Stanley, Idaho is a hidden treasure in the Gem State, a town of only 63 located in the heart of the Sawtooth Mountains. Those traveling in the south-central part of Idaho can easily include Stanley on a road trip that includes areas like Sun Valley, Boise, Challis, and more.
A stop in this small town is full of surprises from the gourmet-level of food at its restaurants to the caliber of art and crafts in its stores to the astounding number of gorgeous hikes and hot springs found in the area.
Where to stay
There are a whopping 17 campgrounds listed for the Stanley area on CampgroundReviews.com, including two specifically for RV camping: Valley Creek Motel and RV Park and Stanley RV + Camp (formerly Elk Mountain RV Resort). Valley Creek is much smaller, with only four sites for self-contained travelers; there are no public restrooms or showers. The Stanley RV + Camp is much larger and more accommodating with 29 full hook-up RV sites, tent sites, and cabins. The campground features complimentary WiFi, laundry facilities, a group fire pit, showers, and picnic tables at each site.
There are several additional RV parks whose information can easily be found on the town’s website. The privately-owned May Family Ranch, consisting of a remodeled ranch house and five outbuildings, is perfect for family reunions and retreats. In addition to cabins and bunkhouses, the area has space for tents and RV hookups as well.
The Mountain Village Resort, home to lodging, entertainment, hot springs and more, has a dedicated RV park with six full-service RV spots as well as ten camping sites.
What to do
No matter the time of year, there’s always plenty to do in Stanley. From summer activities like hiking, fishing, and river rafting to winter activities like snowmobiling and hot springing to year-round events, Stanley has a little something for everyone.
Those interested in hiking and biking can rent gear, including both regular and mountain bikes in town, and buy guidebooks and trail maps at many of the stores in town. The Stanley Trails app is available in the App Store and on iTunes and is a great guide for hiking and biking
Guides are available for hire for hiking, climbing, mountain lake fishing, and skiing from Sawtooth Mountain Guides. White Cloud Outfitters can provide guided hiking, backpacking, horseback trail-riding, fishing, hunting, and river floating trips. Many companies offer guiding for just river rafting trips, and ATVs are also available for rent in Stanley.
Hiking up to an alpine lake is one of the most classic activities to do in Stanley in the warmer months. Some of the more popular hikes are Alice Lake and Sawtooth Lake, both moderate hikes.
Stanley is also host to many annual events both in the summer and winter such as the Mountain Mamas craft fair, Sawtooth Valley Gathering music festival, and Stanley Winterfest.
For winding down after a long day in the mountains, head to one of the roughly 23 hot springs in the area, several of which are right within town.
Where to eat
For a town only serving a yearly population of less than 100, Stanley has an array of food choices between its seven restaurants.
The Bridge Street Grill is a family-owned and family-run open daily for lunch and dinner. The only restaurant in Stanley located right on the Salmon River, meals on the deck in the warmer months are a real treat and often include live music.
Mountain Village Resort and Saloon serves up classic American fare with full-service breakfast, lunch, and dinner year-round, seven days a week. In winter, enjoy eating in their rustic dining room and in the summer, take in the views from their sunny deck. For those looking for fun on a Friday night, the Saloon has large flat-screen TVs, a pool table, foosball table, outdoor seating and fire pit, occasional karaoke nights, and happy hour from 4-6pm. Food is also served late-night at the Saloon. Stanley’s main bar, the Kasino Club, also serves dinner.
More casual bites can be grabbed from Papa Brunees, where they serve up classic sub sandwiches and pizza, or the famous Stanley Bakery, an establishment so well-known for its homemade food and amazing pastries that in the summer, lines are often out the door. The Bakery serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week from the second week of May through the third week of October.
Perhaps the finest dining in town is at the Sawtooth Hotel, which only serves dinner. The atmosphere is casual, and every homemade dish is made with only the freshest, local ingredients.
The Redd Square Restaurant features classic lunch and dinner dishes with a twist like snap pea slaw, beer-battered Idaho Rainbow Trout, or shrimp and andouille sausage jambalaya. The restaurant serves wine as well as a rotating selection of craft beers with a focus on Idaho’s best breweries.
The Sun Beam Café is part of White Otter Rafting’s outfit and makes for a great meal before or after rafting the river, or anytime! Beam serves local, organic, seasonal, and sustainable breakfast, lunch, and dinner June through August. Their season and menu are both short but well worth it!
Where to shop
Shopping is Stanley is relatively limited but you’ll find everything you need right in town. For groceries and gas, visit the Lower Stanley Country Store or Mountain Village Mercantile, which also carries sporting goods, hunting/fishing licenses, and liquor.
For a fun souvenir, check out the Sawtooth Spirit, a unique retail store with apparel and footwear, craft beer and regional wine, and artisanal food items. The Riverwear store rents camping and river equipment as well as mountain bikes and stand up paddleboards and sells goods ranging from apparel to gear to anything else you might need (and more!) for the Stanley area.