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Fall is the magical season in Sun Valley. The warmth of summer still lingers during the day, while cool nights remind us that winter is on the way. The crowds are gone, yet there are still plenty of days left to explore the hundreds of miles of hiking trails. And perhaps best of all, the leaves start to turn their magnificent shades of yellow, orange, and red.

Check out these three local hikes to take advantage of Sun Valley’s perfect fall hiking season.

Taylor Canyon: A Bounty of Views

brown grasses and yellow aspen trees along a mountain trail

Length: 4 Mile Loop

Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet

Difficulty: Easy/Intermediate

Time Required: 1-3 Hours

Taylor Canyon, a quick hiking loop near Ketchum, is a delight in the fall. For the best views hike this trail counterclockwise.

From the Taylor Canyon Trailhead, the hike begins with a gentle climb along the creek. As the trail gains elevation keep an eye out for bright yellow and orange aspen trees climbing the slope to your right. A series of switchbacks lead to the ridge, where you will begin a traverse of the hillside. Views of the Boulder and Smoky Mountains and the valley below will be dotted with colorful foliage.

After descending the ridge turn left at the four-way intersection to drop into a short gully and return to the trailhead.

Boulder Basin: Mining History With a Twist of Fall Color

hiker walking along boulder trail with colorful fall foliage

Length: 7 Miles Roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 1,700 feet

Difficulty: Intermediate

Time Required: 3-5 Hours

Boulder Basin is home to the historic mining town of Boulder City. The area once produced gold, silver, copper and lead. Today it produces beautiful mountain vistas as you climb through aspen groves toward the basin.

To reach the trailhead, turn right on Boulder Creek Road after mile marker 141 on Highway 75 north of Ketchum. Stay left at the first fork. At the second fork, either park and begin your hike (if you’re in a passenger car) or drive the right fork if you’re in a high clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle. The Boulder City Trailhead is approximately one mile from this junction.

This out-and-back trail ascends along a rocky creek bed surrounded by aspens. A few dilapidated mining cabins are situated along the trail. Check out the unique construction of the wall joints before moving on.

In addition to Boulder City, adventurous hikers can detour to beautiful Boulder Lake, located just above the mining town.

Surprise Valley: Jaw Dropping Heights

hiker in pine forest and yellow aspen trees

Length: 11 Miles Roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 2,200 feet

Difficulty: Difficult

Time Required: 7-8 Hours

The Surprise Valley trail, located over Trail Creek in the Wildhorse Basin, leads to an overlook high above a remote, grandiose valley. You’re unlikely to see others on this out-of-the-way hike. The incredible views will be earned in sweat and sore legs.

Begin at the Fall Creek Trailhead, approximately 28 miles from Sun Valley. Following trail signs to Surprise Valley, the first three miles are a gentle hike through open meadow and forest.

After passing the junction for Moose Lake, the trail breaks into short, steep switchbacks. A small lake will emerge on your left. Continue past the lake and climb the small rise. The Fall Creek and Surprise Valleys will drop away dramatically below your feet.

hiker on high mountain outlook

All photos, including the feature image, are credited to Sara Sheehy.

Sara Sheehy seeks adventure in the mountains of Idaho and beyond. Follow her on Instagram at @sarasheehy.

Published on October 11, 2016