Post Summary: The Best things to do in Sun Valley in the Fall
Ready for an unexpected fall destination? Discover Idaho’s Sun Valley!
While it’s mostly known for skiing in the winter and backpacking in the summer, Sun Valley’s shoulder season provides quite a lot of unique and beautiful things to do in the autumn months.
We recently came back from a trip to Sun Valley, and we’re stoked to share our favorite fall activities.
In this post, you’ll find out where to stay, what to do, and where to soak (yes, lots of hot springs!) in Sun Valley, Idaho this fall season. Let’s go!
Where to Stay in Sun Valley in the Fall
($$) Hotel Ketchum: Situated in downtown Ketchum, Hotel Ketchum is a perfect place to relax and experience Sun Valley in September or October!
The location acts as a launching pad for all sorts of outdoor adventures. Hotel Ketchum even has their own ‘gear garage’ where you can borrow snowshoes, bikes, or store your own outdoor gear!
($$$) Sun Valley Lodge: This destination ski lodge has it all: a fitness center, yoga studio, pool, cafe, restaurants, lounges, and more!
The Sun Valley Lodge has numerous suites, cabins, cottages, and guest rooms for all groups.
($) Best Western Plus Kentwood Lodge: Located in the middle of Ketchum, the Best Western Plus Kentwood Lodge has convenient access to many activities in Sun Valley, including golf, the Sun Valley Resort, shopping, dining, and a theater!
It’s the perfect budget hotel for those who want to do all the fun things to do in Sun Valley in the fall!
($$$) Limelight Hotel: The Limelight Hotel is an experience on its own. At this hotel, you might catch a live musical act in the lounge, experience the hotel’s sustainable amenities, or rent some skis (or bikes!) for a touring adventure in the mountains
The Best Things To Do In Sun Valley In The Fall
1. Hike The Pioneer Cabin Trail
This 8-mile RT trail is the perfect challenging hike close to Sun Valley and Ketchum. The draw of this hike is the sweeping views of the Pioneer, Smokey, and Sawtooth mountains and the historic “Pioneer Cabin” that overlooks even more mountains in the distance.
When we say this hike is challenging, we mean it! The trailhead starts at around 7,000 feet in elevation, and the top brings you to a towering 9,500 at its highest point.
We didn’t realize this we when started, and experienced a bit of altitude sickness! We also struggled a bit more than we expected, but it all made sense when we discovered how high we had been hiking.
The trail is all uphill, with little breaks for flat elevation. Come with plenty of water, snacks, and keep your eye out for downed trees to use for benches on your breaks.
Once at the end of the trail, enjoy exploring around the Pioneer Cabin! It was originally built in the 1930s to encourage alpine skiing but is now a fun tourist destination. The top of the roof says “The higher you get, the higher you get.”
Other fall hikes in Sun Valley include:
- Wood River Trails: 22-mile paved network
- Adams Gulch: Variety of Hiking and biking trails
- Baker Lake Trail: 4-mile out and back trail
2. Go Shopping in Downtown Ketchum
Downtown Ketchum is brimming with cute boutiques, delicious restaurants, ski shops, and adorable gift shops.
Local Shops and Restaurants to Try:
- Sun Valley Wine Company (Ketchum)
- The Wildflower Boutique (Ketchum)
- The Farmer’s Daughter (Ketchum)
- Vintage Restaurant (Ketchum)
Grab yourself a souvenir to commemorate your experience in Sun Valley, go bowling in the Sun Valley Lodge, or a bite to eat at one of the many local coffee shops!
Local Coffee Shops to Try:
Getting hungry while in Sun Valley? Check out the Sawtooth Brewery (Hailey, ID), also known as the Ketchum Public House, for some good mountain grub and some locally made beer!
3. Visit the Sawtooth Botanical Gardens
With gorgeous native plants in unique walkable landscapes, the Sawtooth Botanical Gardens is a wonderful place to visit in Sun Valley.
Sawtooth Botanical Gardens has numerous gardens, a greenhouse, visitor center, and educational spaces that will fill you with joy and relaxation.
You can expect to find hundreds of indigenous plants to Sun Valley, a meditation garden, captivating sculptures, and wildflowers like scarlet gilia, lupine, and pinleaf penstemon!
You can visit the Sawtooth Botanical Gardens any day of the week when the park is open from dawn until dusk.
The visitor center at the Sawtooth Botanical Gardens is open Monday through Friday, 10AM to 4PM.
Admission to the Sawtooth Botanical Gardens is $5 per person, May 1st through October 31st, and can be paid at the visitor center or outside at the kiosk admissions box (honor system!).
4. Go Fly Fishing
For new and old fisherman alike, Sun Valley is abundant in fly shops around town and excellent areas for fly fishing!
One of the best places for fly fishing in Sun Valley is at the Silver Creek Preserve.
The Silver Creek Preserve is one of the most successful stream conservation efforts in the United States and has been under restoration for five years.
Tie on your Brown Scupin and October Caddis flies and expect to catch large Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, and Brook Trout (wild) at the Silver Creek Preserve where these trout are plentiful!
Want to go on a guided fly fishing tour of the Sun Valley area? Head to Lost River Outfitters, located on the main street of Ketchum, get outfitted for fly fishing, and join a group for a full day of adventure in Sun Valley or greater Yellowstone National Park.
So, grab your gear and head to any of the fishing access points for a wonderful day of fly fishing!
5. See Craters Of The Moon
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve is a unique landscape of lava flows, scattered cinder cones, and vast amounts of sagebrush and other interesting vegetation.
Created by volcanic activity, Craters of the Moon is full of rich history, wacky geological structures, and lava flows that make you feel like you’re on the moon!
If you’re up for an adventure that’s out of this world (pun intended!), check out our post about activities in Craters of the Moon and what you can expect during your stay in the Sun Valley area!
6. Hike in the Sawtooth National Forest
It’s no secret that hiking during the change of seasons is one of the most beautiful and special outdoor adventures you can do!
When summer turns to fall, hiking through the blazing larches, alpine views, and lively creeks makes Sun Valley in October particularly breathtaking!
Some of our favorite hikes in the Sawtooth National Forest with captivating views are Fishhook Creek Trail (an easy 4.5-mile roundtrip hike) and Goat Lake Trail (hard, but rewarding 8.1-mile roundtrip hike).
7. Soak at Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs
One of the most popular Idaho hot springs in the Sun Valley area is Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs (also known as Warfield Hot Springs).
There are many restrictive rules at Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs, but they are meant to keep it safe, open, and free!
Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs is a perfect spot to get in a soak after a long day of skiing or hiking!
8. Try Mountain Biking
Sun Valley is world-class for mountain biking routes and hosts cycling races for people all around the globe.
E-biking around Sun Valley is also a welcome activity in the area, with over 200 e-bike friendly trails!
Bringing cyclists from all over the country to Sun Valley, Rebecca’s Private Idaho is one of the largest and most celebrated gravel cycling races that is a major fundraiser for the Be Good Foundation.
Meant to connect people and promote getting outside into beautiful places, Rebecca’s Private Idaho is a race you won’t regret doing!
9. Explore Even More Hot Springs Near Stanley, Idaho and Sun Valley
After a long day of adventure, getting in a soak at a beautiful Idaho hot spring is definitely something you need to add to your Sun Valley itinerary!
Grab your swimsuit and explore Idaho’s natural hot springs to get some R&R while on your next visit to Sun Valley.
10. See the Latest Exhibits at the Sun Valley Museum of Art
The Sun Valley Museum of Art hosts hundreds of artwork made to transform, educate, and enrich viewers of all ages!
Free to the public, Sun Valley Museum of Art is open Tuesday through Friday, 10AM to 5PM, and on Saturdays, 11AM-4PM.
11. Attend Sun Valley Fall Festivals
There is a lot to celebrate in Sun Valley in autumn, and the town goes all out!
Here are some of the coolest Idaho fall festivals in Sun Valley – hopefully, they can align with your trip dates!
- Wagon Days (Labor Day Weekend): Idaho’s History Celebration from pre-automobile days.
- Fall Concerts at the Sun Valley Pavillion (All season long)
- Oktoberfest, September 15-16
- Wood River Valley Harvest Fest, Sept 16
- Feastival, September 15-17
- AcroYoga, Sept 22-24
- TedXSunValley, Sept. 23: This year’s theme is “Fall Forward” as in discussing struggles and stumbling blocks that ultimately led people to success.
- Trailing of the Sheep, Oct 4-8
- Jazz Festival, Oct 18-22
What are some of your favorite things to do in Sun Valley in the fall? Let us know in the comments below!