Ketchum & Sun Valley, Idaho

Idaho is one of those states that has somehow managed to fly mostly under the radar. Unlike some of the more popular western states like Colorado or Oregon, it is still possible to find areas of Idaho that are relatively under explored. Ketchum and Sun Valley are NOT those areas. From the very beginning, the vision for Sun Valley was a resort town that would attract visitors looking for a mountain experience similar those found in the Swiss Alps. Fancy lodges and Inns were built, ski trails constructed, chair lifts installed, and the people started arriving.

Sun Valley, Idaho
Looking down on Sun Valley with the ski trails of Bald Mountain in the distance
Sun Valley, Idaho
The original Proctor Mountain chair lift from 1939

If the multi-million dollar homes crowding the foothills and the downtown streets lined with expensive outfitters and high-end steak houses are any indication, the area has certainly succeeded in not only attracting people but attracting a pretty affluent type of resident/visitor. In a broad sense, downtown Ketchum was a bit too high end for our liking, but fortunately, the town is far from the only attraction.

Ketchum, Idaho
Downtown Ketchum: moose sighting, the weekly farmers market – amazing carnitas from La Cabanita

Like most ski towns, Sun Valley and Ketchum are a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. With trails galore, we happily had our choice of challenging mountain treks, easy riverside walks, and both paved and dirt bike trails. Since we spent a full two weeks in the area, I won’t attempt to share the details regarding every outing, but I do want to tell you about our three favorite trails.

Pioneer Cabin Trail

The hike to Pioneer Cabin is included on every list of the best trails around Sun Valley and Ketchum. With sweeping mountain views, fields of wildflowers, and a rustic 1930’s alpine cabin, it’s not hard to understand the appeal.

Pioneer Cabin, Idaho  Pioneer Cabin Trail, Idaho

This is a fairly challenging hike – especially if you do it as a loop like we did. The trail climbs steadily uphill for about 4 miles to the cabin, with a few steep sections thrown in for fun. After we reached the cabin, the expectation was that the back side of the loop would be all downhill. Well…after a few miles of knee and hip busting steep downhill, the trail pulled a fast one on us by heading back up a steep hill before reaching a ridge that took us all the way to the parking lot. Oh yeah, and during the last hour of the hike, the skies opened up and pelted us with cold rain while thunder boomed and lightning flashed all around (the chance of rain was 10%). Despite all of this, it was an incredible hike that has taken the top spot on our list of the best hikes in Idaho (so far).

 Pioneer Cabin Trail, Idaho Pioneer Cabin Trail, Idaho Pioneer Cabin Trail, Idaho Pioneer Cabin Trail, Idaho

Proctor Mountain Trail

This 4.5-mile trail is easily accessed from a Sun Valley neighborhood which made it a great after work hike. While not a long trail, it is a bit of work out with a lot of uphill and a very, very steep downhill at the end. The trail makes a loop that can be done in either direction, but I would strongly recommend doing it in a clockwise direction to avoid climbing up the steep section.

Proctor Mountain Loop, IdahoFrom the top of the trail (which doesn’t actually reach the peak of Proctor Mtn.), you can look out over the town of Sun Valley and the ski trails beyond. You can see both in the first two photos of this post.

Proctor Mountain Loop, IdahoProctor Mountain Loop, Idaho

Noton Lakes Trail

Another hike that shows up on many “best of” lists, the trail to Norton Lakes is short, steep and rewarding. I say short, but I guess it’s all relative because I just checked and it’s actually 5 miles round trip. BUT…that 5 miles gets you to not one, but two alpine lakes! The hike there is not too shabby either with jagged mountains, sweeping views, and the ever present mid-summer wildflower display.

Norton Lakes TrailNorton Lakes TrailNorton Lakes Trail

Camping in Sun Valley and Ketchum

During our two weeks in the Ketchum/Sun Valley area, we stayed in two places. The first was a national forest campground called Boundry Campground. It’s located on Trail Creek Road only a few minutes from town and convenient to a number of trails that go right past the campground.

Sun Valley, Idaho
A small campground with only 9 sites, no utilities, showers or really any amenities aside from a pit toilet, Boundary Campground tends to mostly attract people in tents or RVs passing through for a night or two. As a result, it was not the kind of no hookups campground where RVs are running generators all day or large families are taking over multiple sites. In other words…it was very quiet. Oh yeah, and the $10/per night fee was pretty reasonable. And no, I didn’t edit or crop any rigs out of this photo. You really couldn’t see anyone from our backyard!

Boundary Campground, Sun Valley Idaho
After four nights at the campground, we moved over to a boondocking spot just north of town. I’m not going to share the exact location at this time because we still have friends in that spot, but if you look on Campendium you can see that there are a number of roads where boondocking spots are plentiful.

Ketchum, Idaho
During the second week there, our friends Jen & Deas joined us. All the good spots on the road were already taken so we had them park right behind us. Plenty of room (and proof that you don’t need a small RV to boondock).

Ketchum, Idaho
A few days later Kym and Kevin of 33 and Free came and parked across the street, Brandon & Kerensa and Dave & Kelly parked down the road, and the dynamic duo of Camp Addict, Marshall and Kelly had already claimed a spot up the road. Add in a few new people who were also camping on the same road and it looks like we have a party in the making!

Ketchum, Idaho
From Ketchum we made our way north to the tiny town of Stanley where we’re gathering in an undisclosed area with friends for the eclipse. I probably won’t write another blog post before the “big event”, so I’m wishing you all happy viewing. (And if you’re in the path of totality — small crowds, and no traffic jams!) As always, I’ll be updating our Facebook and Instagram with photos if you want a little glimpse into where we are before the next blog post.

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15 Responses to “Ketchum & Sun Valley, Idaho”

Comments

  1. Marshall

    Epic spot, those crazy kids behind Camp Addict got! Add the fact that great friends were close by and you have an awesome couple of weeks. And the party continues…

    Reply
    • Amanda

      And the party continues. Just hope this non-party girl can keep up with all you crazies!

      Reply
  2. Metamorphosis Lisa

    Awesome wildflowers! I notice every single hike has the word steep in it, sometimes multiple times! I am feeling lazy this summer after reading your posts!

    Reply
    • Amanda

      Ha! Yeah, steep has been a common adjective this summer. We have found some flatter hikes, but they are never as stunning as the steep ones!

      Reply
  3. Kym Tyson

    That is definitely Ketchum! Loved that we met and looking forward to seeing you soon.

    Reply
  4. Laura

    Wow… just gorgeous. We’re thinking about spending a month or so next summer out that way. Our rig is comparable to the Nealys’, so it’s good to hear they were able to make it into a spot like that with no issues. I’ll definitely have to do some research to see where we can go. Have fun with the eclipse. Unfortunately, I planned our travels to be in Canada this month where we’ll only see a partial eclipse. Poor planning on my part…. We’ll have to live vicariously through you guys on FB and Instagram. Have a great time!

    Reply
    • Amanda

      Yup, there are a number of areas where you could find boondocking big enough for your rig. Have fun in Canada!

      Reply
  5. Jim and Gayle

    Pioneer Cabin was our favorite hike in that area, too. The view of the cabin and mountains just as you crest the last steep climb is breathtaking. Near Stanley the Fourth of July Creek trail to Washington Lake is nice, as is the Bench Lakes trail at Redfish Lake.
    Enjoy your eclipse party!

    Reply
  6. Ben Macri

    Thanks! Awesome pictures, and it is clear you have discovered picturesque exploration sites. We follow your travels with pleasure.

    Reply
  7. Jodee Gravel

    Gorgeous country! I love the old cabin and the original ski lift. Hope the smoke isn’t an issue for the eclipse in your spot – looks like the skies were pretty clear here.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      It was really fun to see some of the history of the area. I forgot to mention it, but the cabin is free and open to the public for spending the night. It faces east so I bet the sunrise up there in the morning is incredible! Things have cleared up over the past few days, so hopefully, the smoke will stay away for another week.

      Reply
  8. David B

    Excellent pictures, love the mountain views…..David B.

    Reply

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