If you’re looking for easy-to-access epic mountains, crystal clear lakes, and getting off the beaten path, Stanley is for you. This gem tucked in the forests of Idaho has all the exploration your adventurous soul could desire.
This guide is a great start for figuring out how to elope in Stanley, Idaho.
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Enjoy this photo journey through locations you could use for your elopement in Stanley, ID. Stanley offers a wide range of locations with epic backdrops from quick walks from the parking lot to multi-day hiking.
Stanley is packed with a huge range of activities. You can find multi-day backpacking trails all the way to epic views right off the parking lot. All the lakes, rivers and streams leave you with endless opportunities for water recreation. Here’s some of the main activities you may want to explore:
Stanley is awesome for the same reason it can be challenging: it’s very isolated (which is also awesome because it means less visitors). The nearest major airport is in Boise, ID. Boise is a 3 hour drive from Stanley. While you may not be excited about a 3 hour drive, I can assure you that it’s a stunning trip. Take your sweet time and make a day out of your drive to really enjoy the sights along the way.
Road tripping to Stanley is also an option. Most routes will take you either through Boise or Salt Lake City. In the winter time, Highway 21 to Stanley closes.
Small town Stanley can be a challenge when it comes to lodging but you should be set with a little planning ahead.
Option 1: Find a motel or vacation rental. There’s some stunning AirBNBs and VRBOs out there and some adorable, rustic style hotel/motels. The options also tend to be limited and get booked out in advance. Make sure to set your dates and get your reservation early if you want to go this route.
Option 2: Camping. There’s SO many beautiful spots to camp in Stanley. We travel mainly in our van and there were endless options for us to pick from. We stayed in a beautiful aspen forest one night, along Redfish Lake the next, and then the Salmon River. All the options we used for our van also work great for tents, truck bed campers, or car tents. We were able to get sites with our van day of with a bit of campground hopping.
Option 3: RVing. While RVing is a more comfortable way to travel, this is a bit trickier in Stanley than the standard camping option. RV sites are often booked out for the entire summer and fill up very quickly. This is still a great lodging option, but you just need to make sure to check when reservations open and be ready to reserve ASAP.
Option 4: Stay in Ketchum, ID. Ketchum is only an hour down the road from Stanley and offers more town amenities than Stanley does. It’s a ski resort town with hotels, motels, and additional vacation rental options.
Marriage licenses in Idaho are a breeze (especially if you hire a photographer who is also ordained). Of all the states I’ve worked in, Idaho’s is so far the simplest.
You’ll go to the most convenient county recorder’s office to get your marriage license. If you’re flying into Boise airport, I recommend you use Ada county before you drive out to Stanley. Stanley is in Custer county whose county seat is all the way in Challis (1+ hour away and quite far off the route you’ll likely take to Stanley) and would be far less convenient. Know that Ada is a very large county so I’d recommend reaching out to them to see what will be the most time effective way to get your marriage license (time of day, appointments, etc.).
You can pick up your license in any Idaho county and use it in any Idaho county. While you can get married in different counties, you MUST be married within the state of Idaho if you have an Idaho marriage license. You may get an Idaho marriage license even if you do not live in Idaho.
It costs around $30 cash to get your marriage license. The state of Idaho website indicates that most county recorder’s do not accept check or credit card. You will also need each of your social security numbers and some form of ID that proves identity and age (driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, etc.)
You only need an officiant and the two of you to finish the marriage license. Many states require witnesses and Idaho is not one of them. Universal Life Church (ULC) is a recognized officiant license in the state of Idaho. I personally have a ULC ordination or you can easily have one of your loved ones get ordained for free through ULC.
Make sure to check all this information yourself through official, State of Idaho resources. Here’s their page with information on how to obtain marriage licenses in Idaho. Also, I always recommend you reach out to the county you are getting your marriage license from. Calling them can often clear up questions easier and with more reassurance than trying to get all you information off the web.
Never fear, there’s lots for your dog in Stanley. Unfortunately, parts of Redfish Lake are not dog friendly; there is a section of the lake that you can bring them on. There’s also plenty of hikes that will let you bring your best dog along for your special day.
With high elevation and all those mountains, Stanley is prone to very harsh winters. One of the highways that give you access to Stanley closes down entirely every winter. Stanley starts to get snow as early as October and it stays as late as May. The peak snow months are November through March making it an unusually long snow season in comparison to most places. Stanley is still accessible for eloping in the winter but expect heavy snow and icy road conditions.
In the summer, temperatures are usually around 80 degrees (July and August). July through September are the best times to visit if you want to avoid rainfall, snow, and if you want to ensure that there’s accessibility to all the places you want to visit. This is more important if you want to go to more backcountry locations, while you have more wiggle room if you plan on sticking with the lower elevation locations.
While the amenities in town are limited, there’s plenty of stores and restaurants to keep you taken care of.
There is only one gas station in town. Gas prices are slightly elevated there but not crazy so plan on filling your tank before starting the journey out. You can also rest easy knowing that fuel is nearby and convenient.
You’ll also find a grocery store with all the basics you could need and some cute souvenirs. There’s a small outdoors store in case you forget a hiking essential.
There’s a handful of coffee shops and restaurants to enjoy as well if you don’t feel like packing in your food. You’ll find classic diner food, a cute bakery, and burgers. We personally enjoyed the shaved ice stand and the huckleberry ice cream at Peaks and Perks.
If you forgot anything, or need some cheaper groceries or fuel, or if you just want to shop and eat in a unique ski resort town, remember that Ketchum, Idaho is just an hour away, and the drive to get there is gorgeous.
With Boise, ID only 3 hours of driving away, finding your vendors near Boise is your best call. Florals and desserts can easily last the trip from Boise and Stanley. Make sure to tell your vendors that you’re having to transport the materials and they can guide you on how to best care for them while they get there. You could also just pick up huckleberry ice cream at Peaks and Perks and ditch the floral arrangement for your hike.
For hair and makeup, you can check out nearby Ketchum, ID where there’s a few salon options. Ketchum is 1 hour away and offers many ski resort town amenities. This is another great location you could check out for finding other vendors. It’s also another beautiful area for you to explore while you’re in the area (Galena Lodge is my personal favorite). DIY hair and makeup is also a common option for elopements (or a friend/family member). This route can simplify things a lot but make sure to allocate plenty of time if you decide on this option! DIY type hair and makeup usually runs over the time you’d expect.
As for an officiant, you have plenty of options that fit any budget. You can bring in an officiant from Boise and have their professional help through the process. You can also easily get one of your friends or family ordained for free through ULC. Lastly, you can hire a photographer who is already ordained. I’m ordained through ULC and offer to sign as your officiant complimentary with any elopement photography package if you’re looking for just a basic ceremony that gets you legally married. If you want a little more fanfare for your ceremony, I also offer formal ceremonies through my partner. Learn more about his officiating services here.
There’s so many beautiful places in the world to elope and we want to make sure people can continue enjoying them for years to come. As with all places you recreate make sure to…