Fly fishing gear

Best Things to Do in Sun Valley, Idaho

“Idaho is like the new Colorado, and Sun Valley is like the new Aspen,” a woman said, leaning over as we began our descent to Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey, Idaho. “Everyone comes here now.”

Similar to Aspen — which has seen an unprecedented influx of transplants from across the country since the pandemic began — Sun Valley has served as Idaho’s venerable ski town since it was established as the first ski resort designated the country in 1936. But those same snow-capped mountains people descend all winter are awfully pretty in the summer, surrounded by the nearby Sawtooth Mountain Range and set in the vast Wood River Valley.

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Celebrities, artists and passionate locals have long been part of the fabric of this town since Ernest Hemingway was invited to live and write at Sun Valley Lodge in 1939.

“Many celebrities have been invited to come for free.” actress and Sun Valley resident Ali Larter told me at the Sun Valley Film Festival (SVFF) in April. “Hemingway was one of the first famous people to come and help build what this mountain town used to be, and it became part of what made this valley the creative center it continues to be. today.”

The Sun Valley hideout remains alive and well, with its contingent of laid-back locals, cool bars, restaurants, and Sun Valley’s ever-sunny vibe. While the secret to this idyllic mountain town may be out, Aspen, I can assure you, is not. From spending time soaking in local hot springs to visiting some of Hemingway’s favorite haunts, here are all the ways to enjoy Hollywood’s favorite mountain town, no matter what. the season.

woman walking on a mountain path
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Walk in the footsteps of Hemingway or drink among the flowers

With 50 peaks, 300 lakes and rivers, and 250 miles of trails, wherever you are in Sun Valley, adventure isn’t far behind.

A good place to get your bearings is the White Cloud Trail. One of the most popular hiking loops at 2.5 miles, it’s a short walk or bike ride from the resort town of Sun Valley. As you make your way along the trail, plan to stop at the Hemingway Memorial, which is a fantastic place to soak up some views.

About four miles up the Wood River Trail is the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, which makes a great destination for a bike ride. The garden is a lovely place to spend a few hours, especially in summer when many events take place, such as tours, wine tastings and cocktail parties.

woman in hot springs near the river
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Spend the morning bathing in local hot springs or fishing for rainbows

Just 10 miles west of downtown Ketchum on Warm Springs Road, Frenchman’s Bend is the best place to soak in the local hot springs. This shallow spring has long been a local Sun Valley hotspot, although it is very not clothing optional, so beware of skinny divers.

But getting hot and plump isn’t the only way to enjoy the water here. Stretching 137 miles in length and flowing directly through Sun Valley, Big Wood River is a great place to go white-water rafting in nearby Stanley or try your hand at fly fishing.

If you’re looking to get out there and catch those elusive rainbows, try a guided fishing trip or even an introductory fly fishing clinic for women with Sun Valley Outfitters. Big Wood is known for wild trout, although Silver Creek Preserve is another great spot (and a Hemingway favorite).

bowl of mussels
Warfield Distillery and Brewery

Eat hearty dishes in a warm setting

Sun Valley’s food scene rivals that of any major city, starting with coffee and a ham and cheese croissant at Konditorei. Alternatively, head straight to The Kneadery for country-style frittata and the ultimate Belgian waffles topped with whipped cream in downtown Ketchum.

Walk before heading to Warfield Distillery & Brewery, which serves some of the best high pub fare. The beautiful rooftop is perfect for taking in views of downtown Ketchum and Baldy Mountain. Don’t miss the Warfield Burger and Blue Ridge salad with bacon and save room for the carrot cake if you can.

Located on a side street in downtown Ketchum, The Covey’s seasonally inspired menu is more than enough when it comes to homemade pasta and some of the best locally caught trout you’ll ever eat. It also offers an exceptional wine list and a beautiful new outdoor garden to fully enjoy. If the need arises, don’t be afraid to post at the bar, where you can chat with some of Sun Valley’s coolest locals. and longtime friends who own and operate this awesome place.

bowl of noodles

Rickshaw is the comfortable [read: tiny] neighborhood joint to satisfy all your Asian fusion cravings. Korean fried chicken (KFC), Chiang Mai curry noodles and green papaya salad are cooked to perfection. Just note that this place fills up quickly and reservations can be hard to come by, so if you can’t find a spot, take your food to post for a picnic at one of the nearby parks.

An absolute must-do when in Ketchum is the chance to swallow schooners at Grumpy’s, a true Sun Valley legend. You can sit out front and enjoy the chili fries and beers, but you’ll miss the indoor vibe of this ski town time capsule dive.

In the evening, head to the Pioneer Saloon for margaritas, pints at the Cellar Pub, a drink and meatloaf from Tom’s Mom at the Sawtooth Club, before an obligatory trip to the Casino.

Gold Mine Thrift wooden sign
The gold mine thrift store

Strike Gold at Local Savings

There’s no shortage of upscale shopping in and around Sun Valley Resort and downtown Ketchum, but for a real taste of local goodness, Gold Mine Thrift Store is considered the ultimate choice for all your shopping needs. saving. There are always gems to be found here and it’s an added bonus that all proceeds go to the community library next door.

For all your gear and outdoor needs, head to the Elephant’s Roost; or for some good local reads, look no further than the Chapter One bookstore on a side street off the main street. Finally, The Farmer’s Daughter is the place to shop for cool, local home decor and Idaho trinkets.

hotel buildings
Sun Valley Resort

Sleep like a star at the best hotels in Sun Valley

Sun Valley Lodge is the premier location for a five-star stay in Sun Valley. Dating from 1936, it is also the former residence of Ernest Hemingway, whose bedroom would still house his typewriter.

The hotel’s pool and bowling alley are always buzzing, but if you’re in the mood for some quality time on your own, head straight to the Sun Valley Spa, where you can take a dip in the one of their “experience showers” at the locker room is enough to make you believe in the power of a really good shower.

Just across the courtyard from the Lodge, the Sun Valley Inn is a bit more rustic than its glamorous counterpart, but recently renovated and offering access to all the same amenities as the Lodge at a fraction of the price, the Inn is more economical way to stay in the resort area.

Located just off Main Street in Ketchum, the Limelight Hotel is the perfect place to stay if you want to be in the heart of the action. Advice to the wise, opt for a room with a balcony overlooking Baldy and don’t miss the chance to unwind with a dip in the pool and hot tubs.

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Michelle Gross is a travel, food, and lifestyle writer who loves the small-town vibe. A graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, she spends a lot of time enjoying the great outdoors. This summer, you’ll most likely find her on a paddle board or on her porch in Beaufort, SC.