Sun Valley is located perfectly in the center of Idaho allowing for endless drives of exploration. Summer 2020 is looking to be the summer of road-trips. So break out your atlas and roll down the windows because here are some of our favorite drives that are easily tackled within a day.
Craters of the Moon National Monument
The desolate landscape of never ending black lava flows across the Southern Idaho plain. What might seem like an empty expanse actually holds some of the best exploring around. You can choose to check into the visitors center and learn about the geologic and human history in the area. Take a hike up the fine silt mounds that were once lively volcanos and peer deep into their craters. Unique plant and animal life somehow hold on in such a harsh landscape so be sure to keep and eye out. For those looking for a little more adventure the Craters of the Moon is a spelunkers paradise. Spelunking is the exploration of caves and Craters has miles of lava tubes that are super fun to explore and are a great escape from the desert heat. Be sure to pack a flashlight.
Stanley and the Sawtooths
As you head north out of Ketchum watch the Big Wood River shrink in size as it flows alongside the highway. A quick side adventure can be had at Galena Lodge or you can stop along the highway and try your best to spot a mountain goat high on the peaks of the Boulder Wilderness Area. You’ll want to pull over and stop plenty on the drive over the pass to take in the expansive views on both sides, thankfully there are plenty of pull out outs, historical markers, and a view point.
Positioned between the White Clouds, The River of No Return, and Sawtooth Wilderness Areas and within the Sawtooth National Recreation area you’ll have no trouble getting lost in nature. Hiking, Mountain Biking, Rafting and Boating on the lakes are some of the many actives one can find in this beautiful valley. The quaint little town of Stanley nestled amongst the giants of the Sawtooths makes for a good picture any day of the year so be sure to have your camera charged and ready.
Mammoth Caves and Ice Caves
Want to escape the summer heat? Then head to the desert. You heard me right, head south of the valley on Highway 75 to what might seem like endless emptiness but what actually holds some cool gems. First is the Ice Caves. These caves used to be a vital source of ice to early settlers for preserving food. The history of the cave is almost as cool as the unique formations that occur in this hidden away underground oasis. Next on your way south is Mammoth Cave. Aptly named for its immense size the cave was actually designated as a national fallout shelter because of its ability to hold so many people. These caves both have visitor centers and quirky little gift shops that will be able to answer any of your questions. While your down there a quick side attraction is Black Magic Canyon which is a basalt slot canyon with otherworldly rock formations but be sure to check that water won’t be flowing through anytime soon. Black Magic Canyon is best visited in the fall and winter.
Many pass through Fairfield on their way to Sun Valley with out thinking twice about the small town on the prairie. For those looking for a drive less on pavement and where you have to do your own history research we say driving to Fairfield via Croy Canyon is a great trip from the valley. There are multiple historic old mine ruins and artifacts, beautiful expanses and unique geography that contrast the high alpine peaks of the valley still visible in the distance. A great drive in the spring for wildflowers on the hills and bulbs on the prairie. This drive can be looped back on the highway or looped back up through Warm Springs Road and back to town.
Pine and Featherville
Two great towns with a lot of history and positioned on the Anderson Ranch reservoir make for many opportunities for activities. If you’re looking for a little adrenaline or to soak up the sun you can rent boats and jet skis and all the toys to take out on the reservoir. If mining history is more your speed, just up from Featherville is the awesomely preserved ghost town of Rocky Bar. Currently the best way to get here is via Highway 20 but there are plans to fix a closed road this summer that would connect Featherville to Warm Springs Road. This drive is an amazing back country dirt road that takes you over mountain passes, past hot springs, and through historic villages. We highly recommend this route but be sure to clarify that the road has been fixed.
Sun Valley is positioned perfectly for endless drives of exploration. These were just some of our favorites that are easily tackled within a day. Many more are out there and many more open up if you pack a tent and extend to multiple days. Load up the car hit the road and we’ll see ya soon. Drive safe!