Don't fret when you see the end of summer looming on your calendar. The shoulder season in the Wood River Valley is a stupendous time of year.
The Smoky, Pioneer and Boulder mountains are a free place to wander and it doesn't take much to get oriented, with new guideposts around Ketchum making it easy to look up from wireless devices to figure out where things are.
Consider following your nose--or at least asking a local--about where to find the day's best shoulder season drink and food specials. From CK's Real Foods in Hailey to Galena Lodge, two-for-one and end-of-season discounts abound once Labor Day rolls around. A trip on the Baldy Gondola to the Round House earns you a free ice cream back in Ketchum if you keep your ticket.
For those who like at least a little direction to begin the journey, consider printing out a map of Ketchum art galleries, provided by the Sun Valley Gallery Association. Even if you find yourself spinning your wheels in the woods (preferably on a mountain bike) or unsure where next to turn at the end of a hike, just stop and look around.
For example, the U.S. Forest Service road for the East Fork of Baker Creek--north of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters--is closed to motor vehicles to help migrating elk find their bugle, but the way is open to hikers and mountain bikers seeking a backcountry respite, which can include a bed in the famous Coyote Yurt operated by Sun Valley Trekking.
Returning visitors to the Wood River Valley know they can plan well-rounded shorts-weather adventures in the wilds of Idaho, which are uniquely steeped in a cosmopolitan brew of fine arts encounters. (Some have been known to wear shorts long after the first snow flies.)
One of the best deals going is the Sun Valley Summer Symphony. Patrons can lounge on the lawn of the Sun Valley Pavilion for free evening concerts through Tuesday, Aug. 20.
The famous Sun Valley Resort is also a frequent purveyor of shoulder season deals. Golfers can take advantage of numerous golf-and-stay packages through the fall, offering the chance to play the resort's courses while claiming a room at the historic lodge. Check out the resort's website for specific details.
You can also get a glimpse of the Wood River Valley experience via the definitive Visit Sun Valley website--maintained by the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureau--where visitors can find special deals and discounts.