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A Runner's Tour of the Sun Valley Area

Annie Pokorny's picture
Annie Pokorny

With hundreds of summer trails and plowed paths throughout the winter, the Sun Valley, Idaho area boasts a year-round running season and community to boot. A known mecca for skiers and riders alike, the area triples as a high altitude runner’s paradise. Try any run on this list for inspiring views and challenging routes, just remember to calibrate your pacing to at least 6000 feet of elevation.

Road Running

Road Running in Sun Valley, Idaho

Elkhorn Loop | 10 mi gradual climbs and flats

Sun Valley has an excellent system of bike paths that you can hop onto from the Sun Valley Lodge and any hotel in Ketchum. For anyone looking for a longer, paved run, the Elkhorn Loop will take you around Dollar Mountain, through the scenic Elkhorn neighborhood, past willowy wetland and back through the heart of town. 

Town Loop | 4 miles

Best used as a quick morning or evening jaunt, the Town Loop will give you a comprehensive, moderately challenging loop accessible from any hotel in the Sun Valley area. Starting from Sun Valley Resort, run on the bike path down Sun Valley Road through town. If you stick on Sun Valley Road, you’ll pick up on the bike path again on your right after about six blocks. Stay on that bike path until you hit Highway 75, where you’ll want to continue across the highway up Saddle Road. A quick climb will bring you back to the path you started on, with plenty of shots of Baldy, the Pioneer, and Boulder along the way! 

Out-and-backs

These three “fingers” of the bike path lead to longer chip sealed and dirt roads with endless opportunities to put on more miles, or turn back early. (Note, if you’re on dirt road, and can’t see Baldy, you probably will not have cell service)

  • Trail Creek Finger - Head East out the bike path from the Sun Valley Resort past the Hemingway Memorial and gun club toward the Pioneer Mountain range as long as you desire!
  • Lake Creek Finger - Head North on the bike path from the Saddle Road and Highway 75 junction. Once you reach the end of the path about two miles later, you can either turn back or head down the highway to Lake Creek Road on the right. Head out Lake Creek road for big mileage on part paved-part dirt road.
  • Warm Springs Finger - One last fabulous out and backs is a gradual climb up Warm Springs road. If you don’t want to do an out-and-back, run the full 10 miles to Frenchman’s Hot Springs and have a friend pick you up (with snacks).  
     

Tracks & Treadmills

For runners who are seeking serious pounding, there are also two tracks, Wood River Middle and High Schools, and tread classes at The Mill and YMCA.

 

Trail Running

Your Guide to Sunning in Sun Valley, Idaho

Proctor Mountain | 3 Miles

Run. Hike. Potato. Potahto. Take on Proctor for a quick ascent and accessible views (of the nation’s first ski lift!)--just on the outskirts of town. 

Chocolate Gulch Loop | 4 Miles

Drive North on Highway 75 and park at the Fox Creek trailhead to find the gem that is the Chocolate Gulch Trail #312. A clockwise navigation includes a long, gradual climb with mind-blowing shots of the Boulder Mountains. Head counter clockwise for wooded climbs and views of the south valley and Pioneer peaks.

Trail 328 to the Gondola | 8 miles

This “loop” is really just a glorified climb. But finishing it is pretty glorious. Starting on the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain, you weave up several switchbacks, into a long climb through the a burn zone, topping out with draw-dropping views of the Smoky Mountains. Keep an eye and ear out for mountain bikers, as this route is beloved among our two-wheeled brethren. Catch the gondola back to town, but make sure to stretch before to avoid cramps. 

Alice Toxaway | 18 miles

If you have a day pack, lots of water, tons of snacks, a camera phone, and a solid endurance base, the Alice Toxaway loop is one epic running adventure for you. Most people take a couple of days to backpack this loop, but seasoned distance runners can complete it in four or five hours. Prepare yourself for striking peaks, hard climbs, long descents, and plenty of alpine lakes in which to take mid-run dips. 

Want more trail runs? Check this guide to 9 Epic Sun Valley Trail Runs

 

Must-Do Races

Sawtooth Relay - Stanley to Sun Valley, Idaho

Redfish Memorial Day Run | Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

Kick off the summer (and your fitness plan) at the mouth of the Sawtooths. The course runs you away from the lake into the Stanley basin and back again to your cheering fans (and also beer). Details

Sawtooth Relay | 61.9 Miles

Run a highway that spans four mountain ranges byway of 12 legs, spread amongst 6 teammates. The race is staggered so that all teams finish close together and meet for a party in Ketchum’s Atkinson Park. Costumes encouraged. Details

Backcountry Run | 8 & 16 Miles

A decades-long local favorite, the Backcountry run has everything you could want from a trail race: single track, big climbs, long descents, and candy at the finish line. Details

Cirque Series Sun Valley | 9.4 Miles

Ski the entire mountain during the winter? Why not run the entire thing during the summer? Cirque Series is a high energy, high altitude, high stoke adventure up, around, and down Baldy that you won’t want to miss. Details

 

Fueling

Fuel Up at the Stanley Bakery

Before: 

  • Maude’s for craft coffee and the tastiest cinnamon rolls around.
  • Kondeterei for quick coffee and Euro pastries on the go.
  • Hank+Silvies for locally roasted Lizzy’s Coffee and a hearty hunk of banana bread. Also, glitter.

During:

  • Play Hard Give Back is a local business that provides snacks for a cause. Find them at any grocery store in town.

After:

  • 5B Fruit Yes! Sun Valley has a smoothie place. Yes! They have all of the protein powder.
  • Stanley Bakery If you choose any of the spots up north, The Bakery’s hearty breakfasts are well worth running for.
  • Sawtooth Brewery With two locations in the valley, these guys make it easy to replenish your carbs.

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