Courtesy of Visit Sun Valley

It’s all happening in Sun Valley. Here’s what to see, do, and taste during the mountain town’s richest season

Kendra Poppy  – September 6, 2019 | Updated September 12, 2019

 Sun Valley shines in the fall. The autumn wind rustles the gold-hued aspens that line the Wood River Valley’s many hiking and biking trails. In town, visitors delight in an impressive array of activities, from the Wagon Days parade to The Trailing of the Sheep Festival. And up in the pine-dotted mountains, athletes from all over the world compete at a number of endurance sports events. 

Wagon Days

Courtesy of Wagon Days/Visit Sun Valley

Wagon Days is a family favorite. The event, including live performances, a barn dance, and a parade, celebrates Idaho’s pioneer history with cowboy poets, musicians, Basque dancers, and more. The event’s highlight is the Big Hitch Parade, the largest non-motorized parade in the Pacific Northwest, which features horse-drawn buggies, stagecoaches, and historic wagons, including the eponymous, 20-mule big hitch wagon train.

Rebecca’s Private Idaho

Courtesy of Rebecca’s Private Idaho/Visit Sun Valley

Sun Valley is a world-class mountain biking destination with over 400 miles of trails. Rebecca’s Private Idaho celebrates the area’s cycling roots with a multi-day, gravel-grinding biking event through the region. Take your pick from a variety of options, ranging from the multi-day Queen’s Stage Race to a singular main event day that offers a variety of gravel course lengths meandering through southern Idaho’s rugged landscape. 

Oktoberfest!

Courtesy of Sawtooth Brewery/John Anderson

Oktoberfest! kicks off fall in Sun Valley with a two-day event that’s all about beer. The stein-slinging festivities include a Beer Olympics, live music, and a beer garden outfitted with Bavarian decor. Costumes encouraged. 

Baldy Hill Climb

Courtesy of Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation

This all-ages endurance event has options for runners, hikers, and bikers. Billed as “One Big Mountain, Five Awesome Events,” participants summit the top of the famous “Bald Mountain”, which stands at 9,020 feet. On foot, the course gains 3,140 vertical feet over two miles. Mountain bikers also get some good climbing in with a course that spans 2,600 vertical feet over nine miles. It’s a tough hike, but at the top, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view of the valley. 

Trailing of the Sheep Festival

 

The Trailing of the Sheep is a world-renowned festival that celebrates the history of sheep ranchers and herders in the Wood River Valley. The event includes sheepdog trials, a folklife fair with demonstrations on sheep rearing, and a parade like you’ve never seen before: herds of sheep running down Main Street! Additional cultural events include classes on cheese making, cooking lamb, and fleece weaving.

Taste & Craft

Taste & Craft is Idaho’s only spirit, beer, wine, and craft-food event. The food festival, held in collaboration with the Trailing of the Sheep, celebrates local and regional fare. The festival is held at the Wood River Valley’s state-of-the-art Argyros Performing Arts Center. 

Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival

Courtesy of Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival

Sun Valley has an incredible arts scene, and the annual Jazz Festival is one of the town’s many fantastic cultural events. Music lovers travel from all over the world to attend the event at the beautiful Sun Valley Inn. Over forty bands perform all flavors of jazz: vintage, swing, big band, blues, boogie-woogie, and more.

Fly Fishing

Visit Sun Valley/Tal Roberts

In the Northwest, fly fishing is at its best in September and October. The roaring waters of spring and summer calm during the fall, creating a glassy surface perfect for casting and catching the big one. There are endless public spots to cast, including the Big Wood River and Silver Creek Preserve. For all of your fly fishing needs, head to Silver Creek Outfitters.

Hiking and Biking

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Fall is the perfect season for hiking, mountain biking, and road cycling in Sun Valley. In addition to the many organized endurance sports events that happen during September and October, casual adventurers have hundreds of miles of world-class trails to choose from.

Wood River Trails A popular 22-mile-long paved system. Access at the east end of Sun Valley Rd.

Adams Gulch A variety of meandering hiking and mountain biking trails, with golden fall color and views of rocky 8,275-foot Griffin Butte. From State Highway 75 (1 1/2 miles north of Ketchum), turn east onto Adams Gulch Rd. and follow it to the end. 

Baker Lake Trail A tree-lined 2-mile (one-way) hike climbs a slope in the Smoky Mountains to Baker Lake. Trailhead at the west end of Baker Creek Rd. 162, 16 miles north of Ketchum, off State 75; Sawtooth National Forest.

Sturtevants Mountain Outfitters Pick up hiking maps, rent mountain bikes, and shop a variety of gear.

Eat, Drink, Stay 

Courtesy of Sun Valley Company

Maude’s Coffee & Clothes Part coffee shop and part vintage clothing store, there is so much to love about Maude’s in downtown Ketchum. The team behind the bar serves locally roasted, organic coffee and espresso–just what you need before hitting the trails for the day.

Lefty’s Bar & Grill Lefty’s is a local and visitor favorite with a casual dining menu, including killer burgers served on fresh-baked bread, monster-sized sandwiches, wings, salads, and fresh-cut fries.

The Covey One of the newest restaurants in the Ketchum dining scene, The Covey sets itself apart in look, feel, and taste. The menu, all cooked in a chef’s kitchen with an open fire, includes house-made pasta, seasonal ingredients, and incredible  fish and game dishes, like trout, pheasant, and elk. While you’re there, you must check out their stacked draft beer and wine selection, all of which come at refreshingly reasonable prices.

Sun Valley Lodge There is nowhere more comfortable or quintessentially Sun Valley than this lodge. From the moment you pull up to the grand hotel and enter the warm, inviting lobby, you are transported to a bygone era, when Hollywood’s elite would travel by train to vacation in the West’s skiing capital. Although the lobby evokes the beauty of the Wood River Valley’s past, there is much about the hotel that is very “new,” too, from the state-of-the-art fitness and wellness center to the restaurants, which serve a mouth-watering mix of contemporary and traditional dishes.

Hotel Ketchum A former motel recast as a modernist outpost, this place exudes mountain glam. Rooms are cozy, with wood floors, plaid headboards, and local art playing up Idaho’s sheep-ranching heritage. The outdoor hot tub and heated pool are perfect for year-round swimming and relaxing. Not to mention that they’re conveniently located on most of the parade routes.