Best Things To Do in Sun Valley
Ketchum's casual town atmosphere and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains have made it a mainstay for celebrities and outdoor enthusiasts for decades. The Sun Valley Resort is the most obvious attraction in town, as it enjoys plenty of powder and world-class facilities. And in the summer months, numerous biking and hiking trails in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area attract warm-weather visitors. For more relaxing pursuits, there's the peaceful Sawtooth Botanical Garden. And if you want to learn about the area's unique culture and history, check out the Sun Valley Museum of History.
Updated October 4, 2019
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If you're visiting Ketchum in the winter, it's hard to resist the powder and astounding vistas offered by Sun Valley Resort, where about 220 inches of snowfall accumulate every year. Experienced skiers and snowboarders will love the nearly 100 trails at Bald Mountain. From groomed runs to glades to bowls to terrain parks, this massive winter wonderland will keep you entertained for days. And if you're just starting out, you'll find easy trails and group lessons at nearby Dollar Mountain.
But even if you aren't here to downhill ski, you can still have a great time. Cross-country skiers can enjoy more than 25 miles of Nordic trails, and ice skaters will love the outdoor rink. Plus, you can book a sleigh ride with your family or just relax in the lodge with a hot drink. Recent visitors applauded Sun Valley for its fast-moving lift lines and said it's a great family destination thanks to its variety of runs. The ski season generally begins in late November and continues until late April.
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Comprising 756,000 acres and 40 peaks rising more than 10,000 feet, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is as breathtaking as it gets when it comes to nature in the Northwest. More than 700 miles of trails snake through this massive wilderness in central Idaho, which provides ample viewpoints and campgrounds. Outdoor enthusiasts can do it all here, including hiking, backpacking, fishing, boating, biking and rafting.
If you're visiting Sawtooth for the first time, try the 11.4-mile Redfish Lake to Alpine Lake trail. This journey is unique because it starts with a short boat ride across Redfish Lake (with the help of guides and for a small fee). From there, you'll pass through colorful meadows and impressive rock fields while hopefully catching a glimpse of some local wildlife. Though this is an intermediate hike, there are some steep switchbacks before you make it to Alpine Lake, which sits at more than 8,000 feet and is a nice place to cool off in the summer.
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Though the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is the most well-known wilderness area near Ketchum, there are multiple trails of varying difficulty in the immediate vicinity of town. If you're looking for a great workout, try the 5.3-mile Bald Mountain Trail, which winds up Bald Mountain with multiple switchbacks and rewards you handsomely at the top with panoramic views of the town and surrounding countryside. This trail is accessible in the summer from the bottom of the mountain, and bikers can take lifts up via the Sun Valley ski resort to enjoy downhill rides on car-free paths.
If you're looking for something at an intermediate level, try the Adams Gulch Loop. This trail is most popular among mountain bikers; however, it can also be used by hikers, dog walkers and horseback riders. This iconic Sun Valley trail winds through Ketchum's countryside for approximately 7 miles, and it is relatively flat. Throughout your walk or ride, you'll notice outstanding views of the Griffin Butte, the Pioneer Mountains and the town of Ketchum itself as you adventure through aspen trees and rolling hills. Recent travelers said this trail was fun and breathtaking, but they noted that the path can get crowded (especially if you're on a bike) during the summer months.
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A remodeling of the former Ski and Heritage Museum, the Sun Valley Museum of History highlights the unique legacy and culture of the Ketchum and Sun Valley area. The museum's exhibitions inform visitors about the history of Ketchum, from its original founding as a mining and ranching hub to its development as a world-class skiing and tourism destination. Recent reviewers especially appreciated the displays of antique ski apparel and equipment, and they complimented the knowledgeable museum curator. Plus, there is a special exhibit specifically about the life and death of famed writer and Ketchum resident Ernest Hemingway.
The property that houses the museum, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is located in downtown Ketchum. The exhibits are open Wednesday to Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m., and admission is free (though donations are accepted). For more information about what is currently on display, check out the museum's website.
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A showcase of natural beauty and high-altitude plants, the Sawtooth Botanical Garden is a must-stop for any plant lover or gardener. The 5-acre garden showcases both native and cultivated plants that represent the five biomes of south-central Idaho. What's more, there are art installations and educational exhibits interspersed among the plants. The crown jewel of the garden, though, is the interactive Tibetan prayer wheel in the center of the Garden of Infinite Passion. Featuring a handmade, free-spinning wheel imported from India, the exhibit contains about one million hand-printed prayers on individual pieces of paper. Visitors can spin the wheel themselves and learn about Tibetan traditions of meditation and religion.
Access to the Sawtooth Botanical is free (though donations are welcome). Plus, the gardens remain open to the public from dawn to dusk year-round (the visitor center has hours that vary by season). Past visitors provide positive reviews of the garden, with many people saying that it's ideal for a quick and relaxing stroll. To access the garden from downtown Ketchum, drive about 4 miles south on Highway 75.
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