We recently purchased this house and the deck was painted. It now needs to be repainted, but we want to stain it. We are in the mountains and can not use a pressure washer since we do not have outside water. What do you recommend to take off the paint and stain the deck?
Rent a drum sander and run it in line with the boards. You can take off a large amount of wood in short order depending on the grit of paper you use. Then use a sanding disc with a backer on a grinder for detail work where the drum will not go. We used 36 grit to bring some weathered wood back; probably took of over 1/4" off the top in that case! Total out of pocket should be around $200-$250 for everything.
It is unlikely you can stain it. The paint soaks into the wood and stains it, so it will probably look really bad if you strip it. Also, I can't even imagine striping a deck. I have stripped doors and it is an insane amount of nasty work. Strip a whole deck, Jeez, what a nightmare.