By Jesse Ambrogio-Yanson
Every spring, Sun Valley transforms from a skiing and snowboarding Mecca into a lush, wildflower-filled valley with miles of hiking and biking trails in the surrounding five mountain ranges. From mellow loops skirting lakes and rivers, to 12,000-foot rocky mountain peaks, there are plenty of hiking trails to please all levels of hikers.
White Cloud Trails
The White Cloud trails are perfect for spring and early summer hikers who want to see the sights without too much vertical. Located across from the Sun Valley Lodge, the White Cloud trails can be done as a 4-mile loop, combining the paved Trail Creek recreation path with dirt trails, or as shorter out-and-back hikes. The upper paths skirt along the White Cloud Golf Course and feature great views of Bald Mountain, the Sun Valley Lodge, and downtown Ketchum. Find a comfortable perch on one of the trail’s benches, and enjoy summer’s late evening sunsets.
This family-friendly trail is an easy 3-mile loop from the trailhead. Located at the end of Baker Creek Road, follow the 1.5-mile path to Baker Lake and escape summer’s heat or a try your luck at fishing.
Sunny Side Trail
The Sunny Side Trail weaves in and out of the sunny side of Adam’s Gulch. In just 2.2-miles, hikers can revel in the purple lupine flowers and scenic vistas. For longer treks, Sunny Side can be combined with Fox, Chocolate, and Oregon Trail loops. Keep in mind that many bikers also love this smooth single track, and you may have to step aside to let them pass.
Dollar’s winter scenery is equally matched in the summer. Located close to town, bring a picnic and hike just thirty minutes to the top to watch summer’s colorful sunset turn the sky into a kaleidoscope of colors. While the trails on Dollar are not easily found on the maps, there are numerous routes that all more-or-less lead to the top. Starting at the Carol’s Mountain Lodge will put you at the base of the hill. Head strait up one of the ski runs or grab one of the meandering trails to the left or right for a longer yet gentler route to the top.
Moderate Mountain Hikes
A great lunchtime jaunt, hiking up Proctor Mountain will raise your heart rate as you ascend three miles and gain nearly 1,000 feet in elevation. A nearby stream provides cool water for dogs during hot summer days, and the top of the mountain serves up a bird’s-eye-view of Sun Valley and Bald Mountain. Take a quick detour and visit one of the world’s first chairlifts, also viewable from Fairway Road before the trailhead parking.
This 4-mile hike is less traveled than some of the other options within close proximity to town. Accessed via Lake Creek Road, which turns to a dirt road at its terminus, it is best to park in the flat area near the Forest Service Boundary. The heart-pounding climb gives way to vistas well worth the effort, including Bald Mountain and the Boulder Mountains. The Taylor Canyon trail was built in 1986 by the horseback riding community, and is particularly enjoyable during the peak of springtime wildflowers or in the early fall when the changing Aspen leaves light up the valley.
Choose your own adventure just south of Sun Valley, and hike Carbonate Mountain trail in Hailey. Hikers can opt for either the butt-kicking steep ascent that climbs 1,300 feet in 0.9 miles or the casual meandering switchback trail that reaches the top in 2.4 miles. Either way, this local staple provides sweeping vistas from Hailey and views all the way to Bald Mountain in the north.
Located just off the highway near the top of Galena Pass, a hike to Titus Lake can be easily combined with a day trip to Stanley. The 3-mile round trip hike culminates at the high alpine Titus Lake, and peaks out at over 9,000 feet in altitude. We dare you to jump in for a swim! Hikers wishing to make a longer trek can take the trail back to Galena Lodge for lunch – or a refreshing beverage.
The hike to Pioneer Cabin is one of the classic bucket list adventures all visitors (or locals) should do, at least once. The 8.5-mile roundtrip hike can be tackled from either the Sun Valley side (Pioneer Creek Trail) or the Hailey side (via Johnstone Creek Trail). From the Sun Valley side, the trail meanders up 23 switchbacks in the shade of the forest. Towards the top, the trail becomes more high alpine and sun exposed, but offers stunning views of Hyndman and Cobb Peaks, and of course, Pioneer Cabin. Built in the 1930s by the Sun Valley Company, the cabin offers a great place to refuel and snap the perfect Instagram shot before tackling the descent.
The prized gem of Sun Valley’s winter adventures, Bald Mountain is a demanding hike in the summer. Accessed from either the Warm Springs or River Run base areas, this hike climbs in a hurry. On the River Run side, there are two ascending trails, the Baldy Mountain Trail and the River Run Trail. The Baldy Mountain trail is less popular with bikers, and ascends more than 3,000 vertical feet over five miles. After skirting the river and offering great views of town, the hike makes its way to the top of Bald Mountain, rewarding those who make it with 360-degree vistas. Looking for the easy way down? Take the Roundhouse Connector trail to the gondola, which offers downloading during working hours.
Summit Creek to Devil’s Bedstead West
This 13-mile trek boasts 4,500 feet of elevation gain and is suitable for experts. Summit Creek trail is accessed from the top of Trail Creek Road, open only in the summer. We recommend an early start with plenty of food and water for a long day in the mountains. The first few miles meander through the forest until mile five, and then the climbing really begins. The last stretch involves scrambling, but the peak’s rewarding panoramic views are well worth it. In every direction, the mountains go on for miles, and on a clear day you may even be able to see Bald Mountain.
A great out-and-back hike, or long loop when combined with other trails, this trail follows the Greenhorn drainage just south of town, peaking out on Mars Ridge with astounding vistas of the Pioneer Range. The trail can be taken nine miles in one direction, or combined with Imperial Gulch for a loop. Hikers will enjoy the ever-changing terrain as they wind through the forest, over open grasslands and rocky ridges, and across fields covered in wildflowers.
Another classic hike, Hyndman Peak, is the highest mountain in the Pioneer Range, gaining 4,000 feet in elevation over 11 miles. The trail follows an old mining road through aspen meadows until it forks at the foot of the impressive Cobb Peak. There, it continues up to a glacial basin between Duncan Ridge and Cobb Peak. From the saddle of Wildhorse Canyon, hikers can summit Hyndman Peak via the Class 3 south east ridge. Post-card worthy views greet hikers from every mile of this classic hike.
The Blaine County Recreation District offers full trail descriptions and trail conditions for these hikes, and many more. Check out their website for a full list of the area’s offerings.
Reposted from Visit Sun Valley.