Where we’re at: I’m jumping ahead to share my trip in late August 2020 with Visit Idaho. I’ll jump back into chronological time eventually!
And PS: Did you know Wander Women On Demand is live? If you missed either of our virtual retreats, or ever wished you could gift one to a friend, don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy our signature yoga classes, meditations, journaling prompts, and workshops at your own pace!
Mention Sun Valley and if there’s a skiier or other winter sports enthusiast within earshot, you’re likely to see them perk up a bit. After all, Idaho’s most posh resort area was America’s first “destination ski resort,” an area developed by a railroad tycoon in 1935 to replicate the success of resorts in Austria and The Alps. They made history building the world’s first chairlift, and snow addicts have flocked there ever since.
Hollywood icons like Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby and Clark Gable spent time skiing these very Idaho slopes — and their photos now grace the hallways of the Sun Valley Resort. Today it’s still a favorite of the rich and famous, as well as the “making rent” and the “on Instagram.” Even Olympians come here to train.
Is it any surprise I was more interested to see what a Sun Valley summer is like?
I’m not alone. Summer has now come close to eclipsing the ski season as the most popular time of the year in Sun Valley, despite its enduring reputation as a winter resort. Perhaps that’s why it’s the stop on my Idaho itinerary I had the least expectations for. I knew that my local tour guide Katie’s parents had retired there, and she had spent a summer working in Ketchum — but that was about it.
First of all — Ketchum? Sun Valley? — what is this place? I was a little confused at first by the various terms being thrown around for this area, so let me clear it up. While “Sun Valley” itself specifically refers to a sprawling Alpine-inspired ski resort of the same name, many use it interchangeably with the region at large, including the main town of Ketchum, and the Wood River Valley area winding south towards the adorable Hailey and the more residential Bellevue.
In typical years, summer in Sun Valley sees an event calendar bursting with concerts and festivals. I visited in 2020, which meant that such gatherings were on hold for the greater good. Luckily, Sun Valley has plenty of outdoor, crowd-free charm to safely enjoy all summer — and in fact, all year.
I may not have known what I was driving into, but by the time this high-altitude mountain town was in my rearview, I already missed it. Who knows — maybe I’ll even make a winter trip. For now, here’s my favorites for summer in Sun Valley.
Where to Stay in Sun Valley
No exaggeration, Hotel Ketchum is kind of what put Sun Valley on the map for me! I’m a sucker for a stylish boutique hotel with a big sense of place, and Hotel Ketchum hits it on all fronts.
The hotel is located in the heart of Ketchum, perfect for strolling to the downtown’s great restaurant and shopping scene. If you prefer wheels, complementary bikes are available to all guests.
Local artists are behind the murals that grace various exterior and interior walls of the renovated motel, one of many touches that had my design-loving heart soaring. The lobby was a work of art itself, with endless nods to Idaho history and culture.
Amenities include a fitness center, a guest laundry, a small heated pool, and a hot tub that was absolutely epic for soaking off our long hikes and kayaking excursions.
While The Hangout, the hotel’s onsite coffee lounge and breakfast spot, was closed due to COVID, that just gave me something to go back for.
Katie and I’s room was super cozy, with a big windowseat perfect for catching up on laptop time, a cozy fireplace that had us dreaming of coming back for ski season, and two big fluffy beds required for recharging for all our Idaho adventures!
I seriously loved the sense of whimsy and fun here. From giant potato Airbnbs to winking boutique hotels, my trip to Idaho really did have it all on the accommodation front.
What to Do in Sun Valley
No surprise — it’s all about the great outdoors, here. While there are some charming museums and art galleries I’d like to visit on a future trip, here’s what I got up to on this one.
Yoga in Sun Valley
I did a little happy dance when I saw there were so many incredible yoga opportunities in Sun Valley. There are a few studios strewn around Ketchum and Hailey, and regular classes happening in the community, everywhere from the town square to the local brewery to the top of Bald Mountain (sadly, that experience happens on Saturdays, and our visit was mid-week.)
However, I lucked into a different amazing opportunity — a Journey Through the Elements workshop by hosted Gather Yoga at Sawtooth Botanical Garden.
The five daily workshops were available as either a week-long immersion or a drop-in by day. Each was a potent mix of crystal bowl sound therapy, element-inspired asana, and moving guided meditation. I arrived for fire, and was blown away by how moving the practice was — I immediately wished I could attend the full week! The instructor, Eduardo Emmanuel Ballesteros, really spoke to my soul and delivered exactly the message I didn’t know I needed to hear.
And what a treat it was to practice in the midst of such a beautiful setting. Similar winter workshops, Eduardo explained, are held in the botanical garden’s greenhouse.
After the class, I took some time to wander the gorgeous little garden and feel some gratitude that the workshop had brought me there in the first place. I couldn’t believe it when I found a prayer wheel that’s one of only two in North America blessed by the Dalai Lama himself, who traveled to Sun Valley to dedicate it in 2005.
I absolutely recommend a stroll at Sawtooth Botanical Garden whenever you find yourself in Sun Valley, though I think it is best enjoyed via the frequent events they hold here, such as Walk and Wine — a night of acoustic music, wine tasting, and nibbles — or their Guided Star Tours — BYO blankets and binoculars.
Back to yoga — same story. Regardless of when you visit Sun Valley, I highly implore you to check Gather Yoga out. Whether it’s a class in their central Ketchum studio or one of their pop-ups out in the community, I love how active and involved they are in bringing the power of yoga to the people!
Shopping in Sun Valley
I used to say I wasn’t much of a shopper. I think I’m starting to realize I’m just not much of a mall-er. But wandering around adorable, one-of-a-kind boutiques in the cute little alpine-esque villages of Sun Valley? Yes, that I can do!
One of my favorites was Independent Goods, a stylish showroom of Idaho-made souvenirs that is both veteran and minority owned and curated. I basically wanted to buy everything!
Two others that had me swooning were Huck and Paddle, which made me want to buy a house just to fill it with these lush interior accessories — they had super cute gifts, too — and Hank & Sylvies, which made me want to throw a different theme party every day of the week for a year.
And that was just the beginning! We had a blast window shopping and just strolling around getting lost while catching up. And of course, we each took home a few treasures we couldn’t resist.
Hiking in Sun Valley
Sun Valley is a hiker’s paradise, with trails at truly every level. Due to the brevity of our time in Ketchum and how spent our bodies were from our crazy kayaking trip, all our driving, and my daily yoga grind, we decided to go for the “short, sweet, and scenic” version!
I used my favorite hiking app, All Trails, to search for options, while Katie did the analog version and called the experts — her parents. Both returned the same results: hike White Cloud Peak 9. We went at sunset and were treated to incredible views over Ketchum, Sun Valley Resort, and Bald Mountain. It was perfect!
Something else hiking related that majorly caught my eye in the area were Volunteer Trail Work events by the Wood River Trails Coalition. They even have special women’s volunteer days, with post-work beers provided by Sawtooth Brewery!
What an incredible way to give back on the road — literally.
Blissing out at Zenergy Spa
As a wellness hotspot — they even host an annual festival to that effect — Sun Valley is not short on spas or fitness centers. But certainly one of the most famed is Zenergy Spa, known for its high end (and sometimes celebrity) clientele.
As exciting as it would be to see Tom Hanks on a stairmaster, I was even more excited about their offerings of guided weekly summer hikes, meditation-based spin classes, and sound-bath yin yoga practices, to name a few. I dropped in on the dreamy yin class, and after, Katie and I blissed out further in the Himalayan salt sauna, and the hot tub overlooking Bald Mountain.
Where to Eat in Sun Valley
Originating in — you guessed it — Hailey, Hailey Coffee is now a local favorite with locations across Sun Valley. I brought a laptop here and spent a peaceful early morning catching up on writing over a chai latte and avocado toast. The food is great, and it’s the perfect place to people watch and get a pulse on the town.
Barrio 75 is the onsite taco restaurant at Hotel Ketchum and gosh, how great is it having fresh Mexican steps from your door?
The vibe here is modern and lively, and the menu reflects that with funky taco twists on classic dishes with offerings like the French Onion Barbacoa, filled with caramelized onion, gruyere, and six hour braised barbacoa, or The Reuben, made up of New York pastrami, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and “magic sauce.” My favorite, however was the homage to the Griddled Cheese, a vegetarian taco with grilled, pressed cotija, guacamole, and pico de gallo.
Looking for a healthy lunch one day, we stumbled on The Haven. In addition to a rotating gourmet sandwich menu, they have a deli case with a daily selection of fresh, local dishes like pesto parmesan brussel sprouts, goat cheese harvest salad, and Mediterranean chicken — we had a hard time narrowing down what to get! Check their social media for lists of the daily selection.
Don’t miss the bathrooms, where the walls are lined with old family recipe cards of the owner.
The Boho Lounge
Sadly, The Boho Lounge was temporarily closed while I was in Sun Valley. But I couldn’t help going for a little peek — and it’s one of the main reasons I want to return to Ketchum! Between the craft cocktail menu, the boho-chic rooftop, and the weekly trivia nights, this place has a different feel that anywhere else we visited in the area. I can’t wait to see them return!
Glow Sun Valley + Ginger Sweet Sun Valley
I’m obsessed with Glow Sun Valley, a plant-based organic eatery that offers an impressively extensive menu of wraps, salads, rolls, smoothies, bowls, toasts and bagels. I love places that stretch my imagination of what plant-based food can consist of!
Juice junkies also shouldn’t miss Ginger Sweet, right around the corner, which caught my eye with its adorable branding — and plastic-free packaging! I love how many options there are for fueling your body well in Sun Valley — though it should come as no surprise for a place as wellness-focused as this one.
Starbucks Sun Valley
Huh? Am I actually recommending… a Starbucks? It turns out I am! This Alpine-esque building might just be the most beautiful Starbucks location I’ve ever seen — and bonus, the Sun Valley Visitor Center is inside. It also opens super early, at 6:30am, which is ahead of almost anywhere in town. Ergo, good to keep in mind if you’re heading out on an early morning adventure!
We kept most of our trip very casual, with The Covey being our one well-worth-it exception. Wow, how good was this place! I swooned from the moment we walked through, looking for the perfect seat. We settled at the bar, with full view of the nouveau-American art and design that filled the space.
The regularly-rotating menu was the perfect homage to the local ingredients of the area. We settled on some fresh in-house pastas, veggie dishes, and craft cocktails, and toasted to a beautiful trip.
When we saw the cute cafe Jersey Girl was owned by the same duo behind Boho Lounge, we suspected it was worth a drive to Hailey to check it out. We were right. We brought our soup, salad and sandwich order out to the back garden and savored every bite.
Hiking, yoga, wildflower blooms, great restaurants, the most adorable little Western-style downtown ever — I adored summer in Sun Valley! Now the only question is — am I bold enough to brave a (bad skiier’s) winter slope trip? Time will tell!
Have you been to Sun Valley? Are you craving a winter or a summer trip there?
Sun Valley sounds awesome! I’d love to go there for either season. I think it would be fun in the summer with less crowds, but also epic to ski at such a famous place.
Some year, I’ll try it! I can’t wait! I’m doing a once-a-year winter adventure from now on, if I can swing it 😉
Wow, I’m an Idaho gal and I didn’t even know it! This trip looks absolutely epic.
PS – I am not however an app girl but All Trails is something I need in my life!
PPS – Tom Hanks on a treadmill actually made me laugh out loud.
PPS – I would like to know more about that sheep painting at Hotel Ketchum. Genuinely.
Becky, ask and ye shall receive! Loved those hotel murals!
Alex – thank you so much for visiting Independent Goods & your kind words about the shop. We are so glad you had such an amazing time here. PS – your adventures throughout Idaho have us excited to explore more.
You’re so welcome — thanks for being part of what makes Sun Valley so special!