I grew up about an hour west of Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho. Yes, I saw plenty of celebrities and I made a lot of money cleaning houses in the summer. But I rarely did anything fun. I was either working or running errands, and the community vibe always felt a little pretentious to me. It was not until I moved away that I began to appreciate everything the Wood River Valley has to offer. I still think it is a bit pretentious. But there is no denying its beauty and what it has to offer. I find it a great weekend retreat—one not far from Boise.
What to do in Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho
Below are 10 things to do in the Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho, area from this semi-local’s perspective. There are suggestions for both winter and summer and some can be enjoyed all year long.
Johnny G’s Subshack
There are a lot of tasty places to eat in Ketchum. However, my absolute favorite is Johnny G’s Subshack. It may not be much to look at, but this place is delicious. They cater to a local lunch crowd, so hours are limited. That means you may have to plan your schedule around them. Do it! You will not regret it.
Hit up the thrift stores
There are several thrift stores located throughout Hailey and Ketchum. The most well-known is the Gold Mine. You can find some good stuff here, but be prepared to dig. Also, be prepared for slightly higher prices. The people here know their brands and price them accordingly. You can still find an Icebreaker shirt for a fraction of the price, but you will probably pay more than you would at your local thrift store. Of course, the chances of me even finding an Icebreaker at my local thrift store are slim. But at the Gold Mine, brand names abound. Keep in mind that they sell stuff seasonally. Do not expect to pick up skis in July. However, if you go in the winter, you can find good ski equipment for an even better price. My slightly-used Salomon ski boots are still one of my favorite purchases from here.
I should note that Ketchum, and to an extent Hailey, have some fun stores that are not thrift stores. Huck and Paddle is one of the most adorable stores I have ever shopped in. Just be prepared for ski resort prices.
Take in the view from Galena Summit
The drive north of Sun Valley to the top of Galena is one of my favorites. I have very fond memories of the route and the view. It is the highest summit of a highway in the Northwest and the view of the Sawtooth Mountain Range is stunning. R is cursed when it comes to seeing what Galena has to offer. If it is not some crazy storm, then it is smoke from a wild fire that blocks her view. Assuming you are not cursed like R, the drive and the view is well worth your time.
Enjoy the bike path
Year round, one can (and should) enjoy the Wood River Trail. (Locals simply call it the bike path.) Sun Valley, Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue are all connected via a paved, multi-use, non-motorized pathway. In the summer, take your bike. If it is winter, get out your cross-country skis. Enjoy part or all of the 20-mile trail. Of course, keep in mind that heading south to north will be slightly uphill.
Attend a concert at Whiskey Jacques
If your favorite band is performing at Whiskey Jacques, do not hesitate. Buy a ticket and go. R and I have spent many-a-fun evenings dancing and singing our hearts out at Whiskey Jacques. I am sure it is a perfectly good bar and I know the burgers are good. But its real draw is its concerts. The venue is small so you can get up close and personal with your favorite musicians. The people watching is usually pretty good as well.
Watch the Sun Valley Suns
Hockey is my favorite sport to watch and that love began with the Sun Valley Suns. This semi-professional team is fun to watch and the local vibe is GREAT. I have not been to a game since the team moved to a new rink located in Hailey, but I do not imagine much has changed. I will just have to check that off my list this upcoming season.
UPDATE: we attended a game at the new rink and it was just as enjoyable of an experience as it was at the old rink. There is a bit more seating, so that was nice. Be sure to dress warm!
Go yard sale-ling
Similar to shopping at the Gold Mine and other thrift stores in the Wood River Valley, hitting up the yard sales can result in some amazing finds. This is a summertime only activity, but it can be worth getting up a little early on your weekend to see what treasures await you. I have never shopped at any celebrity’s houses. But there are enough rich folks up there selling their expensive goods for a steal to make it worth your while.
Attend a festival
The community may be small, but they put on some great festivals and events. My favorite is the Trailing of the Sheep festival. There is nothing else quite like it in the world. If opera, jazz or ballet is your thing, then there is an event or two you will enjoy. Just check out the local event calendar and then start planning your trip.
Assuming it is winter, I recommend you hit the slopes. You have two options for some downhill skiing: Bald Mountain or Dollar Mountain. Baldy, as the locals call it, is the more “plush” option. It is everything you imagine when you think of skiing in Sun Valley. Dollar is where the kids ski. It is both easier and more affordable. No matter your choice, you will have a wonderful time.
If Nordic skiing is more your style, you will find trails aplenty to keep you occupied. Some you will have to pay to use, so keep that in mind.
Go on a hike
As stated previously, I am not much of a hiker. I prefer trails that fall more into the “nature walk” category. But that does not mean I have never traversed the hills surrounding the Wood River Valley. The hike up Carbonate Mountain is a nice option, especially if you are a beginner. Many locals hike it every day and it has great views of Hailey. It shouldn’t take you more than an hour. You can also ride the gondola to the top of Bald Mountain, enjoy lunch at the Roundhouse Lodge, and then hit the trails. As you head north toward and into the Sawtooth Mountains, options for a more challenging hike increase. You can pretty much find any kind of hike you are looking for in this area.
The Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho, area makes a lovely weekend getaway anytime of the year. Period.