Fall has officially arrived. The sun soaked aspen and cottonwood leaves have slowly begun to make their way from branch ends to trail floors leaving behind nature’s very own yellow brick road. This vibrantly radiating carpet and canopy delivers a truly enchanting hiking experience. We’ve compiled a list of our top-five best fall hikes in Sun Valley to help you maximize your dose of vitamin yellow.
Proctor Mountain (5 miles – moderate)
Serving up some the earliest pops of color in the Valley, the Proctor Mountain area tops our list of early fall hikes. This zone starts by venturing through thick swaths of aspen groves before climbing to higher elevations. Thoughts of burning thighs quickly vanish as expansive perspectives of the colorful valley below take hold. The reward makes the trek well worth the effort. Tip: the leaves will be changing early up here so get after it as soon as you see the first leaves starting to change, usually the middle of September. Directions:
- From Ketchum, head northeast on Sun Valley Rd towards Trail Creek.
- In roughly 2.6 miles look for the “Hemingway Memorial” sign and use the parking lots on your right or left.
- Park here and follow the trail down towards the golf course.
- Continue on to the main trail intersection.
- Look for the Aspen loop and head clockwise.
Please note there is no parking allowed on Fairway Rd. This used to be an option but it no longer is. Signs are posted that say no parking, use the Hemingway Memorial access point.
Chocolate Gulch – North Fork Loop (5 miles – moderate)
If long walks along the river are your jam then the Chocolate – Fox loop is your magic carpet ride. This trail sets out along the banks of the Big Wood River where cottonwood trees drift down golden boat-shaped leaves through the swirling currents. A split in the trail leads up the gut of Chocolate Gulch towards the aspen dotted coniferous forest cover. Near the peak of the climb, you’ll find views of the river below. If you’re lucky, the snow-capped Boulder Mountains will grant you a sneak peak before the trail ventures down in Fox Creek to finish out the loop. Directions:
- From Ketchum, head north on Highway 75 towards Galena Summit.
- In roughly 5.6 miles look for the Fox Creek Trail sign in which you will take a left turn.
- Once you’ve made the left turn off the highway, follow the dirt road to the parking lot.
- Park, walk across the bridge and hang a right on the trail head towards Chocolate Gulch (counterclockwise along the river).
Taylor Canyon (3.8 miles – moderate)
Perhaps one of the lesser-known hikes, Taylor Canyon is quite the hidden gem in the area. A few directions and a bit of persistence will lead you to a rewarding trek. Lower lying clusters of changing deciduous trees give way to a sweeping 180* panorama that includes Baldy and the Boulder Mountains. The north valley perspectives are certainly worth the stair-master start. Directions:
- From Ketchum, head north on Highway 75.
- In roughly 3.3 miles, make a right turn on to Lake Creek Rd.
- In roughly 1.6 miles look for a left turn up Taylor Canyon (at the end of the pavement, veer to the left to continue on to dirt road).
- Road will dead end at the start of the trailhead.
- Take the loop out in either direction.
Tip: if you prefer getting the climbs over quickly and can endure a little exertion, route this loop in a counter-clockwise direction. While your heart will be racing right out the gate, the remainder of the trek will be a breeze.
Adams Gulch – Sunnyside to Lane’s Trail (2.5 miles – easy)
Now that we’ve put you through some ski-conditioning style hikes, it’s time to mellow things out a bit. The lower lying reaches of Adam’s Gulch ease in to an friendly consistent grade amidst groves of transitioning aspens. You’ll find your rhythm as the trail slowly cuts along the south-facing hillsides. A final burst of welcoming warmth can be found in the clearing as you near the height of Lane’s trail. The decent takes you down to the cooler Gulch floor where ample shade and the paralleling creek awaits. Expect to see beaming smiles from other fellow hikers, runners, and bikers along this well travelled connector. Directions:
- From Ketchum, head north on highway 75 towards Galena Summit.
- In roughly 1.6 miles, look for Adams Gulch Rd on your left.
- Follow Adams Gulch Rd for .3 miles as it winds across the Big Wood River and through the neighborhood.
- At the stop sign, hang a left on to NF-141
- Follow to the end of the road, roughly .6 miles.
- Park and grab the Sunnyside trail on the northeast side of the parking lot. Follow the trail counterclockwise to Lane’s Trail.
Tip: for some extra mileage, connect to Citizen’s trail via Lane’s. There are ample fall colors the further you head up. The loop will link you back down the main Adam’s Gulch trail.
White Clouds (4.2 miles – easy)
Our list leading up to this point has focused on navigated you through the heart of the changing foliage. The White Clouds loop is an opportunity to admire the sea of color swaths filling the Valley floor from a pulled back perspective. A short series of switchbacks guide you to there perimeter of Sun Valley’s White Cloud golf course where you’ll catch your first glimpse of the Ketchum landscape. Envision vistas inspired by Monet oil paintings complete with a myriad of warm, soul-soothing tones. You’ll find an array of varying views as the trail continues to trace the bluff with perspectives up towards the north Valley, Trail Creek, and Elkhorn. The home stretch filters you along the paved path north of the resort for one last eye level gander of seasonal pigment popping. Drink it all in, autumn is one of the best times around these parts! Directions:
- From Ketchum, head north on Sun Valley Rd towards Trail Creek Summit.
- In roughly 1.1 miles you will see the entrance for the Sun Valley Lodge. Park in their parking lot.
- Make your way back across Sun Valley Rd to the White Clouds trailhead.
- Start out clockwise on the Valley View trail to Sellgren’s Trail to Elk Trail to the Trail Creek Path.
Tip: the benches dotting the trail offer-up some of the best seats in the house. Sit for a minute to take in the amphitheater style views of the Ketchum crowd below the towering Baldy stage. The window of color is short so get out there and enjoy the best fall hikes in Sun Valley before winter wraps itself around us!