Wood River Trail

Idaho

At a Glance

Name: Wood River Trail
Length: 33.7 Miles
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking, Cross Country Skiing
Counties: Blaine
Surfaces: Asphalt
State: Idaho

About this Itinerary

The scenic Wood River Trail (WRT) system is jewel of south-central Idaho’s Wood River Valley, connecting the towns of Bellevue, Hailey, Ketchum, and Sun Valley on more than 30 miles of paved routes. The trails are the perfect means for all levels of riders to explore these alpine communities amidst a stunning panoramic backdrop of dramatic mountain ranges. The trail follows the route that was carved by the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1880s to serve the booming mining industry and later to bring skiers to the Sun Valley resort. While the line was abandoned in the mid-1980s, today’s visitors can now bike the corridor and along the way learn more about the history of the railroad in this area through a number of historical points of interest highlighted along the route.

The WRT travels twenty miles south from Bellevue to just north of Ketchum and connects to another ten miles of trails that head northeast to Sun Valley and loop around Ketchum. There is a slight increase in elevation as you travel north, but wind rather than elevation can be the challenging factor while biking this route, so keep wind direction in mind before setting out. For visitors and locals alike, the WRT (or simply the ‘bike path’as it is locally referred to) is a popular route and during weekends and in warmer weather, you won’t be alone. Before setting out be sure to grab a map of the trail system, which is readily available in town at the visitor center, at a bike rental shop, or available to download here. In addition to providing useful information about the location of restrooms and water fountains, the map includes a self-guided historical tour that can you can follow along with as you bike.

Centrally located in Sun Valley just a couple of short block from the trail, enjoy premier accommodations at Knob Hill Inn. The property features 29 guest rooms, each generously sized and with a balcony to take in the spectacular mountain views, on-demand shuttle service throughout Sun Valley and Ketchum, continental breakfast served in the cozy Fireplace Room, an indoor heat pool, and WiFi. The property evokes the feel of a European ski chalet and with its mountain charm and simple yet elegant style, provides a warm and welcoming base for exploring the area.

Located on Main Street close to the hotel and the trail, find Sturtevant’s Rental & Cycle Haus. Open daily, the shop featuring a wide variety of top quality bike rentals, including mountain, road, tandem, and kid’s bikes. In addition to repair services and rentals, delivery and pick-up service is also available.

Given the paved surface and minimal elevation gain, it is possible to ride the entire WRT in one day, but in order to travel at a more leisurely pace this itinerary breaks the trail up into two days of riding. On the first day, travel 34 miles round-trip from the inn to the southern terminus of the trail in Bellevue and back. On day two, travel approximately 18 miles as you head north to Sun Valley and loop around Ketchum. On both days it is possible to purchase food and drink from trail adjacent businesses. Despite this, we highly recommend setting out with full water bottles to avoid dehydration, which can sneak up on you at high elevation. Restroom facilities and water fountains are located along the trail at various points as well, although in the southern-most section restrooms are not as readily available as they are in the Ketchum area. The trail map clearly details where these facilities are located, as well as indicating parking areas should you decide to begin or end the trail at another point.

Day 1

After a hearty breakfast at the inn, bike southeast on 10th Street and look for trail markers about one and a half blocks down. In this section of the town, portions of the trail are on the road. To your right, you will see the trail entrance. Today, we will head south towards Bellevue. Bike left through the parking lot towards the baseball field. Follow the field around on the first base side until you come out on 8th Street. Take a left on 8th Street and go down one block until you see the off road entrance of the WRT. The trail winds you through residential areas of town and past the parking lot for Bald Mountain Resort before reaching the Big Woods River, which although not always visible, you will be riding parallel with for a short while.

Pass through the towns of Gimlet and Hailey, where the trail parallels the airport, before reaching the end of the trail in Bellevue. The trail ends abruptly at the intersection with Gannett Road and there are no amenities here. There are, however, several restaurants and stores in the center of town to stop for lunch, refill water bottles, or grab a snack before the return trip. As you head north on the trail, turn left on Elm Street and find South Valley Pizzeria, which serves a wide variety of gourmet pizzas. On the corner of Elm and Main Street, is Mahoney’s Bar & Grill. A popular nightspot for live music, during the day you can grab a delicious burger, salad, chili, or a wide variety of sandwich options. For a quicker and lighter meal, stop by Giddy-Up Coffee & Kitchen one block north on Main Street for a fresh made wrap or sandwich and cold drink. Or, if you just want to grab some cold drinks or a snack, just as you head out of town, shortly after passing the intersection with E. Spruce Street, find the full-service regional grocery store Atkinson’s Market on your left (to reach it, turn left on E. Spruce and follow Main Street north for one block).

In Gimlet, about 7 miles outside of Ketchum, take a scenic rest stop and explore the Sawtooth Botanical Garden. Located just off the trail, turn left on Gimlet Road. As you head north, cross over Canyon Drive and look for the garden on your right. Founded in 1994 by volunteers, this 5-acre site showcases native and cultivated plants that thrive in the region’s high altitude. It features a wildflower garden, a meditation garden, and a peaceful and elegantly designed garden that was created to honor the 1995 visit of the Dali Lama. The site does not take long to explore, but provides the perfect respite before returning to town.

Day 2

Today’s route covers approximately 18 miles. The itinerary takes you north and includes a few spurs that require backtracking before heading to Sun Valley and looping around Ketchum. From the inn, follow yesterday’s directions to reach the trailhead and head north on the WRT. Bear left at the intersection of Warm Springs Road and Saddle Road. This route continues following Warm Springs Road for another two miles on a flat route into a residential neighborhood with gorgeous views of nearby Bald Mountain, which you will be skirting around. When the trail ends, retrace your route to the intersection and head north.

Continuing along, you will reach another spur at the intersection with N. Main Street. Here you can head north for about two miles on a mostly flat route that offers spectacular views. This section follows along Route 75 through a more remote area. At the trail’s end backtrack to the intersection and head north towards Sun Valley. The WRT system links various neighborhoods and makes it easy and convenient for locals to reach downtown Ketchum from various communities, but given the fragmented nature of the system, to ride every section of the route requires a significant amount of backtracking. Our itinerary seeks to cover as much as the trail as feasible (and worthwhile) but given the number of short stretches that require backtracking, it is easy to eliminate some of all of these spurs should you desire.

The next spur you come to travels about 10 miles round-trip through Sun Valley. Pass through the heart of the town, head north past the Sun Valley Golf Course and into more a remote landscape with gorgeous panoramic views. At the end of the trail, retrace your route back and stop for lunch in Sun Valley, where you will find several good dining options. Among the several restaurants worth considering including Bald Mountain Pizza & Pasta (located across from the bike trail in the in the main Sun Valley dining/shopping complex). This restaurant serves a variety of pizzas, salads, pastas, and more. Located in the same complex, for a quicker stop, grab a delicious gourmet deli sandwich, chips, and cold drink at the Short Line Deli.

Head back south to the trail intersection at Sun Valley Road and Dollar Road and turn left onto the trail to follow along Dollar Road. Travel past Dollar Mountain before reaching yet another split in the trail. Here you can head either left or right; both directions travel through residential neighborhoods for about the same distance before rejoining at the intersection of Village Way and Elkhorn Road. When the trails rejoin you will continue along parallel to Elkhorn Road. Shortly afterward the trail veers off again and you will have the option of continuing along on Elkhorn Road or turning north. This route loops around through a residential neighborhood before rejoining the main trail just slightly further along. We are not including this spur on our itinerary but it is easy to add should you choose to and will add only about a mile and a half to the ride. This is the last spur along the route. Continue along and find yourself just south of Ketchum. Take a right at the trail intersection to return to town. This section will be familiar as it is a portion of the trail that you traveled yesterday.

For dinner, the Ketchum/Sun Valley area has an abundance of restaurants, from fine-dining to casual eateries that cross price ranges and offer some truly creative cuisine. Located at the Knob Hill Inn, The Grill at Knob Hill features Northwest cuisine with specials such as Idaho ruby red rainbow trout, local lamb, and wild game. In summer, enjoy the covered and heated terrace or lawn seating, both with spectacular mountain views. Sophisticated yet casual, the atmosphere of this popular eatery will make you want to linger for hours.

If steak or prime rib is calling your name, look no further than the Pioneer Saloon. A staple of the region’s dining scene, this casual restaurant serving quality steaks and seafood, and is located on Main Street in Ketchum. The interior is decorated with natural woods, mounted game, and period firearms to recreate an authentic saloon atmosphere. Originally a casino when it opened in the 1940s, this restaurant and bar has been a local favorite for decades.

From small plates of house cured meats, artisanal cheeses, and wood-fired pizzas to locally raised lamb, duck confit, and delectable homemade desserts, Enoteca offers fine-dining in an inviting and stylish ambiance. Located in the heart of town, the restaurant features an extensive wine list and is the perfect spot to stop in for either a full meal or small plates with a glass of fine wine.

Day 3

If you have an extra day, take time to learn about the Wood River Valley’s history at the Ketchum/Sun Valley Heritage and Ski Museum. Located in historic Forest Service Park, through exhibits and artifacts this small museum details the region’s cultural heritage from its first inhabitants, to miners and ranchers, to skiers and artists who contribute to the vibrant environment of the town.

For breakfast or lunch, try The Kneadery. Located in a wood cabin in Ketchum, the restaurant’s menu features organic breads, fresh salads, farm fresh omelets, and delicious burgers. The popular restaurant has been serving the community since 1974 and oozes rustic Idaho charm.

In the evening, attend an art exhibit, concert, theater performance, or lecture at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts. Since 1971, the center has been at the heart of the region’s thriving arts community and hosts a wide range of events both free and for a small fee. Events are hosted at the main center in Ketchum and at additional sites in the valley. Be sure to check out their schedule to see what is taking place while you are in town.

Farther afield, explore the majestic landscape of the Sawtooth National Forest. Located several miles north of Ketchum/Sun Valley, the forest has more than 300 alpine lakes, contains the headwaters for the Salmon River, and offers visitors staggeringly beautiful scenery with dramatic jagged peaks from which to marvel at while hiking the numerous trails. Visit the visitor center at the southern gateway for more information about trails and other activities available.

There are numerous other opportunities for outdoor actives in the Wood River Valley. Stop by the Sun Valley Visitor Center, located in the center of town, for details about local hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, golf, and many more activities in the area. The helpful staff here can provide maps, give restaurant recommendations, and provide details about the numerous special events that take place in town during the year.

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