To help you and your family embark on an unforgettable journey, we’ve crafted the ultimate guide to two of our breathtaking mountain locations—Sun Valley, Idaho, and Summit County, Colorado. In Part 3 of our Ultimate Guide to the Mountains, we’ll dig into the fun of Mammoth Lakes and Taos Ski Valley. Learn about the best things to do, when to go, and where you should eat. Travel on.
Your Ultimate Guide to the Mountains: Sun Valley & Summit County | Part 2
YOUR GUIDE TO SUN VALLEY, IDAHO
SUN VALLEY FUN FACTS
- This area was named “Sun Valley” because it gets more than 250 days of sunshine each year!
- Considered America’s “First Destination Ski Resort,” it opened in 1936 with lift tickets costing roughly $0.25.
- Known for some of the best stargazing in the world, this area worked hard to keep light pollution down so that visitors could view billions of stars with unobscured views—including the Milky Way.
Initially founded as a prosperous mining town in the 1800s, it transformed into a world-renowned ski destination in the 1930s, attracting Hollywood’s Winter sports enthusiasts, including Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, and Ernest Hemingway. Today, Sun Valley remains an iconic ski oasis with 2,154 acres of skiable terrain, but has grown beyond its slopes. With over 250 days of sunshine, this area offers a variety of year-round, family-friendly activities—including hiking, golfing, backpacking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, and even fly fishing. The nearby town of Ketchum adds to the charm of this area with its welcoming Western hospitality and quaint mountain atmosphere.
Explore Scenic Drives in Sun Valley
- Oregon Trail Backcountry Byway: This scenic 100-mile route in Idaho allows visitors to explore the rich history and natural beauty of the region. Taking visitors along the original trail used by pioneers seeking a new life in the West, enjoy iconic sights and attractions such as the majestic Sawtooth Mountains, Salmon River, and the Bayhorse Ghost Town.
- Sawtooth Scenic Byway: This breathtaking route winds through the majestic Sawtooth Mountains in central Idaho, stretching over 115 miles from Shoshone to Stanley. The byway offers visitors unparalleled views of stunning landscapes, including towering peaks, pristine rivers, and serene alpine lakes. It’s a must-do for nature lovers!
Sun Valley Restaurants
- Cookbook Restaurant: Originally built in 1932 as a church, this now quaint eatery features locally and globally-inspired comfort food with a twist. The Cookbook Restaurant is the perfect spot for any occasion as the menu changes seasonally to reflect the freshest ingredients available. Ideal for both a quick bite and a leisurely meal.
- Despo’s: Looking for something health-conscious and delicious? Despo's, a “Mexican restaurant with attitude,” uses locally sourced and eco-friendly ingredients for their tacos, burritos, and homemade salsas, so you can feel good about what you're eating. They also have a great selection of beer, wine, and margaritas.
- Lefty’s Bar and Grill: Located in town, Lefty’s is everyone’s favorite off-mountain après ski destination. Serving up classic pub fare with a notable edge, it’s renowned for mouth-watering burgers and crowd-pleasing shareable plates, like the local favorite “monkey fries.” Whether you want to watch the big game, play a game of pool, or drink on the patio, Lefty’s has something for everyone.
- The Cellar Pub: A local favorite! This pub is known for its great food, draft beers, and casual atmosphere. The Cellar also has video games, shuffleboard, TVs, and an outdoor patio—a great place to hang out with friends for a good time.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN SUN VALLEY
Take in the Sights and Attractions
- Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve: This vast 750,000-acre preserve boasts a diverse range of volcanic features, including cinder cones, shield volcanoes, and lava tube caves. Take a hike through the rugged terrain, marvel at the expansive vistas, and immerse yourself in this unique and awe-inspiring landscape. Craters of the Moon is remarkable!
- Ernest Hemingway Tour: This free audio-walking tour entitled, “Hemingway in Idaho’s High Desert,” guides listeners through 12 Hemingway-related stops in Ketchum and Sun Valley, like the Hemingway Memorial as well as his final resting place. Learn about Hemingway’s time in Idaho as he penned novels, enjoyed the great outdoors, and became a regular at various restaurants and bars.
- Sun Valley Music Festival: A summer series of concerts that includes Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto and The Lighter Side of Tchaikovsky and Schubert. The aim of the festival is to enrich and inspire people for a lifelong love of classical music. The Sun Valley Music Festival offers extraordinary free concerts and educational programs that allow people from all walks of life to listen, learn, and play.
- Fly Fishing: Anglers from across the globe flock to this stunning destination to experience the thrill of catching a variety of trout species, including rainbow, brown, and cutthroat. The Big Wood and Silver Creek rivers are two of the most popular fly-fishing spots in the area, offering plenty of room to cast and ample opportunities to test your skills against these elusive fish. Consider Sun Valley Outfitter for your next adventure!
- Horseback Riding: Sun Valley is known for its scenic beauty, and there is no better way to appreciate it than from the back of a horse. Boasting about 400 miles of trails, from broad open spaces and gentle meadows to narrow wooded paths with challenging terrains, the equestrian attractions in Sun Valley are perfect for riders of all abilities.
- Whitewater Rafting: Sun Valley is a prime destination for whitewater rafting, with an abundance of pristine rivers carving their way through its scenic landscapes. Adventurers can choose from a range of tours with the Sawtooth Adventure Company, from exhilarating rapids for experienced rafters to more leisurely routes suitable for beginners. Consider half-day, full-day, and multi-day trips so that you can choose the best option for your schedule and level of experience.
- Hot Springs: Take a break from your adventures and treat yourself to the healing waters of a Wood River Valley. Known for their soothing properties, these hot springs are perfect after a strenuous hike or a long day of skiing. Enjoy a quick dip or plan to spend your afternoon in a spa-like oasis. With plenty of springs to choose from, be sure to do your research to ensure you're adhering to local regulations—and of course, follow the golden rule: leave no trace.
- Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rides: Sleigh rides are a truly unique way to experience the magic of winter in Sun Valley. Gliding through the snow-capped mountains on a horse-drawn sleigh, you can take in the stunning scenery and even do some stargazing. Sleigh rides are perfect for romantic evening outings or fun, family-friendly activities that will take your breath away.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SUN VALLEY
Our range of Sun Valley rentals offers everything from stylish condos to grand lakeside estates with private river access and luxury amenities. Pick from modern condos a short stroll from downtown, upscale townhouses with golf course views and clubhouse amenities, or those seeking the ultimate luxury stay, check out Sun Valley's famous Mid Valley area, home to some of the most stunning private residences around. Natural Retreats has you covered!
Enjoy Sun Valley year-round, book now>>>
YOUR GUIDE TO SUMMIT COUNTY, COLORADO
SUMMIT COUNTY FUN FACTS
- Known as Colorado’s Playground, Summit County is located in the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, approximately 75 miles west of Denver.
- Home to four world-class ski resorts, all within 25 miles of each other: Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, and Arapahoe Basin.
- The county has two reservoirs, Lake Dillion and Green Mountain Reservoir, that are popular recreation sites throughout the year.
Nestled within a neighborhood of Colorado’s epic thirteeners and fourteeners, Summit County is where you go to experience life in the Colorado Rockies. Originally established as a popular mining area, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Frisco, and Keystone have grown into a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. Bringing in travelers from all over the world for a full range of alpine adventures (No pun intended.), some visitors come in pursuit of epic powder days and unforgettable hikes, while others seek thrilling backcountry Jeep tours or peaceful family fishing trips. It all happens in the heart and soul of Colorado, Summit County.
Discover Scenic Drives in Summit County
- Swan Mountain Road (Lake Dillion Loop): This picturesque road loops around enchanting Lake Dillon and offers unobstructed 360-degree views of the surrounding mountain range. With its gentle twists and turns and wide-open spaces, this road is perfect for leisurely drives or biking adventures. Stop and snap some photos at the overlooks, you'll want to remember this unforgettable experience.
- Loveland Pass Loop: This should be at the top of your bucket list! Located along the Continental Divide, this magnificent drive leads to an elevation of 11,991 feet at its highest point, providing picture-perfect views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks and gorgeous valleys. Get ready to traverse the highest mountain pass in Colorado, which is open year-round—don’t forget your chains in the Winter!
Where to Eat and Play in Breck
- Daylight Donuts: Each day, customers flock to this charming little shop to indulge in the irresistible aroma of freshly made donuts. From blueberry glazed donuts to cinnamon twists and bear claws, this place has it all. But it's not just the donuts that keep people coming back for more—the giant pancakes and juicy sausage links have earned rave reviews from diners too. Yum!
- Fatty’s Pizzeria and Sports Bar: This place is a local landmark! Serving up their famous pizzas with a secret recipe sauce and fresh ingredients, this popular spot is known for its generous portions at a reasonable price. Not interested in pizza? Try their staff favorites, including lamb gyros, truffle fries, chicken parmesan, and even a Reuben sandwich.
- TBar and Grill: Nestled at the base of Peak 8 in One Ski Hill Place, TBar is the ultimate slopeside bar to relax and cool down after a day of skiing. With its cozy ambiance, stunning scenery, and exceptional customer service, TBar is the perfect spot to sip on a refreshing cocktail and unwind.
Copper Mountain Restaurants
- El Zacatecano Mexican Restaurant: A go-to for anyone craving the traditional, south-of-the-border dishes that will leave your taste buds singing, this restaurant offers authentic Mexican cuisine in a laid-back atmosphere. But the food isn't the only draw at El Zacatecano—their amazing selection of wine, beer, and margaritas will take your dining experience to the next level.
- Downhill Dukes: Named after a lovable pooch, this establishment redefines the après ski experience with an afternoon “yappy” hour and views of the slopes from a dog-friendly patio. With a menu full of tasty small plates, lunch options, and cocktails, this is the perfect place to pull a chair and stay awhile. Plus, with dog treats on the menu, your furry friend can enjoy the experience too!
- JJ’s Mountain Tavern: Nestled in the Eastern Village of Copper Mountain, this vintage-style tavern serves up everything needed to recharge after a day on the mountain—including beers and cocktails served at the full bar. From homemade drumsticks to Asian nachos and sandwiches fresh off the grill, they’ve got it all. Plus, enjoy live music on the weekends!
Eat Where the Locals Eat in Frisco
- Lost Cajun: Known for its ample Cajun-Creole dishes and an assortment of Louisiana beers, this restaurant takes you on a journey to the heart of Cajun country. But what sets the Lost Cajun apart is the proprietor, a Louisiana man born and raised. A small, funky restaurant that truly delivers the real deal.
- Ein Prosit: This authentic Bavarian-inspired beer hall is the only one of its kind in the state, and it's serving up some seriously delicious brews and sausages. When you step inside, you'll feel as though you've been transported to Germany, with its traditional tavern atmosphere and interior. But the real star of the show is the beer garden, which is the perfect place to kick back and enjoy a pint with friends.
Cool Places to Eat in Keystone
- Go Big Burger”: Located at the base of Peru Chair in Keystone, this burger joint offers gourmet burgers, fries, and onion rings that will have you drooling before you ever take a bite. With fast and friendly service and an incredible wine, cocktails, and beer selection, any meal feel like a special occasion. And don't be afraid to indulge—the name says it all—go big or go home!
- Last Lift Bar: After a day on the mountain, stop at the Last Lift Bar for classic ski shots or an ice cold Colorado brew. This warm and inviting atmosphere provides guests with tasty American cuisine, live music, cocktails, and good vibes. This is the perfect après ski spot to spend time with friends and family. Don’t forget your quarters!
TOP THINGS TO DO IN BRECK, COPPER MOUNTAIN, FRISCO, AND KEYSTONE
Take in the Sights and Attractions
- The Breckenridge Troll: Nestled in the heart of Breck is a gentle giant known as Isak Heartstone. This 15-foot wooden sculpture, created by Danish artist Thomas Dambo, has quickly become a must-see stop for locals and tourists alike. Situated in the forest, less than a mile from the road, this popular art installation is the perfect excuse for a short hike or an Instagram-worthy selfie. Isak Heartstone is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
- Acoustic Glow Concert Series: Held every Saturday night in Copper Mountain's Center Village, this intimate concert series provides the ideal ambiance for a relaxing night out. With acoustic concerts featuring talented musicians performing around the Fire Globe sculpture, you'll be able to take in some incredible alpine views while enjoying great music. Plus, the concerts are completely free!
- Frisco Historic Park and Museum: Take a trip back in time at the Frisco Historic Park and Museum! Journey through 11 original historic buildings and experience how the first settlers lived. Visit the schoolhouse, jailhouse, and even a teepee with a vast collection of artifacts, exhibits, and photographs showcasing Frisco's rich past. Oh, and don't forget to bring quarters for the extensive train diorama in the Schoolhouse Museum.
- Alpenglow Stube: Dinner and a ride! Travel in comfort aboard two enclosed gondolas while ascending 11,444 feet to North Peak—enjoy breathtaking views along the way. Once you’ve reached your destination, an award-winning team of chefs will create delicious contemporary cuisine with hints of Bavarian flavor to complement the unbelievable setting. This is truly a dining experience to remember and an opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime.
- Kayaking and Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) Boarding: The exquisite Dillion Reservoir, situated between Frisco and Dillion, offers over 25 miles of shoreline for you to explore. Kayaking and SUP boarding are popular outdoor activities to beat the heat of summer, and the Frisco Marina provides rentals for everything you need. Keep in mind that swimming isn't allowed due to frigid temperatures year-round, but there are still plenty of activities to keep you entertained.
- Disc Golf: A more laid-back version of the real thing, but with Frisbees. A fixture of the alternative American sporting scene for many years, it has recently gained mainstream popularity. Using the basic principles of golf, disc golf is fun and easy to learn—and with a variety of courses in Summit County, you can enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery almost anywhere.
- High Country Jeep Tours: Get ready to have your breath taken away as you experience the magnificent Rocky Mountains on a scenic Jeep tour. Our open-air Jeeps will take you to elevation heights of 12,000 feet, giving you the chance to witness the stunning views and crisp mountain air of the White River National Forest. With over 15 different trails to choose from, you'll have access to some of the most remote and picturesque areas in the region.
- Scenic Gondola Rides: Gondola rides offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, as well as fun activities like snapping selfies and enjoying lunch with family and friends at the top. So, if you're looking for an experience unlike any other, be sure to check out gondola rides during your next visit to the mountains. It’s a leisurely adventure for the whole family—and most are pet friendly!
- Cross Country Skiing: One of the best ways to explore the winter countryside and this popular activity is great for people of all ages and skill levels. Beloved for its peace and tranquility—some describe it as a "moving meditation" in nature. From a walk in the park to a serious workout, cross-country skiing is considered a great low-impact exercise that's fun for your family, friends, and even your dog. Prepare to be genuinely amazed by the wonders of nature on your next cross-country ski trip at Breck Nordic Center.
- Dog Sledding
A delightful activity that adds a touch of winter magic to any vacation. Gliding through pristine mountainscapes allows you to take in all the sights and sounds of winter. Originating in Alaska and Siberia, where wintertime lasts most of the year—special breeds of dogs are raised and trained just for this purpose so they can thrive in the snowy winter conditions. This eco-friendly activity gives travelers access to enchanting settings without polluting the environment. Grab your camera and give it a try!
- Snowmobiling: This is an intense and thrilling experience that’s unmatched by other winter activities. The adrenaline junkie in you will love the acceleration and the ability to create your own path —or take a tour. The sights and scenery are fantastic, and the stillness of the wild makes you feel like you're the only person out there—even if you're not. From trail riding and lake riding to carving and everything in between, you're guaranteed to have a great time.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SUMMIT COUNTY
This is a dream destination for vacationers seeking a memorable mountain getaway! Our Colorado locations offer an impressive range of vacation home rentals to choose from, including cozy alpine chalets, spacious family lodges, and breathtaking Victorian homes. But the options don't end there, as boutique-level service and resort-style amenities ensure a truly luxurious experience. Let your imagination run wild as you envision your perfect mountain retreat in Summit County.
Enjoy Summit County year-round, book now>>>
YOU’LL FALL IN LOVE WITH THE ROCKIES
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or simply looking to revisit a beloved destination, the mountains provide endless opportunities to reconnect with nature, soak up the breathtaking views, and have unforgettable experiences—and so much more! With each Rocky Mountain destination offering something unique, from winding trails and mountain peaks that speak to your sense of adventure to vibrant cultural flavors that contribute to true local experience, these mountain destinations have it all! So, don’t wait! Get out into nature and explore all there is to experience amidst America’s largest and most majestic mountain range. Book now and make a lifetime full of memories!