Sun Valley Travel Guide
I've traveled through the Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho area countless times in the last 7 years, so after my most recent visit, I decided to create a helpful travel guide for my fellow nature and travel enthusiasts. Continue reading to learn the best places to eat, sleep, shop, play, and relax in this gorgeous gem state area.
Ketchum, which is technically different than the city of Sun Valley, is a charming conglomerate of 1800's style saloon and mercantile brick buildings that are now home to quaint coffee shops, restaurants, and alpine-chic ski shops nestled between the bases of Sun Valley Ski Resort and Dollar Mountain ski area. The city of Sun Valley, on the other hand, is tucked just east of the historical mining town of Ketchum and comprised of residential blocks, rental properties, and Sun Valley Resort. The resort offers luxury lodging in addition to a few shops, restaurants, and a scenic golf courses. Although both cities are separate, they are so small and so adjoined that it's difficult for non-locals to know when they've crossed city boarders. Aside from this western-mountain town being known for world class skiing, golfing and mountain biking, it has so much offer! The nearby natural hot springs, killer live music scene, farm-fresh dining, and laid-back local vibe are just a few additions to the already long list of pro's for Sun Valley living.
Collectively, the Sun Valley/Ketchum area offers enough small-town charm to snag any passer-by and convince them to stroll hand-in-hand along main street after dinner, stay for a long weekend of outdoor recreation, or even aspire to retire somewhere nearby! This town deserves more than just a pass through. At minimum it should be explored over a long weekend; better than that, it should be cherished with family, young and mature, over the course of a season or more.
This iconic mountain town provides most anything an outdoor-minded visitor could want from a Winter or Summer vacation pad. So, after many visits, here's my breakdown of the best places to eat, sleep, shop, soak and play in Sun Valley, Idaho.
"Pub fare, elevated" is exactly right. Features an incredible locally-sourced menu coupled with home-distilled spirits and a stacked selection of artfully crafted brews. The dim industrial lighting and long wooden tables lends the environment to friendly gatherings shared over great beer and upscale pub-grub. *reservations highly suggested on weekends
Steakhouse and hoppin' bar with a nod to Ketchum's historical roots - a classic for any western town. Known for tender steak, Idaho potatoes, fall-off-the-bone ribs and home-made Marion Berry cobbler. Very American. Very Western. Very fun! *reservations highly suggested on weekends
Mediterranean fare with a hip, farm-fresh, vibe. Candle-lit indoor and outdoor patio style seating with a refreshing libations menu to pair with lunch, dinner, and tapas. Fresh menu, central location, and Idyllic semi-casual atmosphere that's perfect after a day out adventuring with your sweetheart.
Plant based organic cafe that emphasizes locally grown produce. Open before and after lunch. Perfect find for health-conscious individuals, local-ingredient epicureans, and smoothie lovers that still want to feel like they're indulging while on vacation.
Boutique coffee shop serving local roasts and delectable sweets amid vintage-chic clothing and accessories. Great spot to grab a morning coffee before beginning your shopping spree at all the boutique fashion shops in town.
My favorite little local-soul coffee shop. Bike-able to everything in town, and the perfect spot to grab a cappuccino and quick breakfast-bite before getting outside and exploring the mountains.
Affordable and wonderfully situated family-style condos located on the east side of Dollar Mountain, just around the corner from Sun Valley Resort, and surrounding a local golf course. Only a quick drive in winter, or a 5 min bike ride/15 min walk in summer, to Main Street Ketchum and the local ski hills; this location does not disappoint. In fact, on the busier holidays and weekends, the short distance from the town bustle is quite enjoyable. Condo bookings often come with access to a local pool & hot tub which is the perfect repose after a day out and about.
Luxury hotel-style lodging and resort offerings like walkable souvenir shops and gardens, upscale dining, and an onsite golf course, pool and spa. Sun Valley Resort and Sun Valley Ski Resort (the local ski hill across town) are the same so it's compelling to easily book one of their many packages and be well on your way to relaxing or adventuring in this charming town.
Located at the start of town on the south entrance, the Limelight Hotel is perfectly positioned for easy access to mountain biking and skiing on Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain, as well as hitting the town at night. It's walkable to nearly everything and well connected to the local happenings. Dog friendly and modern accommodations make it a great option for adventurous couples and young families.
There are loads of boutique shops all around town! From high-end art galleries to chic children's stores, and everything in between like bike, ski, and fly shops and hip fashion shops. All you have to do is take a stroll and you'll be sure to find something that suits your style. A must see for the sustainable shopper is certainly The Gold Mine Thrift Store. It’s no wonder how it got it’s name; it’s stacked to the brim with antique house-ware and surprisingly good fashion. I always walk out with a lucky find. If you prefer to buy new, be sure to check out Sway Boutique, Huck & Paddle, and The Farmer's Daughter for fashionable finds or Stuartevants, and Elephants Perch for adventurous gear purchases and rentals.
10 miles by bicycle or 30 min outside of town by car, this local's-favorite hot spring is easily accessible late spring through late fall. Mountain biking this flat dirt-road makes a fun adventure for those up to for the exercise; and the scenery through this narrow canyon is tough to beat. It also makes the road virtually impassable during winter since it's not plowed. The road flows along Warm Spring Creek in a shady canyon and offers a scenic drive (or ride) along wildflower meadows and inhabited cabins during the warmer months. The hot spring itself is large enough to fit 3-4 people comfortably and hugs right up to the creek. In seasons of high-water the creek has been known to wash out the spring completely.
If you're up for an hour's drive north (one way) of Ketchum, then additional (and absolutely dreamy) hot spring options open up to you. In this tiny town at the backdrop of the Sawtooth Mountains lies hot springs that are worth the drive for the adventurous in spirit. Mountain Village Hot Springs, which is located in Stanley proper, offers year round access to their on-site hot-spring cabin with privacy and striking views of the jagged Sawtooth peaks. Call in advance to book your time because this coveted spot fills up quickly!
Skiers and snowboarders rejoice! Sun Valley Ski Resort offers more than 3,400 vertical feet and over 2,000 acres of varied terrain on the incredibly fun Bald Mountain. Your in for steep pitches and excellently groomed runs. The local ski vibe is easy-going and welcoming, so get ready for a super fun day full of fast runs! If you're just looking to for an introduction to these snow sports, or more park terrain than downhill thrill, then head over to Dollar Mountain on the other side of Ketchum. It features two new high-speed quads and a full-featured terrain park with 76 rails. No matter the hill, you’re in for a treat at this wold class ski-destination.
Sun Valley is home to 3 golf courses that offer stunning views of Ketchum, Bald Mountain, and the Wood River Valley wilderness. From challenging, to family friendly, there are options for everyone. If you are staying at Sun Valley Resort, then their signature championship Trail Creek Course with 18 holes will be a convenient selection. If Elkhorn Village is your home-base then naturally the 18 hole Elkhorn Course that inhabits the neighborhood will be the most effortless. No matter where you are staying you'll love golfing the 9-hole White Cloud Course that sits on the ridge just above the city of Sun Valley with vast views of the entire valley.
During your time in this area, you'll definitely want to bring or rent bikes. Sun Valley is completely bike friendly and offers more than 20 miles of paved bike paths around town and throughout the Wood River Valley. It's the perfect way to get around town quickly (no parking stress!). Aside from paved paths, there are exceptional intermediate and expert trails all over the surrounding mountains! The mountain biking in this area is exceptional with well kept trails and fun pitches. If hiking is more your speed, then check out this local trail map for all the details. Either way, the views are incredible so you'll want to gain a little elevation to check them out!
Idaho is famous for it's pristine mountain rivers and the Wood River Valley is no exception. Just one look at the rivers and streams will have any vacationer yearning for a rod or a raft. There are many fishing spots within an hours drive of Sun Valley that offer exceptional fly fishing. Just stop by Lost River Outfitters in Ketchum to book a local guide, pick up some gear, and learn all the details about the local fishing holes. For single-day or multi-day white water rafting adventures, you'll want to drive an hour north to Stanley, Idaho - the hub for Idaho's river adventures. Pay a visit to Sawtooth Adventure Company for excellent single-day river fun on the Salmon River, and the Stanley Fly Shop for fly fishing in the scenic Sawtooth Valley. For the more adventurous, with more than a week to spend, Rocky Mountain River Tours will provide you and your family a truly unforgettable multi-day river trip experience in the majestic Idaho wilderness.
Home to some of the best summer music concerts, Sun Valley offers an exciting (and free) music line-up that is open to all. From classical concerts put on by the symphony, to more modern performances by touring country, folk, and reggae artists live at local bars and around town. There is certainly no shortage of fun, live music in this town.
No matter how you choose to spend your days in the Sun Valley area, one thing is guaranteed, it’s easier than ever to slow down, enjoy nature, and remember how beautiful life can be. Now, what’s your favorite way to make your vacations memorable and magic?