Photo courtesy of Idaho Tourism
When you start planning a trip to the Sawtooths, it’s easy to amass a long list of trails to hike, peaks to bag, and lakes to fish. There’s so much to do in the great outdoors of this spectacular part of Idaho—in fact, enough to warrant making repeat trips—that it’s easy to overlook all the delights of downtown Stanley.
Part of Stanley’s small-town charm is that there are only a handful of businesses and a small population of locals. Despite its size and remoteness, though, visitors are often surprised at just how much there is to do in Stanley’s quaint, bustling downtown. From shopping to snacking to slowing down and relaxing, there’s something for everyone in the heart of the Sawtooths.
1. Sit Down to a Tasty Meal
Unfussy, rib-sticking fare is a requisite in small mountain towns, and you’ll find plenty of enticing options in Stanley. Jonesing for a burger? Bridge Street Grill is just the spot. Stop by Redd Square for a seasonal, locally-sourced meal that will have you lingering over coffee (also roasted in-house) and pie. This place has all the flavor and creativity you’d find at a big city eatery, but with none of the pretension or steep prices. No time to stick around? Pop into Papa Brunee’s for a post-hike slice of pizza and beer.
2. Check Out the Music Scene
Don’t let Stanley’s distance from the nearest city fool you: there’s a major music scene here. During the summer, you can see a live show any night between Wednesday and Sunday. Head to Redfish Lake Lodge for live music on the lawn every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday evening from 6-8 pm. On Thursdays, there’s a street dance downtown, and when the outdoor music ends, you can take it inside to the Kasino Club for a live band.
Probably the best day to catch a show is Friday because you have so many choices. In addition to the entertainment at Redfish Lake, there’s a band playing at the Sawtooth Hotel, and you can usually catch live music at Mountain Village’s new Velvet Falls Dance Hall. (If you miss the Dance Hall on Friday, no worries. The venue hosts live music most Saturdays, too.)
3. Hit the Spa
After you’ve explored the rugged backcountry surrounding Stanley, reward yourself with a relaxing spa visit. At the gorgeous, secluded Redfish Lake Lodge, you can settle in for a massage on the banks of the scenic Salmon River at Redfish Riverside. Meadow Creek Resort and Spa is another excellent option with a wide range of services, including Swedish, deep-tissue, hot-stone, aromatherapy, and couples’ massages. Meadow Creek also offers several other spa treatments, including cupping, Kinesio Taping, and aromatherapy steam sauna. Too relaxed to move? Book a night in a cozy log cabin to really make the most of your chilled-out state.
4. Stock Up on American-Made Merch
You may be miles away from the nearest major metropolitan area, but Stanley has you covered when it comes to stocking up on the necessities. The Mountain Village Merc is the place to stock up on beer, wine, and liquor. To stock up on groceries, make your way to the Lower Stanley Country Store. Before you head out on the river, visit the Stanley Fly Shop to rent a fly rod, get a report on the latest fishing conditions, and pick up flies, apparel, and sundries for your adventure. If you’re heading into the mountains for a backcountry adventure, stock up on supplies at Riverwear, which sells all manner of equipment and clothing and also rents mountain bikes, wetsuits, camping gear, and boats.
5. Find the Perfect Souvenir
After an incredible trip to the Sawtooths, chances all you’ll want a token to remember your visit by. Several of the retailers that sell supplies also have a variety of souvenir-type items for sale. Looking for a gorgeous photo of the Stanley area to hang in your home? Visit the Gerheim Gallery on Niece Avenue, where you’ll gawk at Thad Gerheim’s awe-inspiring prints, all of which are made with large format film. You can also find a memento of your time in Stanley at Sawtooth Spirit, whose unique apparel and one-of-a-kind gifts will be a treasured reminder for years to come.
The fact that you can purchase fine art in Stanley just goes to show that this quaint mountain town offers more than you’d expect. Whether you’re looking for a souvenir to hang on the wall, or you’re jonesing for a spa day or a good meal, or you just need to grab some groceries, you can do it all in town. When you’re deep in the mountains and immersed in rugged wilderness, it’s nice to know that you don’t have to go too far to find a slice of civilization.
Written by Emma Walker for Matcha in partnership with Stanley Sawtooth CoC.