Summer
Although I’d love to admit that I had perfectly planned our trip right in time to see the wildflowers, I unfortunately can’t claim that. Stumbling onto fields of these beautiful flowers in the Sawtooth Mountains was an incredible surprise!
We visited during the first part of June and were thrilled when we saw field after field of different types of flowers blooming. The best way to see these Idaho wildflowers would be to explore the backroads on an ATV/UTV (more on that below).
Stay At One Of The Cutest Inns You’ve Ever Seen- Stanley High Country Inn
Staying at the Stanley High Country Inn will be the highlight of your vacation! This Inn is described as, “a combination of rustic Idaho with a touch of elegance,” and I couldn’t agree more with that statement.
You’ll find the inn right in the downtown section of Stanley within walking distance of several restaurants, an awesome bakery, and a grocery store.
We stayed at this incredible inn during our Idaho hot springs road trip last winter and now I can confidently say that this place is spectacular in all seasons. Each suite has comfortable, rustic furniture, a deck or patio with incredible views of the mountains, and even a hot tub that you can relax in after a long day of exploring!
You Can Actually See The Stars At Night
What’s missing in Stanley, Idaho? An abundance of street lights! The lack of which allows this remote region to be considered part of the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve. To become eligible for this designation is no small task. I won’t list out all the requirements, but let’s just say that one of which is people must be able to see the milky way with their naked eye.
There are only about a dozen of these areas across the world so it’s a real treat to be able to experience this in the heart of Idaho! There is not a specific season that visitors can enjoy the stars, on the contrary, you can admire the night sky year-round!
So during your time in Stanley, make sure to set aside some time to go outside at night and look up.
Rent A Boat At Redfish Marina
There’s no better way to enjoy Redfish Lake than on an incredible boat! I love that you can rent one right at Redfish Marina and simply just hop in and enjoy the day on the water.
You have quite a few options when it comes to motorized and non-motorized rentals at Redfish. During the day we took out a 6 Seat Touring Boat and loved cruising around in the smaller rental. However, if you’ve got a larger group vacationing with you, I’d recommend reserving in advance one of their pontoons.
In addition to these rentals, you can also rent kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, and even paddle boats! There really is something for everyone here. When you need a break from playing out in the water, lay out a towel and catch a few rays on the sandy beach.
Enjoy Mountains That Were Named to Spite A Past US Senator
There’s no bad view of the Sawtooth Mountains from Stanley, ID. But perhaps my favorite view comes from admiring them from Redfish Lake. As you boat to the far end of the lake, you’ll come to what is nicknamed the “Gates of Heaven” and be staring straight at Grand Mogul (9800 ft) and Mount Heyburn (10200ft).
However, Mount Heyburn used to be called Castle Peak. But in the 1960’s, an Idaho Senator was opposed to public lands so when the area was made into a recreation area, they renamed the mountain to spite him. Talk about the ultimate payback haha.
Stuff Yourself Full Of Delicious Food
There are plenty of options when it comes to dining in Stanley but by far my favorite restaurant is Limbert’s! We dined there for dinner and breakfast each day and were amazed at the wide variety of options that are presented to you.
I recommend getting the appetizer, entree, and dessert while you’re dining! (They also have a full wine/beer list too for the adults). After a long day hiking, boating, swimming, and more, this dinner is what you’ll need! For breakfast, the eggs benedict and waffles are my two favorite dishes on their menu.
Some other recommendations we got from locals include-
- Papa Brunee’s Pizza
- Stanley Backing Company & Cafe (amazing cookies!)
- Bridge Street Grill
- Sawtooth’s Luce’s Restaurant
- Lakeside Grill (right next to Limbert’s)
Rent An ATV/UTV and Explore The Backroads
I can’t stress this next activity enough… RENT A UTV! We were not expecting to do this. But while we were there we found that we had a couple of hours to kill and there just happened to be some availability at Sawtooth Traxx. I think the #1 reason of renting a UTV (besides it just being plain fun) is that you can get back into areas that you can’t with a car.
With at least 20 trails within the immediate area, you can totally turn this half day adventure into a full day of fun! Do you have kids? Great! This is a perfect family-friendly experience in Stanley.
This location offers ATV/UTV rentals throughout the summer (and snowmobiles during the winter months). They typically are open Memorial weekend through Labor Day weekend (weather permitting). You must be 21+ years old and have a valid drivers license.
If you’re visiting during the summer, Todd (the awesome owner) recommends renting in advance just to be sure one will be available when you arrive.
Soak In A Natural Hot Springs
Make sure you enjoy a natural hot spring during you next vacation to Stanley, Idaho. From boat box & snake-pit hot springs to the Mountain Resort hot spring, you’ll definitely enjoy soaking while in nature.
I wrote a more in-depth guide to the Stanley, ID hot springs where you can learn more about these unique spots. I will say, these hot springs are a lot busier during the summer months than there are during the winter so plan accordingly.
Natural hot springs not your thing? Well if you stay at the Stanley High Country Inn, you’ll have a hot tub to enjoy right on the back patio!
You Can Visit A Unique History Museum
Located right off of State Highway 75, you’ll find this small museum that offers a glimpse into the past. The Stanley Historical Museum is where you’ll find photographs and a few artifacts “depicting the early days in the Sawtooth Valley.”
Be sure to visit during their open hours from 11am to 5pm and during their season from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
I hope you enjoy your summer vacation in Stanley, Idaho!
A big thank you to the High Country Inn for hosting us during our stay. All opinions remain my own.