STANLEY — Work will begin this year on a new 4.4-mile, fully accessible trail connecting the two biggest destinations in the Sawtooth Valley: the city of Stanley and the Redfish Lake recreation complex.
“It has spectacular views of the Sawtooth Range up here on the top that you don’t really get anywhere else,” the Sawtooth National Recreation Area’s project leader, landscape architect Matt Phillips, said last summer, tracing the proposed trail’s route on a U.S. Forest Service planning map.
The Redfish to Stanley Trail was something envisioned for years. Now, it’s ready to move ahead, the Sawtooth National Forest announced Thursday.
The forest and the Federal Highway Administration-Western Federal Lands Highway Program signed an agreement July 31 that committed funding for the FHWA to provide design and construction services for building the nonmotorized trail.
“We have been working with FHWA on the reconstruction of the Redfish Lake road, and we could not be more pleased to build on that success by executing the agreement for the Redfish to Stanley Trail,” Sawtooth Forest Supervisor Kit Mullen said in a release.
The first step was purchase of a trail easement though a private ranch for the north third of the trail — the rest of the trail will be on national forest lands — and project planning began in earnest in 2013. The SNRA moved forward on environmental analysis and public review in 2014, and a decision to construct the trail was made in May.
Field work to support trail design will begin later this year, and the SNRA hopes to award a contract and begin construction next summer.
You can expect a compacted natural surface and a gentle grade meeting Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. The trail will be open to pedestrian, bike and equestrian users.
Users will encounter some gentle climbs, but within accessibility standards; flat “resting” stretches intersperse the steeper inclines. The design’s 6.5-foot width is meant to provide minimal passing space for bicycles but still feel like a trail.
“Redfish Lake is a popular day-use destination for travelers staying in Stanley,” Mullen said, “and having a non-vehicular access route to the complex will add options for travelers between the two destinations.”
From Stanley’s Pioneer Park, the trail will head south — skirting the Stanley airport and staying west of Idaho 75 — and gain unimpeded views from the middle of a sage flat. The route ends on a footbridge at the Redfish Lake entrance station, where it connects with a trail network.
The route has only two road crossings, both near the Stanley Ranger Station, basically the midpoint of the trail. The route never crosses Idaho 75.
The Redfish to Stanley Trail could become a major new recreation destination. But Phillips also sees the trail opening a safer alternative for the families and commuters — including Forest Service employees — who bicycle between the town and the lake on Idaho 75, which has only a narrow shoulder.
“I think it would give you pause to go with your family,” Phillips said last summer.