In Sun Valley, Idaho, family adventure comes in all shapes and sizes — and speeds, elevations, and terrains. Thanks to a serious dash of geologic luck, a supportive community, ample remote-learning resources, and the world-class Sun Valley Resort, the options for families visiting Sun Valley are too many to list. Of course, we’ll give it a shot.
From the numerous parks and playgrounds around town to mellow trails for hiking and biking, riverside beaches for fishing and swimming, great camping spots, and a huge variety of kid-friendly restaurants, day camps, and guided activities, Sun Valley should be on every family’s must-visit list. Here’s why.
The ultimate two-wheel playground
It doesn’t matter the season, and it doesn’t matter the person. Whether you’re a world-class athlete — Sun Valley has plenty of those — or a six-year-old (plenty of those, too), one of the area’s best attributes is the variety of accessible activities it offers.
For starters, the biking in the region is absolutely phenomenal:
- The Wood River Trail, the local bike path, is smooth and paved, running for miles out of town in either direction along the banks of the beautiful Big Wood River.
- There’s a pump track right in town that’s perfect for kids and adults to practice and improve their skills. Not to mention the brand new Quigley Canyon Bike Park a quick drive away.
- The network of singletrack trails at Galena Lodge — about 30 minutes north of Sun Valley — are some of the best around. Well-maintained and clearly marked routes plus postcard views make Galena a great first stop for mountain biking families of all ages. Be sure to check out the Gladiator Loop and Rip and Tear Trail, along with the gorgeous Spring Creek Trail.
- If you and the older kids are up for a challenge, a few of the trails on Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain are guaranteed to bring the excitement and push your limits.
If you find yourself near the Galena Lodge after your ride, rest your legs in the classic log cabin and grab a meal at an outdoor deck table. There’s a full-service bike shop, and rentals are available here as well.
Bonus: If your kids prefer the four wheels of skateboards over bikes, be sure to check out the Hailey and Ketchum skateparks.
Sun Valley hiking: “The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get”
Family hikers will be similarly inundated with memorable trails to tackle:
- On the mellower side of things, there’s the White Clouds Loop. Starting right at Sun Valley Lodge, this trail takes you to family-photo-worthy views and loads of wildflowers without much elevation gain, making it a solid option for younger kids and multi-generational family hikes.
- One of the first trails established on Bald Mountain, the classic Bald Mountain Trail will take you all the way to the top, if that’s your aim. Or just head to the Bald Mountain Lookout, a mile or so up the trail, which is an excellent spot for a picnic with expansive views of town and the surrounding mountain ranges.
- Serious hikers shouldn’t miss the trek to Pioneer Cabin. Originally built in the 1930s, the vintage cabin — and the painted-white message on the roof that reads, “The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get” — is legendary. So are the unmatched views of “Idaho’s Alps,” aka the Pioneer Mountains, from the cabin’s front porch. You’ll need to climb 2,400 vertical feet over 3.75 miles for the payoff.
On the rivers, lakes, and creeks
Fishing is another family activity with lots of options in and around Sun Valley. Consider hiring a local guide through a fly shop like Silver Creek Outfitters and let them take care of everything, allowing you to focus on time with the fam.
If you have to choose only one spot, the local Big Wood River won’t disappoint. Practice your cast at Hulen Meadows Pond, north of town, before walking up or downstream to look for fish. The Box Car Bend stretch just south of town always offers a chance at some nice-sized bites, but it can get a bit crowded due to its stellar reputation. Just wander until it feels right.
Beyond fishing, exciting whitewater rivers, serene mountain lakes, leisurely flowing streams, and laidback beaches are all within a short drive of Sun Valley:
- Alturas Lake is around 45 minutes to the north and has a sandy beach at the far end, perfect for launching stand-up paddleboards or kayaks. Grab a rental from Backwoods Mountain Sports in Ketchum before heading out.
- Magic Reservoir transitions from the mountains to rolling desert scenery south of town. Temperatures sit a few degrees warmer down here, making it an ideal spot for days when those shoulder-season temps dip.
- White Otter Outdoor Adventures, based in Ketchum, takes families down the class II-III rapids on the “day stretch” of the world-famous Salmon River.
Spending the night in America’s only dark sky reserve
Top-notch camping surrounds Sun Valley — drive a few minutes from town in any direction and you’ll find plenty of sites. But one of the coolest ways to spend the night in nature is at the Coyote Yurt, 8,700 feet up in the Smoky Mountains. This cozy double-yurt set atop a gorgeous plateau is an epic home base to explore the biking, hiking, and skiing nearby, and there’s an outrageously photogenic swing set right out the front door the kids will love.
But when the sun sets, the night’s adventure begins. You’re camping in the heart of America’s only International Dark Sky Reserve, so the stargazing, shooting-star spotting, and constellation-finding opportunities are everywhere. Look to the southeast early in the evening for a front-row view of the Milky Way rising above the peaks. It’s one of those family-vacation experiences none of you will be likely to forget.