Adventure September 27, 2019

Leaf Peeping Sun Valley Style

Fall hikes to see the colors

The East gets all the hype when it comes to fall colors. But fall in Sun Valley is golden.

Yellow cottonwood leaves drift onto the creek that runs past the Hemingway Memorial. Fiery orange and red aspen leaves dancing in the breeze contrast with the royal blue skies above. And the yellow shimmering on the clear Big Wood River is enough to
give fishermen fall-blindness.

It’s as if Mother Nature has taken a brush to the trees, infusing them with a painter’s palette of yellow, orange, red and sometimes even magenta. The air is crisp and invigorating. Fall showers have settled the dust. And the foliage on fire acts as nature’s chill pill.

“When we get that first snow and the aspen turn to red and orange, it’s just magical. It’s the gradual unfolding of summer into fall,” said Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson.

“The cool dry air that accompanies our falls—there’s something about it,” added Ann Parry, Ketchum resident and leader of bird watching outings for the Environmental Resource Center.

You don’t have to go far, nor do you have to breathe hard, to gorge on fall foliage in Sun Valley. Here are four easy hikes in which to indulge yourself:


The Vamps and Dons who do fall dry-land training in the Lake Creek area don’t have to run fast to get their heart pounding. A mere look at the groves of trees decked out in various shades of color will set the heart pulsating on its own. Drive north out of Ketchum on Highway 75 and turn off at the newly paved Lake Creek parking lot on the left. Cross the footbridge, jog up the hill and turn right onto the Riverside Trail, which parallels the Big Wood River. The trail will lead you up the hill where you can gorge on still more fall colors before looping back to the trailhead.


Towering aspen closes in on hikers here offering respite from the warm Indian summer sun. Drive out Sun Valley Road and park at the parking lot just north of Boundary Creek campground. Follow this trail to the northeast until it crosses on a bridge over Trail Creek to a sagebrush-covered flat on the other side. The trail continues east through aspen stands to a sheep corral where you can turn around. On the way back, you will find plenty of aspen color along Trail Creek Road; look for the amazing orange tree on the other side of the road.


This hike is framed in yellow that looks particularly dynamic when backlit by the morning sun. Drive east from Sun Valley Resort on Trail Creek Road. Park at the parking lot for the Hemingway Memorial just before the turnoff for Trail Creek Cabin. Follow the trail downhill, skirting the Sun Valley Golf Course, not forgetting to check out all the golden aspen dotting the golf course. Cruise around the rocky knob and head up the trail.


This trail offers gorgeous color from the get-go. Drive south from Ketchum on Highway 75 for 5.5 miles and turn left onto East Fork Road. Drive for another seven miles, turning left onto Hyndman Creek Road. Follow this five more miles to the end of the road. The bonus? You pass some pretty stunning stands of color enroute. From the parking lot, cross the creek on a footbridge and follow the trail through open meadows and aspen groves. The color is particularly beautiful in the thicker stands of trees. Many people end their fall hikes three miles in when the trail meets up with the creek. By that time, you will have feasted on plenty of color.


This article appears in the Fall 2019 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.