Back in the 1930s, Sun Valley, a small town in the heart of Idaho, became America’s first ski destination.
Thanks to a prominent railway, the debut of the world’s first ski lift, clever marketing strategies and gorgeous lodging, the locale quickly became a favorite among celebrities of the time—think Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, and Louis Armstrong. With that rich history and truly incredible ski conditions, the mountain town has maintained its reputation for being a fantastic winter getaway.
But we’re here to let you in on a secret: Spending a weekend in Sun Valley during the warmer months—spring, summer, and fall—is arguably even more rewarding.
With frequent one-hour direct flights from SFO to tiny Friedman Memorial Airport, the Bay Area has easy access to the area. Surrounded by the Sawtooth Mountains and relatively underdeveloped (as compared to Aspen or Tahoe), Sun Valley and the neighboring town of Ketchum offer miles of unspoiled wilderness, a bounty of hiking and biking trails, and a laid-back yet active way of life that emphasizes fresh air and adventure. And with the summer sun setting as late as 9:30pm, there are plenty of hours in the day to relax at the spa or sip a drink by the pool.
When visiting the Sun Valley area, it’s important to remember this isn’t a big city or even a huge resort community. It’s a small town with just 2,000 full-time residents. An influx of remote workers arriving to both stay and play in recent years has brought some challenges. To help preserve the town's friendly atmosphere, the local tourism board launched the "Stay Sunny" campaign. Essentially: Be patient, and most importantly, be kind.
Whether you prefer an action-packed itinerary or more laid-back days, Sun Valley has it all.
Where to Stay in Sun Valley
Sun Valley Lodge in summertime.
(Courtesy of @sunvalley)
Sun Valley is the region's resort community, while Ketchum is a nearby town. Travel between the two is quick and easy (about five minutes by car). Both offer great choices for lodging.
With locations in Aspen and Snowmass, Limelight is a mountain town stay located along the city’s main drag. With views of the mountains and downtown, it's a warm and comfortable home base. Fuel up at the extensive breakfast buffet (it's free!), catch happy hour with live music in the lounge, and unwind in the heated pool, hot tub, or by the outdoor fire pits. Conveniences include complimentary airport shuttle service, walkability to nearby restaurants and shops, and onsite bike rentals. // 151 Main St. S (Ketchum), limelighthotels.com
On the heels of a recent remodel, the boutique Hotel Ketchum feels trendy yet cozy. Inviting touches include plaid textures, a roaring lobby fireplace, mountain-facing balconies, and various public spaces and reading rooms. Best of all, it’s walkable to Ketchum's restaurants, shops, and galleries. Guests can enjoy a year-round heated swimming pool and hot tub, a hearty breakfast buffet, and mountain views from the top floors. // 600 N Main St. (Ketchum),hotelketchum.com
Sun Valley Lodge
Feed your love of nostalgia as you take in the countless black-and-white images depicting Sun Valley Lodge's legacy as America's first ski destination. You'll find Louis Armstrong on skis, Marilyn Monroe posing by the pool, and Ernest Hemingway at his typewriter here. Refreshed accommodations meet modern standards while maintaining the aura of throwback charm and a bit of grandeur in its plush lobby plush, historic ice rink, and a 20,000-square-foot spa. Don't miss the iconic heated pool surrounded by mountain views. // 1 Sun Valley Rd. (Sun Valley), sunvalley.com
Sun Valley Inn
The Sun Valley Inn is situated across the courtyard from the lodge and guests at both properties enjoy the same amenities. More intimate and affordable, the 1937 inn was revamped in 2018 and retains an Austrian ski chalet aesthetic. There are several restaurants on the property, including the Ram and Village Station. // 1 Sun Valley Rd. (Sun Valley), sunvalley.com
Sun Valley's Best Restaurants + Bars
Have a beer or a cocktail with a side of mountain view from Warfield's rooftop bar.
(Courtesy of Warfield Distillery)
Of all of the restaurants in the area, Cookbook is the least expected—in the best way. Owners Vita and Burke Smith's special seven-seat dining room is as intimate as if it were in their home (there's extra seating on the newer patio). Named for the couple's love of cookbooks, the restaurant is adorned with them, and both food and wine menus are thoughtfully curated. Don’t miss the wild mushroom ravioli, pelmeni (Ukrainian dumplings), and the seven-layer cake. // 271 7th St E (Ketchum), cookbookketchum.com
Ride the gondola to the top of Bald Mountain for a one-of-a-kind fine dining experience teamed with unparalleled views of Sun Valley from 7,700 feet. Opened in 1939, the Roundhouse is one of the country's oldest mountaintop restaurants. // Bald Mountain, NF-135 (Ketchum),sunvalley.com
Warfield Distillery & Brewery
Brewery, distillery, restaurant, rooftop bar—this downtown Ketchum spot checks all the boxes. Go for an educational spirits tasting or just enjoy a cocktail with a view. If hard liquor isn’t your thing, Warfield also makes its own beer in house. The kitchen, meanwhile, turns out fresh dishes beyond your typical pub fare. // 280 N Main St. (Ketchum), drinkwarfield.com
Opened in 1937, this is Sun Valley’s original restaurant. Historically charming yet recently modernized, The Ram is a classic local experience with fine American food and music by longtime pianist Larry Harshbarger on the baby grand. Order a pork tenderloin schnitzel or Hungarian goulash from the heritage menu. After your meal, head over to the Ram Bar next door for a nightcap on one of the plush couches or brick patio. // 1 Sun Valley Rd. (Sun Valley), sunvalley.com
Every mountain town needs a favorite breakfast spot. In Sun Valley, The Kneadery's been doing the job since the 1970s. Every morning, the rustic place bustling with folks loading up on huge omelets, pancakes, locally baked bread, salads, sandwiches, and more. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so expect a bit of a wait, especially on weekends. // 260 N Leadville Ave. (Ketchum), kneadery.com
Picture this: You’re sitting in a wooden booth surrounded by Western posters, Native American artifacts and mounted taxidermy, in the same historic saloon that Ernest Hemingway used to frequent, when you're served a perfect Old Fashioned. This has been a must-experience since the Pioneer Saloon opened as a casino back in the '40s. Stop by for a drink or go in for hearty portions of steak, prime rib, seafood, and loaded baked potatoes. Don’t miss the mud pie. // 320 N Main St. (Ketchum), pioneersaloon.com
The LimeLight Ketchum hotel's lobby restaurant is bustling almost every night with guests and locals alike, especially during après happy hour (3-6pm). If you want something heartier, the full menu's got wings, sandwiches, pastas, wood-fired pizzas, and entrees such as wagyu steak frites. Look for live entertainment five nights a week on the patio. // 151 S. Main St. (Ketchum), limelighthotels.com/ketchum
In a town packed with American grub, the Rickshaw serves a welcome change of flavors. Chef Andreas Heaphy's vibrant, elevated Asian street fare draws inspiration from Thailand, Vietnam, China, and Indonesia. Favorites include Korean fried chicken, green papaya salad, and Chiang Mai noodles. // 460 Washington Ave. (Ketchum), eat-at-rickshaw.com
Fun Things to Do in Sun Valley During Warmer Months
Bike the mountain—or the paved trails below if that's more your thing.
(Courtesy of Visit Sun Valley)
Yoga on the Mountain
On Sundays during peak season, get your zen on at 9,150 feet. For $60, you can take the gondola to the top for a memorable gentle yoga session with fresh air and views at the Lookout Lodge. // NF-135 (Ketchum), sunvalley.com/events
The region has a diverse range of trails for both leisurely riders and avid mountain bikers. For a relaxed experience, check out Ketchum's Wood River Trail, a paved and largely flat path spanning over 20 miles. Thrill-seekers, head to the mountain. Sun Valley Resort offers lift-accessed mountain biking on Bald Mountain where riders can explore flowy, loamy single track trails that meander through the scenic sub-alpine and alpine terrain.
Hikes With Wine + Lunch
With nearly 400 miles of single track and 30 miles of paved, car-free trails, Sun Valley offers plenty of opportunities to explore the mountains. If you prefer to delve deeper into the wilderness without the hassle of planning and navigation, let Sun Valley Guides handle the logistics. Whether you choose an easier half-day hike or an advanced off-trail loop, you can select special experiences like a wildflower hike that ends with a rewarding wine tasting or a chef-prepared lunch in a remote setting.
Stargazing in Dark Sky Reserve
Nearly 80 percent of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way. Light pollution is creating lighter skies, in turn making it more difficult to see the stars. Central Idaho is one of the few designated international dark sky reserves in the world (and the first in America) for its commitment to preserving the natural darkness of the night sky. Once the sun sets, take the time to see the sky come alive with a tapestry of stars. Make sure to look up local stargazing events, guided tours, and educational programs led by local astronomers.
Visit Ernest Hemingway’s Grave
One of the many notable Americans to frequent Sun Valley, Hemingway was famously enamored with the area and considered it a personal writing retreat. Pay your respects to the author by visiting his grave, which is often adorned with notes and bottles of wine left by fans. If you're really a Hemingway buff, the community library offers a “Hemingway in Idaho’s High Desert” audio walking tour that takes you through 12 related stops around town. // 1026 N Main St. (Ketchum)
Sawtooth Botanical Gardens
Take a tour or a peaceful self-guided stroll through this five-acre oasis of native plants, sculptures, and the Garden of Infinite Compassion filled with a million handwritten prayers. Open year-round from dusk to dawn, it's a little-known secret that the garden welcomes visitors even at night (tip: it's a perfect spot for stargazing). Events worth checking out include sound baths, yoga, and the Dark Sky Sip & Paint where you can enjoy wine while learning to paint lightness and darkness from a local artist while learning about the universe from a local astronomer. // 11 Gimlet Rd, Ketchum, sbgarden.org
Explore Sun Valley Resort
Even though it's known as a ski resort, there's plenty to do around Sun Valley Resort during the summer, including walks among the beautiful landscape, concerts, outdoor movies, and other happenings. Make sure to check out the events calendar.