When year-round recreation meets picturesque views, you’ve arrived in Stanley, Idaho. This is Sawtooth Mountain country, Stanley’s most deserved accolade.
As a last chance opportunity to vacation before the next semester of school began, Stanley was our trip of choice for fresh powder, outdoor recreation and evenings of pleasant relaxation. The roads were perfectly clear as we drove up Highway 21. When a front wheel drive Toyota can make it up to Stanley in mid January, I give my thanks to the local world-class experts in snow plowing (there has to be a 4-year degree for that)!
My girlfriend and I arrived at the Sawtooth Hotel around 3:00 pm. Constructed in 1931, this vintage log cabin with a priceless view of the Sawtooth Mountains, had the most harmonious feeling. On the first floor, hand-built tables and chairs set the stage for an authentic getaway. On the second floor, we found small rooms with old fashioned amenities that make you feel like you are spending the night at grandma’s house. During the winter, the Sawtooth Hotel is open Friday through Sunday for meals. Expect to see mountain aficionados bundled up in ski pants, Salomon boots and Patagonia jackets stopping by for hot food and a cold drink after a long day of skiing.
As the sun set, we made our way up Wall Street in downtown Stanley and walked along the groomed cross country ski and snowmobile trails. The sun set behind the Sawtooth Mountains, lighting the white snow caps with a fiery glow, like a volcano was about to erupt.
The next morning we set our sights on the pristine cross country ski trails at Alturas Lake just 20 short miles south of Stanley. Beautiful blue skies, groomed trails and untouched snow (for the backcountry folk) made for an exemplary time. Multiple maps allow plenty of variety and direction throughout the trail system. Our four-hour, 13 kilometer cross country adventure afforded immaculate views and world class photo opportunities, and won’t soon be forgotten.
On our way back from Alturas Lake we stopped along Highway 75 at Red Fish Lake. The road was closed, but that didn’t stop us. With snowshoes on and a camera across my shoulder, we walked the short mile to Little Red Fish Lake. We cut through what looked like an abandoned campsite (campsites are closed in the winter) and just as we arrived at the lake, the clouds dispersed as the sun illuminated the sky, exposing the mountains as though hidden behind large castle walls for hundreds of years.
Rounding out our perfect day with the perfect evening, we returned to the Sawtooth Hotel for a refreshing brew and signature burger that really hit the spot. The next time you’re looking for a recreational paradise with beautiful sights, stop in Stanley to satisfy your outdoor cravings.