My soon-to-be wife and I recently took a quick weekend trip to Sun Valley, Idaho with our bikes to check out some of the singletrack in the area. We’ve been to Sun Valley a couple of times before, but this was the first time we visited with mountain bikes, and we found the trails to be outstanding and well-maintained.
In addition, Sun Valley is not an overly crowded summer destination compared to some areas, such as our hometown in Jackson, Wyoming where out-of-towners flock to visit the national parks.
If you’re looking for a weekend mountain biking destination within driving distance of Boise or even Salt Lake City, then check out Sun Valley. Downhill riders can tackle the steep, technical trails at Sun Valley Resort, while cross-country riders have endless options throughout the Wood River Valley and beyond.
Where is Sun Valley?
Sun Valley is located in South Central Idaho in the Wood River Valley, about two and a half hours east of Boise. The town of Sun Valley is actually located adjacent to the town of Ketchum, the latter of which has a more developed downtown area, but often the two names are used interchangeably with “Sun Valley” describing the overall area.
The town of Hailey is another hub in the region and is located about 15-20 minutes south of Ketchum. This cool town has its own scene going on and is typically a more affordable alternative if you’re looking for lodging.
Where to Mountain Bike in and around Sun Valley
Here is an overview of options for mountain biking in the Sun Valley Region. Some of these trails and areas come from personal experience, while others are from doing our homework and are bucket list areas for our next mountain bike trip.
Downhill Mountain Biking at Sun Valley Resort’s Bike Park
This bike park caters more to the intermediate-level downhill rider, though there are some advanced trails as well. Some of the trails can be ridden with trail bikes and not specifically downhill
Lift access to the bike park is available via the Roundhouse Express Gondola and Christmas chairlift, which typically run from late June through mid September. Single day lift tickets typically start at $30 (2019 rates).
Note: Sun Valley will not be running its lifts during Summer 2020 due to COVID-19. Many of the downhill trails will remain open to cross-country riders, but you can only access these via riding uphill first.
Sun Valley Resort Cross Country Trails
Even if you are a cross country rider rather than a downhiller, you will find plenty of options to choose from a Sun Valley Resort. Unlike some bike parks that cater specifically to downhillers, Sun Valley is very cross country friendly.
The ultimate big ride at Sun Valley is the Bald Mountain Loop. You can cut out a 3,200 foot climb by purchasing a lift ticket and ride the Roundhouse Gondola and Christmas Chairlift to the top of Baldy Mountain, which makes this a 13.6 mile ride, all downhill!
However, if you’re looking for a big grind uphill to “earn your downhill”, then ride the Bald Mountain Trail — an uphill only trail that adds 5 miles to the loop.
The downhill portion of this ride encompasses the Broadway Trail, Warm Springs Trail, Traverse Trail, and River Run Trail.
Looking for a shorter but equally fun ride? Another great loop option is to ascend the Warm Springs Trail until you reach the Traverse Trail. Then, take the Traverse Trail over to the River Run Trail and ride the flowy River Run Trail to the base.
To get back to your starting point from the bottom of River Run, hop on the paved Wood River and Warm Springs Bike Paths back to the Warm Springs Base Area. This ride in its entirety is about 7.5 miles of singletrack on the mountain and 3.2 miles of paved riding.
This ride is also the best option prior to July 1, when most of the upper mountain is closed due to elk calving. We ended up doing this ride in late June and the trails were in great shape. The ride down River Run is fantastic.
Just north of Ketchum, the Adams Gulch Trailhead offers a wide variety of trails from beginner to advanced with a nice mix of forest and open meadows. For a quick but fun afternoon ride, check out the Shadyside to Lane’s Trail Loop.
If you’re looking for longer and more challenging rides, check out Evie’s Gulch and Griffin Butte. For advanced riders looking for some big climbs and more technical terrain, the Adams Gulch Loop fits the bill.
The Galena Lodge is located about 30 minutes north of Ketchum. This is a popular area for cross-country skiing during the winter months, but they have developed an incredible 40+ mile network of mountain biking trails as well.
During our weekend trip, this was our favorite riding spot. The trails are extremely well-built and well-marked, and there is a nice variety from beginner to intermediate to advanced trails. The trails we rode had a nice flow to them with plenty of berms and other fun features. The scenery is outstanding as well with several surrounding mountain ranges.
Check out the trail map of Galena Lodge to get a sampling of what’s available. Although we only got to sample a small portion, some of our favorites that we rode include the Gladiator, Rip and Tear, Spring Creek, and Senate Meadows.
An added bonus is that you can stop at the Galena Lodge for delicious food and drinks with a large outdoor seating area with picnic tables. The Galena Lodge is a day lodge, but there are yurts available for rent as well as camping options nearby.
Fox Creek and Oregon Gulch
Fox Creek and Oregon Gulch are located just north of the Adams Gulch area. These trails are more on the advanced side but offer excellent riding options for those looking for more of a challenge.
A longer day trip of roughly an hour north of Ketchum, the Stanley region opens up a whole new set of mountain biking possibilities. Although I have never ridden here, the trails are generally considered more difficult compared to those closer to Sun Valley, but there are still plenty of intermediate options as well.
Another added bonus of riding near Stanley is that you’ll have outstanding views of the spectacular Sawtooth Range. While there are numerous options for mountain biking, keep in mind that bikes are not allowed in the Sawtooth Wilderness Area.
Bike Shops and Bike Rentals
If you’re at Sun Valley Resort, you can rent both downhill and cross country bikes at Pete’s Lane. The folks here will also have plenty of beta for you on where to ride.
In the downtown Ketchum, PK’s Bike Shop is your best bet for bike parts and rentals. Although more of an overall outdoor recreation shop, Backwoods Mountain Sports just north of downtown is a great place to visit and they rent mountain bikes and have a full range of bike products and services as well.
If you’re looking for a bike shop in Hailey, then check out Sturtevants for rentals or stop by Power House (open Tuesday-Saturday) for bike service and drink beer and eat delicious food while you wait for your bike to be worked on.
When to Visit Sun Valley for Mountain Biking
Generally June through October is the best time to ride in the Sun Valley area. Some of the higher elevation trails may be snowy/muddy early and late in the season, but anyone who visits during these months should find plenty of riding options. We rode here in late June and found this to be an ideal time.
Outside of these months, the lower elevation trails outside of Hailey are usually rideable by May and often into November. The Croy Creek Trail Network is a good option if you’re looking to check out the trails around Hailey.
Weather in Sun Valley
Weather is often quite pleasant in Sun Valley during riding season with warm days, cool nights, and relatively dry conditions from mid-summer through early fall. The most unsettled weather occurs early in the riding season during May and June when rain showers and thunderstorms are more common.
Even so, high elevation snowpack usually melts enough for good riding conditions in most areas by June. Also, from June on, trail conditions usually dry out quickly after it rains. Occasionally, late season snow storms can happen in the mountains of Central Idaho. When we rode at Galena Lodge on June 28, a couple of inches of snow accumulated at the lodge the day after we left on June 29th!
July and August are the two warmest and driest months of the year on average, though afternoon thunderstorms do happen occasionally. Some of the open, sparsely treed trails can get quite hot on days when highs are in the 80s, but temperatures cool off as you head north to Galena.
September is typically dry as well with cooler temperatures and only slighter higher rainfall than July and August. Late September through early October are often great times to ride when the fall colors are at their peak and temperatures are comfortable.
By later in October, rain and snow become more common and usually by early November the higher elevations are snowbound for the winter.
Here are the riding season monthly temperature and precipitation averages for Ketchum and Galena Lodge. Note, the Galena Lodge weather records ended in 1996, so the averages have been adjusted slightly to account for localized climate changes (i.e. slightly warmer temperatures) that have occurred at nearby weather stations in the years since.
Are the Sun Valley Trails Dog-Friendly?
Yes! We found the Sun Valley community and surrounding trails to be exceptionally welcoming to dogs, and our two black labs had a blast. If you have athletic dogs who can keep up with you on your bike, then Sun Valley is a good choice. Some of the trails that rise above the valleys are dry, though, so be sure to bring extra water for your pooch.
Sun Valley Resort is the only area where there are a few dog restrictions. Mainly, dogs are not allowed on downhill-only trails in the bike park and they can’t ride the lifts either.
Where to Stay in Sun Valley
Camping options are numerous around the Sun Valley region and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a dispersed campsite. Check out freecampsites.net or use the iOverlander app to find camping in the area.
If you’re looking to have a roof over your head, AirBnb is the way to go. There are plenty of places available in Ketchum and Hailey, and even in the summer, you can find reasonable rates that are better than what you’ll find at any hotel. The best deals are typically found in Hailey, but depending on when you check you might find some good deals around Ketchum as well.
If you’re looking for a unique experience, then consider renting out one of the Galena Lodge yurts. This is an especially good option if you’re riding with a group and can split the cost of a yurt. Be sure to book at least a month out for weekends as these yurts are in fairly high demand, even in the summer.
Where to Eat and Drink in Sun Valley
If you’re in Ketchum and you like beer, the Sawtooth Brewery is the place to go for microbrews and elk burgers. If you’re looking to treat yourself to a nicer meal at a reasonable price for a resort town, then check out the Sawtooth Club Restaurant.
As previously mentioned, the Galena Lodge is a great spot for lunch if you’re riding in that area. South of Ketchum, Hailey has plenty of great options. Power House is a must-visit — it’s a part bike-shop, part-restaurant, part-bar with a huge beer selection.