As with most people in the world, planners love to have time off too…

I took advantage of a lighter than usual schedule to do some hiking around the Stanley, Idaho area recently. I really do believe you just can’t get enough fun in the sun.


I, my husband, our daughter and husband, and a few of their friends joined us in Stanley for some time in what I call” God’s Country”! The beauty of the mountains is an attractant that sets off all kinds of feelings within me. I know when I am up in the trees and amongst the mountains I am home…….
I feel an easing of my mind and soul when I first see those Sawtooths just outside of town. All my troubles literally melt away.
The photographer in me wants to shoot everything in sight, which is why I elected to leave the good camera home this trip. I have learned I don’t have as much fun if I am stopping every 100 yards to take a picture. So all of the photos posted here are from cell phones…try not to criticize too much:)


We left Boise on Friday morning around 10 to beat the typical rush to the mountains in the afternoon. We made it in time to find a great campsite for my daughter, her husband and their friends after just about an hour of searching. Since it was too early for my husband and I to check in to our cabin, we decided to eat and then drive to 4th of July road in the White Clouds. We proceeded to take our H3 on a 4x trek that my husband and I have talked about for years, up the jeep/ATV trail (which is an old mining road) at the end of the parking lot. Crossing a small creek, we proceeded up the steep, rock riddled incline, into burnt areas and beyond. Reaching what we thought was about ¾ of the way to a lake that Robert (My husband) and I first hiked several years back. At this point we ran into a snag…literally a snag lying across the road that was much too big to move or proceed over. So we parked the Hummer, removed any plants from underneath and started up the rest of the trail on foot.

Mining Road to Phyllis Lake
Phyllis Lake

In what I think was about 30 minutes we reached the trail head for Phyllis Lake. A pristine alpine lake situated in the White Cloud wilderness. As you will see by the photograph it is surrounded by these really cool High granite (I think) bluffs.
We viewed a mountain goat climbing the back half of the rocks behind the lake. He was too far out for our phones to get great pics, but he must have been a big one. When he turned sideways, he looked huge even from our perspective!


We then proceeded back down the mountain after a few selfies and back to the Hummer for the white knuckle ride down, where we witnessed a beautiful sunset.
Just think…that was only day 1!

The Docks at Red Fish Lake for the Boat Ride to our Hike

The next day after a wonderful breakfast in one of just 2 establishments in Stanley, we proceeded to the hiker’s parking lot at Red Fish Lake, to catch the shuttle across the lake and start our journey to Bench Lakes. (5 Lakes in total)

Bench Lake 1

The hike from the dock area was actually much harder then I think it would have been had we just took off from the hiker’s parking area. We had a newbie hiker with us however; who we thought would appreciate two less miles (thus the boat rides). We took what I think was about 4-4.5 miles of switch backs to the first lake. It took twice as long as it should have, but I enjoyed every minute of the way up. Usually I am huffing it pretty hard up the hill to get their and don’t take much time to see everything! But, we had to keep our companions in mind, so we often took breaks, so as not to frustrate our guests. Upon arriving at the first lake, we took a break for lunch.
Four of the six of us continued onward while the other two decided to head back. At Lake 2, which was literally a minute away, we found a much prettier lake with trees and a bit of a nicer shoreline. If you are considering this hike, at least find Lake 2. The first one is not worth all those miles:)…from what we heard from the boat driver, Lake 2 is usually all that most people attempt.

Bench Lake 2

After Lake 2 we followed the trail to lose our way for about 15 minute before we figured out that the book we were using was not correct in its directions. So we did a little improvising, found the trail again and stumbled across Lake 3. Literally these lakes just kept getting prettier and prettier as we went. Although Lake 3 was smaller than the first two, I really thought it was much more eye catching and peaceful.

Bench Lake 3

I had it in my mind that I would try and get to all 5 lakes no matter who was coming with me, so on we moved. Lake 4 takes much more skill and time to get to.

Boulder Field

The group climbed a large boulder field and followed piles of stones that others before us left as guides for the trail. Once we crested the top of the boulders, Lake 4 stood in all its glory. I think this lake is one of the most beautiful Alpine lakes I have ever set my own eyes upon. The water was crystal clear and actually somewhat warm. There were fish in this lake, and lots of mayflies for them to eat. Breathtaking is the word I will use to describe this beauty.

Bench Lake 4

Although we ran out of time and did not make the 5th lake, Lake 4 really left the impression in my mind that Lake 5 would be even more stunning then those before it, which is why I will someday return to master this task!
Because of the slow ascent, we were running short on time to catch the last shuttle boat, so it was with regret that we left and headed down the mountain side. With GPS phone apps and other such devices, we concluded that we probably put in about 10-12 miles on Saturday. We returned to Stanley for some dinner, only to find the power out in the whole town! Crushing when you’re starving by the way…

So the kids returned to camp with their friends for mac n cheese over the fire, while my husband and I went to our cabin, cleaned up and returned to Red Fish Lodge for a nice dinner and a short dock stroll under the moon light. Even got to see some fry swimming around in the lights under the dock! Soo cool…
Driving away from Stanley, I always feel like I am leaving an old love that I will never cross paths with again, so it is a good thing it’s less than 3 hours away!
We are so lucky to live in this great state with such beautiful destinations to enjoy, so get out and make it happen 🙂