Bucket List, Summer

Finding Water in a Desert: A Guide to Sun Valley’s Swimming Spots

So I’m still wrestling with the fact that it snowed (and actually stuck) here in the smack-dab middle of June, especially since it’s now been a steady 90+ degrees for the last 2 weeks. That means that the temperatures have jumped a colossal 60 degrees in a matter of just one short month… What?!

DCIM100GOPRO Alturas Lake chillin’

Now I love nice, sunny weather just as much as your leather-skinned uncle, don’t get me wrong. But if you ask me, these last few weeks have been borderline sweltering! Thankfully though even the Sun Valley natives have mostly been in agreement with me, so I know I’m not just being a typical Seattleite that’s determined to be discontent with the weather. (If you’re unfamiliar with Seattle dwellers, anything below 72* is too cold to do anything and anything above 72* is too hot to do anything. No joke.) That being said, however, I wouldn’t be upset if we got a full day of rain here soon…

Anyways, the point is that it’s been HOT! And of course everybody knows that the best way to combat the sun is by planting yourself in, on, or at least near by a body of water.


Sure Sun Valley might technically be considered a desert region, but believe me, there is no shortage of natural water sources. Keep in mind I’m still far from the highly acclaimed local status but if a fellow Out-of-Towner asked me, my top 5 spots thus far would have to be:

1. Lost River

Although I probably couldn’t find my way back to this spot on my own accord, it is without question a top tier swimming hole. Serene, secluded, and situated between two easily jumpable cliffs it’s pretty much a swimming hole mecca. [As a forewarning: although doable, you’ll probably want to avoid driving out Trail Creek in a Honda Civic or really anything other than a 4-wheel drive car.]

Testing out the slackline over the river at the Trail Creek destination Testing out the slackline over the river.

2. Alturas Lake

While Redfish is easily the most popular lake in the area, Alturas takes the cake for me personally. A relatively small and quiet lake with pristine beaches, plenty of trails to explore and primo lakeside camping on both ends. Also, despite being in the mountains, the water isn’t nippy to the point that you can’t comfortably swim or get your tan on from a floating mattress.

Taking in the scenery at the oh-so-serene Alturas Lake Taking in the scenery at the oh-so-serene Alturas Lake

3. Redfish Lake

Like I said before, this is the go-to spot for most people and I can definitely understand why. At the far end of the lake is the famous Elephant’s Perch peak; a 10,000+ foot mountain that jets almost directly up out of the lake. In that shadow of the Perch is a small 10 foot cliff that would be friendly to all age levels, even Grandpa.

Clambering up the small cliff at the far end of Redfish Clambering up the small cliff at the far end of Redfish w/ the renowned Elephant’s Perch there in the background

4. Big Rock (aka Church Rock)

Not trying to leave town to cool off? Saddle up your bike and cruise down Warm Springs to the Big Wood Church (right next to the skate park) and around back is a big rock (hence the name) on the river. A deep pool and mellow etty set this place up as a go-to spot for those on the North side of town. To get here by land you have to cross the church’s property, so tread lightly my friends!

Overlooking the Big Rock swimming hole behind Big Wood Church Overlooking the Big Rock swimming hole behind Big Wood Church

5. Hospital Bridge

Another in-town swimming hole destination, that caters more towards the South end of Ketchum (more towards Hailey). Hop the railing on the bridge and take the roughly 20 foot leap of faith into the Big Wood River. This is a solid spot for families or a small crew as there is a decent amount of riverside beach right below the bridge.


Now before all you ‘newbies’ start flocking to these exclusively disclosed locations and obnoxiously overcrowding them all, bare in mind that you are, like myself, still newbies. Don’t waltz into these areas like you’re the man of the year and create havoc, you’ll probably get what’s coming. Only kidding! But seriously, just be respectful of other people and the locations and remember to clean up after yourselves.

A low-key Sunday stroll up Highway 75 in Croy (the truck) A low-key Sunday stroll up Highway 75 in Croy (the truck)

DCIM100GOPRO Surfs up in Sun Valley; here’s Duncan getting absolutely pitted on the lake

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 11.40.27 AM Been taking full advantage of the legal ‘ride in the back of the truck’ law while I can

DCIM100GOPRO Hospital Bridge, just South of town here.

DCIM100GOPRO Alturas Lake chillin’

DCIM100GOPRO The best way to start the day and get your hair done up just right is to take a cruise on a boat

Stay cool out there,

The PHGB Intern

(Asa Redfield)


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