Redfish Lake Recreation Complex
The Redfish Lake Recreation Complex is situated in the Sawtooth National Forest and Redfish Lake is at the headwaters of the Salmon River. The Salmon River flows north from here to the Snake River and then on to the Columbia River and eventually out to the Pacific Ocean. That’s about 900 miles of river. Redfish Lake is so named because of all the brilliantly colored Sockeye Salmon that return to the area to spawn.
Thank you Dr. Seuss for One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish! I can’t get it out of my mind! HELP!!!
The entrance to Redfish Lake is directly off of Highway 75 south of Stanley, Idaho. On the way we passed a small lake called Little Redfish Lake.
The recreation area has a lodge, cabins, visitor center, seven campgrounds, day use areas, hiking and biking trails, swim beaches, marina, horse back riding stables, fishing, boat launch, and lots and lots of people during the summer months. It is an extremely popular area and absolutely gorgeous. Note that some of the campgrounds take reservations, although almost impossible to get, and some are first-come first-serve. It was packed when we were there in mid summer and all campgrounds were full. I tried on many occasions months before our trip to book a site at Redfish Lake and could not. It must have been fate because we ended up loving Sunny Gulch campground where we stayed and thought it was preferable to Redfish Lake.
Our first stop was the Redfish Lake Visitor Center. It was signed but it was almost impossible to see the pedestrian entrance but we found it and walked up the steps, hidden in the trees, to a nice Visitor Center with commanding views and helpful information about the area.
We then drove down the east side of the lake and visited each of the campgrounds. They were lovely campgrounds but packed full and lots of kids and lots and lots of activity. All beach areas were quite crowded too. We also went to Sandy Beach and the boat launch area and walked around. It is beautiful but, again, lots and lots of people, kids, dogs, and bustling activity.
Redfish Lake is about 5 miles long and is a glacial lake sitting at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains. The mountains have approximately 30 peaks over 10,000 feet high. The water was clear, colorful, and looked very refreshing and with the mountain backdrop the views were spectacular. Photography (at least mine) cannot capture it properly.
We then ventured down the west side of the lake to the lodge and marina. We had a difficult time finding a parking spot as it was extremely crowded but we eventually found one!! The Redfish Lake Lodge is privately owned but sits on National Forest land. A couple originally from Jerome, Idaho own the lodge and their adult children run the lodge. The lodge is quite small, has some cabins, and a restaurant, Limbert’s named after the man, Robert Limbert, who created the lodge in 1929.
The lodge area also has a bicycle rental area, a Lakeside Grille, and a general store.
There is a large beach right in front the lodge which is very popular and very well used. The water was shallow near the beach, very clear, and looked very inviting. Hot fun in the summertime!
The Redfish Lake Marina is right by the lodge and offers boat rentals of various kinds including pontoons, touring boats, motorboats, canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, etc. We attempted to rent a boat a few weeks before arriving and the next boat availability was 3 months out. Oh well.
The area is full of hiking trails and we decided to hike the Fishhook Creek Trail. What a wonderful trail that leads to a beautiful meadow with great views of the Sawtooths. The stables uses some of the same trails so we ran into a few of the horses here and there. The funny part is that the horses stabled at Redfish Lake in the summer are stabled at Cave Creek Regional Park in the winter. We know those horses!! It was a terrific hike.
Another day we drove to the town of Stanley and wandered around. It was less than a 5 minute drive from our campground, Sunny Gulch. We love Stanley!! It is a small town with a population of 63 people and known for its adventure activities such as rafting, hiking, biking, climbing, etc.
The small downtown has a host of quirky lodging facilities and small bars/restaurants. It is extremely quaint and charming and has terrific views of the mountains and the Salmon River.
Pioneer Park is just up the hill from Stanley by the airport. It is a lovely area to picnic at or stroll around on some of the trails. It is another place with fantastic views.
As we continued north on Highway 75 from Stanley we came across the Stanley Museum which provides information all about central Idaho’s history. A beautiful place.
Just a bit further north and we crossed the Salmon River and entered Lower Stanley. We stopped by the side of the road for some lovely views back over the Salmon River, ranch country, Stanley, and the Sawtooth Mountains. What a gorgeous area!!
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Stanley and Sawtooth area. We ARE coming back!!