As the hasty buzz of summer season winds down here in the Wood River Valley, cool air fills the vacant voids where amicable crowds of visitors once walked, bustling the streets and trails around Ketchum.  The suddenly mellow atmosphere is inviting and warm as ever, despite the crisper temperatures.  Flip flops get stored in winter tubs, and tanned toe-tops go covered in sneakers.  For many, it’s a favorite time to slide summer-seasoned feet into hiking boots and terrain shoes, and rightly so, for the best of trail season is upon us.

If you’re looking to join the march of Autumn, the hiking options in and around the valley are endless, and the trailheads are hardly ever congested.  Aspen, willow, and cottonwood leaves turn to spirited yellows and boisterous oranges as the trees celebrate their approaching rest through winter.  Here are a few of the best hikes in Ketchum.

Lookout Trail

For a quick afternoon hike, head up the Lookout Trail, beginning by the River Run Lodge at the base of Bald Mountain.  A short, but steep path will elevate you over the Big Wood River as you wind your way through the fir forest and arrive at a wonderful picnic spot overlooking Ketchum, with great views of the Pioneer Mountains to the East.

Map to get there

Proctor Mountain

To gain the opposite perspective in a short hike, head up the Proctor Mountain trail, starting out Fairways Road in Sun Valley.  This trail will wind you through modest cathedrals of Quaking Aspens, cushioning your footstep as they shed their golden leaves.  At the top, you’ll find what is perhaps the area’s most treasured artifact—the very first ski chairlift ever built in North America.

Map to get there

Baker Lake

If you’re the type of hiker that needs a more tangible reward than simply a great vista, pack up your fly rod and visit Baker Lake.  Turn left onto Baker Creek Road, about 15 miles North of Ketchum, and drive to the end of the gravel road to find the trailhead.  A modest 1.5 mile path will meander up mellow crests and deliver you to the lake, which sits semi-surrounded by gorgeous rock formations and the elegant but rugged peak of the mountain.  Cruising the emerald depths and crystal shallows are brown, rainbow, cutthroat, and the coveted golden trout, all dressed in their finest fall colors.

Map to get there

Pioneer Cabin

For a more vigorous, full day adventure, consult the Pioneer Cabin Trail.  One of the area’s most coveted hikes, traffic is common all summer, but you’ll find solitude amidst the changing leaves of Autumn.  From Ketchum, drive out Trail Creek Road, and turn right onto Corral Creek Road and drive all the way to the end to arrive at the trailhead.  The three and a half mile hike will raise you about three-thousand vertical feet and deliver you to the iconic Pioneer Cabin, which was constructed by the Sun Valley Company in the 1930’s as a stopover structure four backcountry ski touring.  Nestled at the base of the mighty Pioneer Mountain peaks, the view is spectacular in all directions.  As afternoon wears into evening on your decent, look for elk and mule deer, heading out for their evening browse, and ready your heart for explosive flushing forest grouse along the trail.

Map to get there

To whichever degree you’re looking to ready your legs for ski season, the Ketchum area has a hiking trail for you, and Autumn is unquestionably the best time to enjoy it.  So lace up your trail shoes, and summon your explorer’s spirit.

About Brett Wilson