Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Stanley Lake has everything for an easy-going, scenic mountain experience

Stanley Lake with McGowan Peak looming in the background.
Hi all,

We went up to Stanley Lake in Stanley last weekend to do a little camping, hiking, swimming and R&R, and we really enjoyed the trip.

I thought I'd share a few tidbits about our trip in case you might want to visit that popular spot in the future.

Stanley Lake is a gorgeous setting on the northwest corner of the Sawtooth Mountains. But there's a paved road to the campground and day use area, so it does get more traffic than a more off-the-beaten-track destination in the Sawtooths. That said, it's not nearly as busy as the Redfish Lake area.

Drew is a trouper ... did the hike to Bridal Veil Falls no problem.
I took Wendy and my son Drew to Stanley Lake as a cool place to swim on a hot weekend, and a convenient jump-off spot to hike up to Bridal Veil Falls on the Stanley Lake Creek Trail. We also planned to camp in a primitive spot on the way to the lake. I had initially planned an ambitious hike to Observation Peak, but decided that a lower-key trip on the well-maintained trail to Lady Face Falls and Bridal Veil Falls would work best for Wendy and Drew.

As things turned out, the hike was great ... it's a 9-mile jaunt round-trip to Bridal Veil Falls, so it's still a substantial hike. It took us several hours to get up there, including a substantial creek-crossing, and about 1.5 hours back. Drew was right on my heels or walking ahead of me the whole way ... it was a good distance for him. Vertical gain is about 500 feet. The trail gradient is very easy until the last mile or so to the falls.

Very well-maintained trail going up Stanley Lake Creek.
Be sure to take the side trip to Lady Face Falls on the way. You can get quite close to that rushing steep rapids, much closer than you can get to Bridal Veil Falls. There is no trail to Bridal Veil, BTW, so it's best to view that from a distance. I hadn't been up to Bridal Veil in more than 20 years, so it was fun to see that water rushing down the mountain from the Hansen Lakes and the peaks above, roaring over the rocks in the image of an arched, white bridal veil.

Last Saturday afternoon, even though we were at 6,500-foot elevation, it was pretty hot in the afternoon. Stanley Lake was a welcome sight after our hike. Time to set up the lawn chairs, go swimming and hang out at the lake! We did that on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, and really enjoyed hanging out by the water. The water temperature was still quite cold, so Wendy couldn't exactly swim across the bay, like she often might do.

Large beach area for swimming, SUP'ing, hanging out ...
We saw people Stand Up Paddle Boarding on the lake, kayaking, fishing and canoeing. There were maybe one or two power boats on the water ... There are ample areas where you can hang out by the lake on the beach. The Forest Service has moved the campground to the south end of the lake, and converted the north side to day use. There are parking areas and rest rooms for both the Stanley Lake Creek Trailhead and for the Stanley Lake day use area. Both parking lots were full and overflowing last weekend, but there was still plenty of elbow room on the beach.     

Drew and Steve
Watch out for bugs! We had plenty of bug dope, but the no see 'ems seem to have gotten the better of us we noticed after the trip. Little tiny red welts everywhere, and they itch like crazy for a couple of days! Forest Service officials at the Stanley Ranger Station report that bugs have been pretty major by all of the Sawtooth major lakes. Mosquitoes and horseflies are out in force as well. Wearing long sleeves and pants can help! Bring plenty of your favorite insect repellent.

Camping at Stanley Lake - There are several places where you can car camp in self-supportive primitive spots on the way into Stanley Lake. We prefer to do that since we are still tent-campers, and we have all of the self-support camping stuff handy from our river trip gear. These areas are all marked as such by the Forest Service. For camping at the official Stanley Lake Campground, contact to check on availability and make reservations. Grabbing a camp spot directly on the lake would be premium and worth the extra bucks! Camping fees are $18-$36/night.

Photo courtesy IWA High-siding at Howard's Plunge
everal related articles I've seen this week:

The Idaho Whitewater Association is hosting "Safety Saturday" this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Main Payette River. Sign up at Banks at 10 a.m. on Saturday. See Facebook event page for details ... I highly recommend participating if you need to sharpen up your river safety skills -- always a good thing to stay sharp!

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