Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Sun Valley in the winter is special. Magical, even. As it's a ski resort town, the snowy months are high season, and much of the rest of the year passes with a quieter beauty that most people miss out on. Summer in the Wood River Valley is, to be fair, the area's second biggest season, with plenty of adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts swinging through the area for hiking, fishing and biking—not to mention concerts, symphony performances, paddle boarding, and river rafting. With hot sunny days and cool, clear nights summer in Sun Valley has a magic of it's own.

I got to spend a whole week out West with my family recently, which gave me a chance to really revel in The Val's laid-back-but-super-active summer vibes. Homecooked meals on the patio and morning walks with the dog were punctuated with high altitude hikes, a couple of mini road trips and more than a few really good margaritas.

Partly for my own enjoyment and also to inspire you to take a trip to Sun Valley of your own, I rounded up my favorite activities (and plenty of photos) of the week to give you an idea of why this is my favorite place in the world, no matter what time of year.



{ The wildflowers were blooming all along the trail up to Titus Lake }

{ My mom and I with Zooey... In matching jaunty bandanas }

{ You never know what (or who) might be causing your traffic jam in Idaho... }

{ Just one of the unique viewpoints you can reach in Adams Gulch, looking out at Baldy}
  • Adams Gulch is a favorite hiking and mountain biking hub in the summer, as well as snowshoeing in the winter. We can access the trails just behind our house, but there's a trailhead and parking lot just off Highway 75 as you head north out of town. Most of the rides and hikes in the area are not terribly steep or difficult, which means the main trails can be quite busy. However, stunning views of the valley and mountains beyond, plus plenty of Aspen-shaded spots to stop for a sip of water make Adams Gulch a worthwhile outing.
  • Titus Lake is another great trail for those looking for a short trip with big rewards. The trailhead is just a few hundred feet from the summit of Galena Pass, so be prepared to huff and puff. The elevation dips throughout the hike from about 8,600 feet to upwards of 9,000 feet. Pack plenty of water and a picnic lunch if you want to hang out on the rocks once you reach the crystal-clear lake. Or if you head up in the morning to beat the afternoon heat (smart!) treat yourself to the Adult Grilled Cheese and a local beer at Galena Lodge on your way back down instead.


{ Crystal clear, shallow and freezing cold waters just off Redfish Lake Lodge }

{ After paddleboarding, we found this secluded, scenic spot for a picnic... }

{ I did NOT want to leave... (Pendleton towel and Birkenstocks) }

{ Is that a Christmas Card shot or what? }

{ The drive from Ketchum to Redfish Lake has some of the best scenery in the world... }

{ Be sure to stop at the viewpoint just on the other side of the summer of Galena Pass }
  • Redfish Lake is a place where a picture is really worth one thousand words. This crystal-clear alpine lake is so shallow around parts of the shore, and the sand is so white, that it looks like a tropical beach has been dropped into a forest. Redfish Lake Lodge offers amazing accommodations if you book far enough in advance, but it's also totally doable as a daytrip from either Stanley or Ketchum. Pack a picnic and pick your water activities—you can paddleboard, kayak, rent a party boat, jetski... You name it. Or, you can simply grab a quiet spot along the shore and wade into the refreshingly cold water and take in the craggy peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains that surround you.
  • Part of the beauty of this adventure, especially if you drive over Galena Summit from Ketchum, is the drive itself. There's a vista just over the North side where it's worth your while to pull over and stop, just to take it all in. You can see clear down the valley and out to the wilderness beyond. Also, stop for a milkshake at Smiley Creek.


{ A shot of our picnic spot deep in the Copper Basin }

{ Wearing a Madewell chambray shirt and Urban Outfitters hat (similar) }

{ We pack a pretty good picnic spread... And don't exactly "rough it" }

{ My uncle fly fishing }
  • This is another outing where the drive is half the fun. From Sun Valley you head North past Trail Creek and up a very dramatic one-lane dirt road that hugs a 1,000 foot drop-off for about five miles. From there you venture deep into forested mountains where you're likely to spot a moose or bear if you keep your eyes peeled. 
  • How deep into the hills and valleys around Copper Basin you want to go is up to you—we went out there. In the midst of a cattle range and dropped between multiple dramatic mountain ranges, we set up camp for an afternoon of fly fishing, dog-chasing, and eating and drinking really, really well. We were chased out by an afternoon thunderstorm, but that only added to the quickly-changing beauty of the landscape.


{The views from the top of Baldy can't be beat...}

{ We toasted to my late grandparents with their favorite drink, a gin martini, at the top of the mountain.. Shhh... }

{The iconic Roundhouse is a little less bustling in the summer, but no less wonderful.}

{ I start nearly every day in Sun Valley with the Bowl of Soul from Java on Fourth }

{ Do I look like a natural or what? }
  • There are a bunch of shops in Ketchum and Sun Valley village where you can rent bikes, and innumerable miles of trails and paved bike paths to explore up and down the valley. My parents and I rode south towards Hailey then back into town for lunch and beers at Grumpy's.
  • If you've got three hours and really strong legs, hike to the top of Baldy. You can also ride the gondola and chairlift to the The Roundhouse or the summit (we won't tell). From there you can bike all around the mountain for a thrilling, brake-gripping ride to the bottom or a grueling climb to the top. You can't go wrong with the Kobe beef burger and a glass of cold rose at The Roundhouse, whether or not you "earned it," and the views are not to be missed.

For more Sun Valley tips, including bars and restaurants, you'll want to check out my WINTER TRAVEL GUIDE.

*I'll be chronically many of my outdoor adventures over on THE OUTBOUND COLLECTIVE in the coming weeks and months, so click over to my profile there for ideas in the NYC area, Idaho and beyond.


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