The town of Stanley, Idaho is nicknamed the “Trailhead to Idaho Adventure,” for all all of the right reasons. Boasting a host of awe-inspiring mountain bike trails, splash ready whitewater rapids, high alpine lakes, and jagged mountain views are just a few traits that make this place stand out. It’s close-proximity to Sun Valley makes for an ideal must-see day trip destination. We’ve put together a collection of our top things to do on your trip over the hill.
Sunrise Drive Over Galena Summit
Stanley is a quick 60 mile drive north of Sun Valley over Galena Summit with awe-inspiring views the entire ride. I prefer to start the drive just before sunrise to catch the first morning light beaming across the valley from the pull out overlooking Galena Peak.
Breakfast at the Stanley Bakery
Ask anyone where to eat in Stanley and the answer consistently is the Stanley Bakery. After the sunrise drive into the basin, stop by for a famous cinnamon roll, coffee, and Bear /breakfast Bowl. As your food is prepared, ask the owner Tim about his legendary ski lines in the Sawtooths. He’s one of the few people to have skied “The Shield” of Horstmann Peak.
Before making moves for the physical activity of the day, let the food digest up the hill from the bakery at Pioneer Park while you take in the picturesque view of the Sawtooths. Now, it’s time to choose your adventure.
Backcountry Mountain Bike Heaven
Mountain biking. Enough said. There’s a trail for every type of rider in the Sun Valley region. The views of the Sawtooths are utterly majestic, and the area is legendary for pristine single track through backcountry mountain passes. If you’re going to be huffing oxygen on the uphill grind, might as well be the freshest air in the country. A few top well-known trails are Fischer Creek, Potato Mountain, and the trail we’re on in the photo below. Want to know where to go for this ride? There are hints from locals to not give away all the secrets of hidden gems in the area, so if you’re willing to do a little digging, these views can be all yours! The Trailforks app is a great tool which dishes out deets on all the quality rides in the area.
Raft the Salmon River
Idaho is nicknamed “The Whitewater State” and zooming in, the famous Salmon River headwaters flow from Stanley providing world-renown rafting right out the back door. The ultimate combination of relaxation and jolting adrenaline is river rafting. One moment you’re kicked back with your feet in the water sipping a cold drink, and the next moment you’re fully gripped rowing through white water as it erupts around the boat. If you’re a first timer looking for a new thrill, there are multiple professional guide services to float you down the day stretch of the emerald colored River of No Return with class I-IV rapids.
If you have your own raft, check out the section between Sunbeam and Torrey’s which takes on the Piece of Cake and The Narrows rapids. Several sandy beaches between the rapids are prime lunch picnic breaks, not to mention the five star fishing. If you’re looking for the guided experience, hit up White Cloud Rafting Adventures or White Otter Outdoor Adventures for the complete package.
Basking in the sun pairs well with crystal clear alpine lakes. The Sawtooth Basin is scattered with over 300 mountain lakes created by glaciation. Located 10 miles south of Stanley on Highway 75, Redfish Lake is nestled in a large moraine and will fulfill any desires for a lake day. Simply sip cocktails at the marina by the lodge, rent a SUP or kayak for a slower paced afternoon. If you’re looking to get rowdier, rip a speedboat across the lake to the back cove to wakesurf, wake board, and waterski. Another option is to hitch a ride on the boat shuttle to the far side of the lake where several trails lead to stunning day hikes and let your imagination run wild for the future multi-day backpacking trips into the heart of the Sawtooths.
Hit the Road with a Milkshake from Smiley Creek Lodge
On the drive back to Sun Valley, stop at Smiley Creek Lodge for a famous milkshake and burger. You might want to designate a driver for the final leg home as you’re bound to slip in to an activity/food induced coma after this action packed day.
After dinner be sure to pull over at the overlook heading towards Galena Summit. The timing is on point for catching the sun dipping behind the jagged peaks looking back across the Sawtooth Valley. It’s a sight I often return to in my mind.
For details about the Stanley area, visit stanleycc.org. When you get the chance to take on the day trip to Stanley, be sure to share on social media by tagging #SeekSunValley and stay tuned on @VisitSunValley for more inside tips on adventure in the area. See you in the mountains!