I have always had the dream of watching the running of the bulls…but I am in Idaho. What to do? Well, if you are in Idaho you go up to Ketchum in October and watch the Trailing of the Sheep. It’s not bulls, but it’s just as fun!
I drove up on a Sunday morning because I had heard this was an event not to be missed. I wasn’t told wrong. I made it just in time for the parade and the actual Trailing of the Sheep. What a fun and unique experience. The parade had everything from antique cars to rodeo queens to clowns riding funny bikes. People were everywhere…the sidewalks packed with people from all over the world. I found a great spot on a landing outside a sandwich shop so I could prop the kids up to watch the parade. We made great friends with a family from Switzerland. So cool to meet people from all over the World! As the last clown wandered past, the excitement of the crowd grew to a high point. The excitement was contagious! After about a ten minute wait…there they came! I have never, and I mean never, seen so many sheep. It was so unique and amazing to watch. They herded hundreds upon hundreds of sheep down the center of Ketchum. It was one of the most remarkable things I have ever seen. This is one event you do not want to miss out on! There is nothing like it and it is definitely a once in a lifetime experience (unless you choose to go every year!)
History: It is said that John Hailey brought the first sheep into the Wood River Valley in the late 1860’s. They became an important economy source and by 1890 there were 614,000 reported sheep in Idaho. By 1918 the sheep population reached 2.65 million. Wow! As a major sheep center, Ketchum was second only to Sydney, Australia.
The role of the Basques in the sheep industry was critical to its success. Today, most Idaho herders are Peruvian. Their culture is well represented in the activities related to the Trailing of the Sheep.
In 1997, the Wood River Valley began this amazing tradition of honoring the history and heritage of sheep ranching in the region. Diane and John Peavey, local sheep ranchers, decided it was time to share the history and importance of sheep ranching with the ever expanding population of the area. It is now recognized as one of the Top Ten US Fall Festivals in the World.
Location: Festival activities are located in both Hailey and Ketchum, with the parade taking place down Main Street in Ketchum.
Take I-84 East toward Mountain Home about 45 miles. Use Exit 95 to get onto US-20 (go left off the Exit). Continue on US-20 approximately 97 miles into Hailey. To get to Ketchum from Hailey…..Turn left onto ID-75 and travel about 12 miles and you will run right into Ketchum.
You can also fly from Boise into Sun Valley and drive from there.
Details: The festival continues over 5 days the first week of October. It begins on Wednesday with registration (for the Sheep Dog Trails and Classes) and a Farm to Table Dinner in the evening. Thursday has classes available from spindle classes to cooking classes and ends with another Farm to Table Dinner. Friday is the start of the Sheep Dog Trails (from dawn to dusk)…incredible to watch…along with art and cooking classes. The evening holds the Every Sheep Tales Gathering at the Sun Valley Opera House. Saturday continues the Sheep Dog Trails and classes. In addition there is the Folklife Faire and, in the evening, the Sheepherders Ball and Dinner in Ketchum. Sunday has the completion of the Sheep Dog Trails, an afternoon picnic, THE PARADE INCLUDING THE TRAILING OF THE SHEEP, and a hike in the afternoon. Check out trailingofthesheep.org.
So much to do!!
There are three Idaho campgrounds close to Ketchum.
Wood River Campground: Address- Forest Road 156. Phone-(208)737-5000 for general information and (877)444-6777 to make reservations for large groups. The cost is $14 a day for a single site and $28 a day for a double site. They have RV and tent camping, flush toilets, drinking water and picnic areas. If you bring the dog, they do require a leash.
Deer Creek Campground: Address-Take ID-75 S from Ketchum about 9 miles, turn west onto Deer Creek Road. It is first come first serve and there are only 3 spots. It is densely forested so only small RVs and tent camping. No Fee. One vault toilet. No drinking water.
Boundary Campground: Address-NF-51 Sun Valley. $10 a night for a single site, $20 for a double. RV and tent camping. No reservation needed. First come, first serve. Drinking water and vault toilets. Picnic areas. Dogs must be kept on a leash.
Wood River Inn and Suites – 603 N. Main Street. (208) 578-0600. Prices start at $121 a night.
The Inn at Ellsworth Estate – 702 3rd Ave S. (208) 788-6354. Prices start at $99 a night.
Airport Inn – 820 4th Ave S. (208) 788-2477. Prices start at $97 a night.
Hailey Hotel Bar and Grill – 201 S. Main St. (208) 788-3140. Prices not listed.
Best Western Plus Kentwood Lodge – 180 N. Main St. (208) 726-4114. Prices start at $170 a night. Lots of amenities.
Best Western Tyrolean Lodge – 260 Cottonwood St. (208) 726-5336. Prices start at $160 a night. Lots of amenities.
Knob Hill Inn – 960 N. Main St. (208) 726-8010. Prices start at $218 a night. Very swanky.
Limelight Hotel – 145-155 Main St S. (855) 565-0985. Prices start at $196 a night. Very nice.
Bellemont Sun Valley – 600 N. Main St. (208) 726-5900. Prices not listed. 4 stars plus!!
Dining: There are a lot of restaurants from sit down fancy to burger joints throughout Hailey and Ketchum. Plus you can always dine at the Farm to Table Dinner or the Faire. Please check out my post on the Kneadery in Ketchum for seriously the best breakfast I have ever eaten!
Special Notes: If you bring your pooch to the festival, make sure you are cleaning up after him/her and they are on a leash. Everything is handicap accessible. Bring the kiddos! It is so much fun for them and they can experience Idaho history as it unfolds right in front of them. Parking is a little difficult and you may have to walk some distance so if you have a kiddo not yet walking, be sure to bring a stroller. Also, bring a coat. It is fall and you will be in the mountains so the weather can be warm, then turn nippy very quickly.
It is beautiful up there this time of year. The trees are an amazing array of colors and the bite in the air brings all the fall feelings rushing in. The flow of sheep is incredible, but watch your step after the parade….there is you know what everywhere!