The clean, rarified air of Stanley (elevation
6,200 feet) is matched by the great beauty of the White
Cloud Peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains which rise another
4,500 feet above the town. Stanley is the most rustic and
pioneer-flavored of any of the towns in the Rockies
region, and is situated in the middle of the Stanley
Basin -- what Montanans would call a "hole". It's part of
the valley of the Salmon River. With the Sawtooth
National Recreation Area only a few minutes away and
fabulous fishing at Stanley's doorstep, this is a town to
Three national forests surround the town (Boise,
Challis and Sawtooth). The camping and hiking
possibilities are immense.
The basin is named for Captain John Stanley, a
prospector and Civil War survivor who happened on the
area on July 4, 1863, while leading a party of 75
prospectors to find new gold fields. They passed through
the basin on their way to Idaho City. Stanley didn't
return but one of the party, A.P. Challis, did and mined
around Stanley for many summers. A permanent settlement
was established in the 1890s.
Today, the town is comprised of two settlements: Upper
and Lower Stanley. They are headquarters for float trip
operators who take rafters down the Salmon River. The
rustic cabin motels play host to hundreds of visitors who
fish for salmon, trout and steelhead and -- in winter --
come to snowmobile & ski cross country in the nearby
recreation areas and national forests.
What to See & Do
West of Stanley is Idaho's recently-developed state
park, Land of the Yankee Fork. There are two prime
attractions here, besides the camping and fishing: The
Yankee Fork Gold Dredge (near the village of
Sunbeam) is a symbol of the gold rush of the 1870s when
prospectors came to pan gold from the fork. Later, the
dredge was built on the fork by the Snake River Mining
Company. From 1940 until 1951 it floated on its own
shifting pond, sifting gold out of the valley gravel.
Custer and Bonanza were the two gold camps established
during the 1870s. They are now ghost towns, on display in
the state park which has its headquarters and information
center in the town of Challis, 55 miles west of
The fascinating backroad route will take you through
the historic area from Sunbeam on Highway 75,
coming out at Challis. There is an historical museum in
Custer which tells the story of the gold era. The
Stanley Museum focuses on the pioneer history of
the town and the Stanley Basin. There are several
accessible lakes close to Stanley. Little Redfish and
Redfish lakes are just south of town, in the Sawtooth
National Recreation Area. There is a visitor center
between the two lakes open from June 1st to
mid-September. Nip and Tuck Road offers a scenic
sidetrip into the Stanley Basin, passing through mountain
meadows filled with wildflowers, with great views of the
Hotels & Lodges
Creek Side Lodge
(800) 523-0733 or 800-523-0733
Located on Highway 21, beside a trout stream at the
western end of Stanley, this is modern motel operation,
with rooms looking out to views of the Sawtooths, and
balconies overlooking the stream. Picnic tables are
located between the lodge and the creek, and you can fish
from the property. Rooms have private baths (including
showers and tubs), queen beds, color TV, and
kitchenettes. In-room coffee is available. Some units are
junior suites, with sofas. Rates rise in summer, but
overnight costs are reasonable at any time of year.
Gunter's Salmon River Cabins
Log cabins (quite modern) are located beside the Salmon
River. The cabins have kitchenettes, fireplaces and TV.
Fishing is the focus of this resort operation near
Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch
This is a very special place on Highway 75, ten miles
south of Stanley. There are 19 rooms in all, four in the
lodge and 15 cabin rooms. The summer season runs from
June 1 to mid September and two cabins are kept open
during winter months. Built as a hunting lodge in 1930,
the walls are constructed of logs. Continental breakfast
is served each morning with gourmet dinners in the
evenings (for overnight guests only). There's a hot
spring pool which just adds to the wonder of the place.
Picnic lunches are available and there's a stocked
fishing pond. Write: PO. Box 9934, Stanley ID 83278.
Mountain Village Resort
This remodeled rustic resort offers 60 units, plus gas,
store and dance hall, in Stanley at the foot of the
Sawtooth Mountains. The operation is open year-round
unlike some of the other operations in and around
Stanley, although most are now open year-round. A special
feature is the enclosed natural hot spring. Next door to
the lodge is a full-service restaurant and lounge, plus a
store and gas station.
This is Stanley's first and, as far as we know, the only
bed and breakfast in town. It's a renovated motel with
dining room serving comfort foods such as sourdough
pancakes, soup and cobblers. The store has regional and
Triangle C Ranch Log Cabins
(208) 774-2266 or 800-303-6258
With scenic views of the Sawtooth Mountains, this
operation offers deluxe log cabins, decorated in western
motif. The cabins have queen beds and full baths. It's
located at the west end of Stanley.
Valley Creek Motel & RV Park
Built in 1995, this modern motel offers large rooms with
queen beds and kitchenettes, with decks front and back.
The operation also has a 3-bedroom, five-bed basement
house with full kitchen.
Sunbeam Village and RV Park
There are RV spaces here with full hookups, dump station,
and propane. It's located west of town, near the Yankee
Fork Dredge. There are also several rooms and cabins --
with kitchens available.
Torrey's Burnt Creek Inn
(208) 838-2313 or 800-838-2313
Torrey's has RV hookups, along with log cabins by the
riverside. The cabins are equipped with kitchenettes.
With the three national forests converging in the
Stanley area, there is a wide choice of forest
campgrounds available, and some are not far from town.