September 30, 2022

How to Elope in Stanley, Idaho


Stanley, Idaho is one of my top recommendations as a place to elope in Idaho! Maybe you have grown up loving this area like I have, camping at the lakes or enjoying a hot spring nearby. Or maybe you are looking for a place to elope in Idaho. Either way, Stanley seems to be a little known secret as one of the best places to elope in this state.

So why Stanley?

Often I see Idaho residents or nearby states choosing the best well-known (and gorgeous places) to elope, like Teton National Park, or Yellowstone. While I love these spots, permits can be hard to get & plan, and it is much more crowded. Stanley, Idaho requires no permits to elope anywhere in the area, and the process/paperwork to elope in Idaho itself is very minimal. Besides that, Stanley is bursting with gorgeous scenery, hikes, and lakes. It branches off into so many outdoor activities in the Sawtooth mountains. And it is only 2.5 hours from Boise.

How to Elope in Stanley, Idaho:

  1. Choose Your Season
  2. Find Accommodations
  3. Choose Your Vendors
  4. Choose a Ceremony Location
  5. Plan Your Timeline
  6. Elope!
  1. Choose Your Season:

I’ll be honest, Stanley is gorgeous in every season, it really depends on what you like the best.

Winter is less crowded, the mountains & trees are covered in snow, and can be a very intimate experience. However, be aware that some areas may be closed. Driving a four wheel drive car will be very helpful, and remember that it can be very cold, so preparing with the right gear will be essential during this season.

Spring/Fall: While these seasons can get a little chilly, they are some of the most beautiful. The fall colors are bright, the grass turns a gorgeous shade of yellow, and often there is a layer of fog on the lakes that makes for perfect morning photos. Spring is bright & green, fresh, and very beautiful. These seasons can be busy but are still less crowded than summer.

Summer is one of my favorite seasons in Stanley. Wildflowers pop up everywhere, it is warm during the day and cool at night, and everything is green. The lakes are peaceful & there are a lot of activities to do. However, this is also the busiest season, especially around holidays, so if you prefer to be alone for an elopement, keep this in mind. Don’t worry though, you can definitely find a less traveled spot, and I can help you find the perfect one.

For season perspective, I just shot an elopement on September 24th, so end of summer and near fall. It was warm during the day (80s-low 90s) and during our morning photoshoot it was frosty and cold (20s!). Although the town of Stanley was fairly busy, our elopement location was quiet and we only saw a couple people on the trail.

2. Find Accommodations

There are some really great choices when looking at where to stay in Stanley. Before you decide, think about what you want your elopement to look like, and what activities you want to do. Find somewhere you can enjoy the type of activities you love & gain the type of experience you want to create. Also, think about whether or not you want getting ready photos. These will most likely be at your lodging, so keep in mind what you want those photos to look like when looking for a spot (Big windows? Room for multiple people? Etc.)

There are a couple different hotels and lodging including the Mountain Village Resort, the Redfish Lake Lodge, and multiple cabins that are all great options. Stanley Lake is a great choice for camping, but there is also camping at Redfish Lake as well. In my opinion, Stanley Lake is the quieter and less crowded of the two lakes. Overall, for photos, it would be best to have an Airbnb or cabin to yourself, but anywhere would work.

3. Choose Your Vendors:

When eloping, your vendors will be some of the most important details to create your day. How you want your elopement to look will depend largely on your vendors. I would recommend deciding what you want your day to look like and what is important to you first so that you know what vendors to book.

Photographer: Choose a photographer you love. Find a photographer that knows the area, can help plan with you, & if needed, can marry you. Most of all, find someone that will tell your story. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you’re looking for a photographer that fits that description!

Florist: I would recommend getting a florist! Flowers really pop in your photos! I have also seen some beautiful dried bouquets on etsy. You can always reach out to me for suggestions on vendors.

Other Vendors: The rest of the vendors you get depend on your day. Will you have a reception? Do you want a cake? Food? a Videographer?

4. Choose a Ceremony Location:

The first step to choosing the right location is deciding who will be there. This can help you decide how large of a spot you’ll need, and also how accessible you need it to be. (If grandma will be there, can grandma hike to the location?) Choosing a spot you already know and love can be very special. You can also send your photographer to scout for a location or go check some out yourself!

One of the most helpful tips is to choose a photographer that knows the area and can help suggest spots that aren’t only beautiful, but will have good light and are good for photos. (Don’t worry, I can help!)

There are so many hikes and lakes to explore, but I’ll list a couple of my favorite locations here:

My Favorite Elopement Locations in Stanley:

  • Fishhook Creek Trail: This is a pretty short and easy hike. It took my husband and I only 45 minutes to hike there, and there aren’t very many people at the top every time I have been. It features a beautiful view of mountains as well as a sprawling creek & pine trees.
  • Stanley Lake: In my opinion, Stanley Lake is a little less busy and quieter than Redfish Lake. There are some beautiful drive-up spots next to the lake with big mountains and clear water. And if you catch it in the morning, the fog is incredible.
  • Redfish Lake: There are some majestic hikes around Redfish Lake that offer a scenic view of the area, but also some beautiful beach spots that offer lake views & distant mountains.
  • Sawtooth Lake: There are many hikes around Sawtooth Lake that offer gorgeous mountain views with a perfect blue lake. This lake is lesser known than others, so it can be quieter.
  • Pioneer Park: If you’re looking for something simple but with a wide view of the mountains, Pioneer Park is more open & has fields backing up to the mountains.
Fishhook Creek

5. Plan your Timeline

The best part of eloping is that you can do whatever you want to do! Stanley has a wide array of outdoor activities including kayaking, horseback riding, fishing, and hiking. I would recommend doing something fun during your day or relaxing together. Here is an example timeline of a real life elopement I shot in Stanley just last week:

7am-8:15am Couples photos at Sunrise at Stanley Lake

8:30am-9:30am Breakfast at a Café in Stanley

9:30am-3pm Break/Kayaking

3-4pm Detail Photos & Getting Ready Photos @ Airbnb

4-4:15pm Drive to Hike

4:30pm-6pm Hike, take photos along the way, change into wedding attire

6pm-6:15pm First Look

6:15pm-7:30pm Ceremony, Vows, and Sunset Photos afterwards

7:30pm Sunset & Hike Back

This elopement included no family, & was very intimate. I officiated, so it was just us. It was such a peaceful & perfect day. If you are including family, you’ll want time for family shots, and may include a reception or small dinner.

Although I think it is helpful to look at example timelines to inspire you, remember that your elopement day is yours! You can choose to do what you want and it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s!

6. Elope

Now it’s time to start planning! Don’t be afraid to reach out to me if you have any questions or need any help!


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