You don't need to go far from town to enjoy a fall hike complete with golden aspens
Ah, September in Sun Valley: Cool mornings and evenings; warm sunny days; the always-evolving alchemy of aspen leaves as they turn bright gold. Though each season here certainly has its merits, there is something truly spectacular about autumn.
And with the children back in school, the booked-to-the-minute fun of Labor Day weekend behind us, it’s time to get out there and take a hike. Though many local trails were temporarily closed in August due to the Beaver Creek Fire, right now, local hiking is at its peak.
The Hemingway Memorial is a beautiful tribute to the author and a gateway to terrific local hikes
Whether you have lived in Sun Valley your entire life or are just visiting for the weekend, a great place to start a September hike is at the Hemingway Memorial just east of the Sun Valley Lodge on Trail Creek Road. The memorial features a likeness of the legendary writer who completed For Whom the Bell Tolls in suite 206 at the Lodge, and is tucked beneath shady trees on the banks of Trail Creek. Stone benches in the shape of a half moon offer a place to sit and reflect on the inscription that reminds Hemingway is laid to rest in the Ketchum Cemetery:
Best of all he loved the fall
The leaves yellow on the cottonwoods
Leaves floating on the trout streams
And above the hills
The high blue windless skies
Now he will be a part of them forever.
From this very unique, and very nearby, trailhead, miles of beautiful single track wend through Proctor Mountain. For the novice, gentle walks lead along the creek and east. Craving more vertical? Numerous trails climb to the saddle of Proctor, offering fantastic views in every direction, including one of the best ones around of Baldy. If you’re up for a challenge, the Ruud Mountain trail cuts steeply right to the more traditional Proctor Mountain trails, leading to, and beyond, one of the first chairlifts in the world.
Bald Mountain in the warmer months offers stunning vistas and great exercise to those on foot
Also “in town” are popular hiking and biking trails near the White Clouds golf course across from Sun Valley Resort. Don’t forget Bald Mountain offers a great cardiac workout, terrific views and the possibility of a fabulous lunch to reward you for your efforts. Start at the River Run side of the hill and bear right to the Bald Mountain Trail. This leads, in switchbacks, both to the Roundhouse Restaurant (offering a fabulous barbecue deck lunch through September 8), and all the way to the summit. If you want to channel your inner local, head straight up the Warm Springs or River Run ski runs to the top. It’s an unbeatable workout and who knows, maybe you will want to take the Baldy Hill Climb later this month.
Slightly further afield, but still a very short drive from town, the Adams Gulch trailhead just north of Ketchum provides many trail options for hiking and mountain biking, as do Chocolate Gulch and Fox Creek. To the east, a hike to the historic Pioneer Cabin (there are three different routes up) is one of the most beautiful in the area. In the fall, this very popular hike is more lightly traveled and it is the perfect time to go.
The walk up to Pioneer Cabin is beautiful, but the real payout is cresting the final ridge
For all these hikes, remember, even if the trailhead is right up the street, you are in altitude and the autumn weather can be variable so be prepared. Bring plenty of water and a light rain shell, layers, wear comfortable sturdy shoes, bring a snack or lunch and sunscreen is a must.
For a full list of current trail conditions, please click HERE.
September is the most beautiful hiking month in the Wood River Valley, at least by my account. Take some time for yourself, get out there and hit the trails!
For my family, summer is all about being outside. When, in late June, the sun rises at 6 a.m. and sets at 10 p.m., there is time to indulge in everything that makes the season so memorable.
After much consideration and heated debate around the dining room table, here is a list of the top five activities that define our Sun Valley summers. It would have been easy to name 50, but the winners are:
When you reach Pioneer Cabin, this is your reward
My favorite way to enjoy the wilderness and scenic beauty of the Wood River Valley, the Sawtooth Mountains and beyond (and beyond and beyond) is on foot. Whether I have a two-hour window in my schedule or the luxury of a full day to get out into the woods, the possibilities for eye- (and lung!) popping hikes are as limitless as the amazingly well maintained, beautiful trail system that originates in our backyard. In-town hikes like Adams Gulch, Proctor Mountain and Chocolate Gulch offer diverse topography and challenge. A short drive from town gets you into the White Clouds, the Smoky Mountains, the Pioneers and the Boulders. Tucked among these mountain peaks are some of the most spectacular high altitude lakes you will ever see, and even during “high season,” many of these trails are surprisingly lightly traveled. My all-time favorite in the Smoky Mountains is the Norton Lake/Big Lost loop — spectacular and easily manageable in a half-day. Given a full day, the Sawtooths are my destination of choice, with trailheads in the Stanley area about an hour’s drive north of Ketchum. One of the destinations in that region isn’t called Shangri-La for nothing! Oh! And hiking up Baldy to Roundhouse for lunch and a gondola ride down is pretty terrific, too! And cresting the final ridge up to Pioneer Cabin is probably one of the most beautiful payoffs, beauty-wise, in the world. This list goes on and on!
People travel from all over the world to fly fish Sun Valley. Try it and you'll see why
As the band the Talking Heads sang in the 80s, “Take me to the river, drop me in the water,” and for our family, this is gospel, as long as we get to bring our fly rods. Sun Valley is surrounded on every side by some of the most pristine, productive trout water in North America. Steps from town, the Big Wood River fishes fantastically throughout the summer, tempting novices to get hooked and offering more sophisticated fishing to experienced anglers. For children, Penny Lake is fishing heaven and a great introduction to the lifetime sport. Over Trail Creek pass, Copper Basin and the Big Lost River beckon with some of the most spectacular scenery in the state and south of Bellevue, Silver Creek draws fly fishing aficionados from around the world with its notoriously selective natives that challenge and delight.
Skating on the outdoor rink isn't just child's play, but it certainly is fun
With two figure skaters in the family, much of our summer is spent at the Sun Valley ice rinks. But skating isn’t only for those working on their Double Salchow! Taking a few turns around the iconic outdoor rink that hugs the Lodge’s terrace is a fabulous way to spend an afternoon. In fact, it is the coolest place to be on hot summer days. Skate rentals, attire to make you look like a gold medalist and admission to general sessions are all available at the historic skate house, as is the opportunity to sign up for a few lessons with one of the rink’s highly accomplished pros. Then on Saturday nights, beginning in July, the stars of the skating world shine under Idaho’s canopy of stars in Sun Valley’s world famous ice shows. We love to enjoy the bountiful dinner buffet before the show or wrap up in a blanket on the bleachers to see, up close and personal, the finest athletes in the world. This year’s lineup includes luminaries like Evan Lysacek, Ryan Bradley and Ashley Wagner. This may be your last chance to glimpse future Olympic champions as they finalize preparations for Games in Sochi.
Dining al fresco
Dining outside is one of the great pleasures of life, especially when you live in a climate where it is only possible for a short window of time. Whenever eating out is on the calendar, we chose to go al fresco. At the Resort, dinner on the Ram terrace is our absolute favorite, both for the food and the terrific view of activity in the Village. The swan pond, surrounded by soft green grass, couldn’t be more picturesque if an artist painted it. Other terrific outdoor dining at the Resort includes the terrace at Gretchen’s restaurant overlooking the ice rink, light fare and drinks on the Duchin Room terrace and of course, my other favorite, outdoor dining at the historic Trail Creek Cabin. A short drive from Sun Valley takes you a world away to enjoy outstanding food as Trail Creek burbles nearby and the surrounding mountains look, at sunset, as if they are draped in velvet. Other al fresco dining opportunities also abound in Ketchum and Hailey when decks and patios are the place to see and be seen all summer long, whether you’re enjoying a burger or a gourmet four-course dinner.
The terrace at the Ram is a wonderful place to enjoy a meal under the sun or stars
Leisurely bike rides
Nearly every night of the warm weather months, my children and I hop on our bikes, hop onto the Rails-to-Trails bike path that runs right by our home and pedal the evening away. This paved path is appropriate for everyone as it gently leads past Hailey to the south and well past Ketchum to the north. The route often runs next to the Big Wood River and offers more than 32-miles of pedaling possibility. My advice? Don’t rush. This is a great opportunity to simply enjoy the surroundings and the company.
Family bike rides are a terrific end to a busy day (and no worries, my daughter only took off her helmet for the photo!)
Summer possibilities are so varied, whether you are visiting for two weeks or have lived here for 20 years, there will always be new hikes to try, new mountain bike trails to explore, another stretch of river to fish or to whitewater raft, campsites you haven’t visited, a new stretch of beach at a mountain lake at which to picnic, a swimming hole to jump into, another opportunity to work on your handicap. Phew!
No matter what you like to do, though, the critical thing is to just get outside, be with friends and family and remember what summer is supposed to be about. Unplug, enjoy, unwind, explore. It’s summer in Sun Valley.
Everything that makes summer wonderful is at the end of this rainbow in Sun Valley
The Valley unfolds below during this short, pretty hike up Baldy
September and October are hands-down my favorite months in the Wood River Valley. I love the shoulder-season feel in town when you can again wave at the driver of nearly every car you pass. I love the mineral smell of the Big Wood River when it’s low and unhurried. Most of all, I love the coin-shaped leaves of the aspens as they turn bright gold and light up the hills. I love the warm Indian summer days and the cool bite of autumn nights. Conventional wisdom holds that people come to Sun Valley for the winter and return because of our amazing summers. If they knew about the fall, they would never leave.
Hiking is the perfect way to capitalize on everything that is so amazing about the season. On a sunshiny September Sunday, I decided to walk up to Lookout on Bald Mountain. This hike is one of my in-town, don’t-have-much-time, but crave-pretty-scenery picks. It is short (1.7 miles each way), and not too steep. The route begins at the base of River Run and wends up the Bald Mountain Trail until it reaches the wooden platform built over the edge of the mountain that is the Lookout.
My hiking buddies were my friend, Chris, and my dog, Annabel. Since Chris is male, I did not expect much of the continuous banter and exchanged confidences that typify any hike I take with my girlfriends. But sometimes that is nice. Hiking in silence provides a great workout – you go faster when you’re not yapping. For me, hiking, like skiing, is a meditation of sorts. The slightly jarring rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other, heel-toe, heel-toe, and the varying pattern of my breath help clear my mind. Altitude is the ultimate mind clearer, too. The famous saying painted onto the roof of Pioneer Cabin (a fabulous hike if you’re looking for one) – The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get – is a self-evident truth. Standing at the edge of the Lookout, with Ketchum spread below and the sublime Pioneer mountain range in the distance, you can’t help but find some peace.
Given the time, from Lookout, I like to keep going up, up, up. The trail leads to Roundhouse (during summer, I usually “reward” myself for the hike with lunch on the deck, and more often that not, a glass of wine) or to the top of the hill. Riding the lift down, it is great fun to see my favorite ski runs bursting with colorful wildflowers and thigh-high vegetation. It makes me appreciate the volume of snowfall it takes to cover all that. And even in the middle of July, it makes me yearn just a bit for ski season. But there is still another good month of hiking left. For now, I will enjoy the ascent and look forward to the descent.
The Lookout platform is a great place to catch your breath
“The Monument Plant is a tall, narrow, cone-shaped plant with flowers clustered around the upper part of its stem. The plants live for many years, blooms only once and then dies. Flowering is unpredictable, but seems related to moisture,” according to Idaho Mountain Wildflowers – Earle. Some think it is on a seven year cycle. This year, the monument plant seems to be everywhere. We are seeing it in the middle of the upper runs, such as Holiday, Exhibition and Olympic. If you look out the window as you are riding up the Gondola, you can see this plant as you ride over Exhibition. Because of the cold temperatures in the spring, The mountain is still green and the mountain flowers are in bloom. This is a perfect time to go for a Gondola ride, lunch at the Roundhouse and a nature hike!