The Western United States is speckled with communities nestled in gorgeous mountain valleys, but too often visitors find themselves taking in the sights in a blur through a car window as they hustle around the towns. Here in the Wood River Valley of Central Idaho, we prefer the wind in our hair and enjoy our journeys as much as our destinations, pedaling bikes on our top-notch trail system.
Wood River Trail
Stretching over twenty miles in it’s entirety, the Wood River Trail connects the Northernmost towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley to it’s Southern sister communities: Hailey and Bellevue.
Freshly resurfaced last year, the trail—affectionately known by locals as “the bike path”—finds its beginnings about two miles North of Ketchum, near the Sun Peak Picnic Area. This is just one of many spots along the way to stop and laze in the shimmering shade of breeze-blown cottonwoods along the Bigwood River. Picnic tables and grills are plentiful.
A short pedal southward brings you into Ketchum, where you can hop off and pay quick respect at Ernest Hemingway’s Grave.
Carry on into town, where the path leads you around the many charming shops, restaurants, and bars. The path also rides right by River Run Lodge, which is the base of the Sun Valley Ski Area. The venue offers outdoor concerts throughout the summer and is also a great place to stop for a cold beer or glass of wine. If you’re aboard a mountain bike, you can hop on the gondola and be whisked to the heights of the hill and cruise back down any of the progressively-designed, flowing dirt trails.
From Ketchum, you can also head East and ride the loop through the community of Sun Valley. A short deviation from the trail will bring you to Proctor Mountain, where you can visit the well-kept remains of the very first chairlift in North America. A finger of the trail also extends up Trail Creek, which offers an abundance of campgrounds and a pleasant cruise along the amicable waters.
Gliding south towards Hailey, riders can search the river for moose, and scan the hillsides for Mule Deer and Elk, all the while breathing the sweet summer scent of chokecherries and lilacs.
Fly fishers will also enjoy the ease of the trail as it winds along the glistening riffles, runs, and pools to the fabled Bigwood River. Most of the ample public access points lie right along the path, offering a multitude of simplified opportunities for the casually adventurous angler. Boxcar Bend Preserve is a popular fishing stop but also provides a unique view and textual explanation of the relic of old Union Pacific Railroad cars which were placed in the river decades ago to mitigate bank erosion.
Once in Hailey, you can stop along any of the shops, restaurants, or public parks. Swing into Draper Preserve and have a rest in the shaded greenery along the river banks. Before you continue on your journey, head to the local pump track for a brief thrill-lap over the flowing, dirt rollers.
Another two miles down the trail brings you to the end of the line in the quiet, amiable town of Bellevue. The leisurely pace of the community provides the perfect atmosphere for a recharge before your journey back North. If there’s been a recent rain, the wildflowers at this end of the valley are out-of-this-world.
Thanks to it’s convenient mapping, spectacular scenery, and consistent maintenance, the Wood River Tail has become one of the communities most coveted resources. Whether you’re riding to get to somewhere particular in the valley, or if you’re just out for a pleasure cruise, the “bike path” will undoubtedly charm you along the way.