Bucket List, Fall

How to Fall in Love with Fall in Sun Valley: A Bucket List

We could argue that it’s easy to fall in love with Sun Valley any time of year, but there’s a special magic to autumn in this mountain town. The air is a bit crisper, the golden hour comes a little earlier each evening, and trees throughout the valley turn spectacular shades of yellow and orange.

Fall might just be the time of year to explore Sun Valley for the first, or hundredth, time. Still not convinced? Here’s a bucket list of adventures guaranteed to make you fall in love with Sun Valley this fall.

Fall in Love with Fall in Sun Valley, Idaho
photo: Sara Sheehy

Camp and Hike in Your Own Private Idaho

The days may be a little shorter in the fall, but you can pack in just as much adventure as you can in summer…and without any crowds to get in your way. 

Grab some friends and snag a campsite at Redfish Lake during one of the last weeks of their camping season. Even if the campgrounds are closed, there are plenty of camp spots throughout the Wood River and Sawtooth Valleys that are accessible until the snow flies. A few of our favorites are the dispersed camping on Lake Creek Road and along the Salmon River near Stanley. Build a fire, hang your hammocks, roast marshmallows, and stay up late into the night surrounded by some of your favorite people.

Whether you camp or not, definitely get your boots (or bike tires) on some of the hundreds of miles of single-track trail around Sun Valley. Take a hike to the BLM Overlook on Bald Mountain for a panoramic view of Ketchum in full fall foliage, or get a bit further off the beaten path with a jaunt to Norton Lakes. If you’re feeling brave, you can even take a polar bear plunge into the turquoise-blue alpine water.

Raise a Stein at Oktoberfest

Drinking games, costumes, and Austrian eats come together once a year at Sawtooth Brewery’s Oktoberfest. For two days in September, locals and visitors alike dust off their lederhosen and get themselves to Town Square in Ketchum for the beer garden, photo booth, music, and games like Hammerschlagen and cornhole. 

To take it all the way, gather three of your closest (or most competitive) friends and form a team for the Beer Olympics. Teams compete in beer pong, cornhole, stein hoisting, and the aptly named “volume chug.”

Fall in love with Fall in Sun Valley, Idaho
photo: Sara Sheehy

Impress Your Friends by Racing at Elevation

Always wanted one of those “13.1” stickers on the back of your car? Earn your stripes by running the Sun Valley Half Marathon. Hosted every year by the Wood River Valley Community YMCA, this race takes in some of the best scenery in Ketchum and Sun Valley on a hilly course that winds up and over Elkhorn. The race finishes in Ketchum Town Square during Oktoberfest, so you can switch right from sweating to drinking.

If you find the half marathon a little intense—and aren’t in line competing for the first chair on the opening day of the ski mountain on Thanksgiving day—hop down to Hailey for the Turkey Trot 5k through Draper Preserve. This local’s favorite race is a great way to work off all that turkey and cranberry sauce before the feasting begins.

Fall in love with Fall in Sun Valley, Idaho
photo: Sara Sheehy

Seek the Leaves

Feel like taking a cruise? Pack a cooler full of food, grab your hammock, pick up as many friends as can fit in your truck and head out for a day of finding the most beautiful aspen and cottonwood forests in the Sun Valley area.

Start on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway between Ketchum and Galena, turning off at any promising dirt roads and following them until you find that perfect grove of trees that are bright with leaves. Settle in and stay there for the day or get back on the road and find another hidden gem (hint: they are everywhere). 

Need some help getting started? Check out our guide to leaf-peeping in Sun Valley.

Falling in love with fall in Sun Valley isn’t too hard…we think it’ll take you no time at all. We’ll see you out there.

Bonus: Getting Here

Getting to Sun Valley in the Fall is easier than you may think. There are daily nonstop flights from Salt Lake City via Delta Airlines and weekly nonstop flights from Seattle via Alaska Airlines.

If you’re driving, we’re a quick 2.5 hour drive from Boise and a 4.5 hr drive from Salt Lake City with long scenic straightaways to get you here smoothly.

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