The higher you get, the higher you get. Climb up, up, up through the Sawtooth Mountains to see an iconic cabin with these words painted on the roof. Complete one of the most popular Sun Valley hikes– the Pioneer Cabin trail ⭐️.
It’s no wonder this trail is so popular with sprawling views of the mountains 👀, a challenging climb, and an adorable cabin to rest in. Pioneer Cabin was built back in 1938 to make the area more accessible for skiers. Now, you can explore this Alpine hut or even stay the night if you’re brave enough.
I have now completed this trail three times and I would go back countless times. It’s one of my favorite hikes in the area and one of the most memorable I’ve ever done. Read further for my complete guide!
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Table of Contents
Pioneer Cabin Trail Guide
Pioneer Cabin Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the area, but it’s not always easy to navigate or climb.
Below you’ll find the complete guide on everything you’ll need to know including how to get there, what to pack, and a detailed trail guide for your trek 🥾. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy this trail as much I have!
Quick Hike Info
Distance: 8-8.8 miles
Elevation: 2500-3000 feet of gain
Type: Out and Back or Loop
Length: 4-7 hours total (depends on your pace and breaks)
Difficulty: Hard (the trail up is relentless)
Pioneer Cabin Trail Location
Pioneer Cabin is located in the picturesque Sawtooth Mountains 🏔 in Sun Valley, Idaho. This trail is also in the Sawtooth National Forest area of the mountains.
It’s no wonder that it’s one of the most popular trails in the area, with stunning views and just a short drive from town.
If you’re staying in the Sun Valley area, then this trail is a great destination for your trip. It’s just 20 minutes from Ketchum, Idaho or 40 minutes from Hailey. For those coming from Stanley, it’s a 90 minute drive.
How to Get to Pioneer Cabin
Travelers to the Sun Valley area will definitely want to consider having a car 🚙. There are not a lot of options for public transportation. Although Ketchum is very walkable, getting anywhere outside of town will be difficult.
Pioneer Cabin is a quick 20 minute drive from Sun Valley or Ketchum. You’ll want to take Sun Valley Road from either town. The trailhead is located at the end of Corral Creek Road.
There’s a small parking lot 🅿️ by the trailhead, however, you’ll want to get there early to get a spot! Otherwise, you may find yourself parking down the road a bit. Then, you’ll follow the trail up the Mountains to the Cabin. I recommend downloading the trail map head of time!
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Best Time to Hike to Pioneer Cabin
The best time to hike the Pioneer Cabin Trail depends on your personal preferences, outdoor skills, and the type of experience you desire. Whether you’re captivated by summer wildflowers 🌸, the colors of fall, the serenity of winter, or the freshness of spring, this trail offers something special in every season. But you’ll want to be well-prepared no matter the season.
Summer is the most popular time to hike the Pioneer Cabin trail. You’ll have plenty of sunshine ☀️, colorful flowers, and clear trail conditions, but you’ll have to contend with larger crowds. So, go early to get ahead of the pack and have some time at the cabin in solitude.
Fall is a fantastic time to visit Sun Valley and a great time to tackle this trail. Colors 💛begin to change bringing out bright Aspen yellows on the trees. Plus, the crowds of summer dwindle, so you may find that you’ll have more of the trail to yourself. However, as early as late October snow may begin to fall at the higher elevations so be prepared!
Snowshoe or cross-country ski up to Pioneer Cabin in the cold months of December or January and you’ll experience a scenic Winter Wonderland. Snow usually covers the mountains and the cabin looks like a cozy rustic getaway 🥰.
If you are hiking in the winter, you’ll want to be extra prepared for the trek. You’ll want extra gear, avalanche safety awareness ⛑, and backcountry experience!
Trees start to recover, snow on the ground fades, the early flowers begin to bloom, and the hiking trail reopens. Get an early start to the outdoors season and make your way to the mountain tops. Just prepare for possible snowy conditions ❄️ remaining up towards the top!
Things to Know Before You Go
💵 There is no entrance fee to hike the Pioneer Cabin trail, which means anyone is welcome to day hike there.
🚗 Although there is no fee, the parking lot is very small at the trailhead so it fills up quickly. Get there earlier for a better chance at snagging a spot.
☀️ Weather changes quickly up in the mountains, so come prepared with layers and waterproof gear. If there are storms in the forecast, then it’s best to go a different day.
⛺️ There is camping in the Boundary campground, at free camping along the road, or if you’re feeling brave you can sleep in Pioneer Cabin itself! It’s first come, first served, but there are some bunks inside.
🐻 There are black bears and mountain lions in Sun Valley! So, just make sure to be careful and keep a lookout. However, I haven’t heard of sightings on this trail.
🦮 Pets are allowed on the Pioneer Cabin trail, but just make sure that you clean up after them on the trail.
⚠️ Pioneer Cabin is open year round, but you may want to have snow tires or plan on skiing during the winter months!
🍃 Remember to follow the Leave No Trace Principles. As always, you want to leave nature looking better than you found it.
Packing Guide for The Pioneer Cabin Trail
Although hiking to Pioneer Cabin is a day trek, you’ll want to be prepared for the arduous journey up into the mountains. Pack plenty of layers, water 💦, snacks and a first aid kit to ensure a smooth trek!
Pioneer Cabin Packing List
- Comfortable Hiking Boots
- Day Pack
- Hiking poles
- Water Reservoir
- 1-2 Liters of Water
- Snacks and Food
- First Aid Kit
- Bug Spray
- Rain jacket
- Light winter jacket
- Satellite phone
- Downloaded AllTrails Map
Pioneer Cabin Trail Description
You can do this trail as an out and back or as a loop hike. My friends and I prefer to do it as a loop, which means you’ll start on the Long Gulch Trail and come down on the Pioneer Cabin hike.
The Higher You Get
This trail is a relentless climb 🥵 the entire 4 miles up to the cabin. If you start on the Long Gulch trail then you’ll walk up a sloping hill side with the mountains ahead of you.
A couple miles in, you’ll turn to the right and then over a creek before ascending the toughest part of the hike. Rocks cover this part of the trail and its a very steep climb up until you get to the shaded forest 🌳.
Once you get to the forest you only have about a mile left to the top. Continue up until you get to a flatter plateau section. Just continue a little bit further on the path to the right and you’ll almost be there!
The Famous Pioneer Cabin
After the tough trek up, you’ll get to the ridge-line. Follow the path to the right and arrive at the beautiful rustic cabin!
It’s so fun to explore this old cabin that has been there since 1938. Inside you’ll find a couple of rooms with old bunks 🛏, writing on the wall, mementos from past visitors, and record books. Those who are brave can stay the night!
Most visitors will stop at the cabin to eat there lunch and enjoy the sprawling views of the mountains all around. But don’t forget to take a picture 📸 of the iconic cabin and the wording on the roof stating “The Higher You Get The Higher You Get.”
Down the Pioneer Cabin Trail
Once you’ve had a sufficient break at the cabin, it’s time to head down the Pioneer Cabin Trail!
You’ll walk directly past the cabin towards the other side of the mountain. From there, the trail starts down the mountain with gorgeous views on a plateau. However, soon you’ll get to the forested switchback section.
There are a total of 23 switchbacks 😱 that continue all the way down. I find this part to be monotonous and long, which is why we go up the Long Gulch trail.
Finally, you’ll get to the bottom where there’s a small little creek with a bridge. Take your shoes off and rinse your feet or walk directly back to your car, head to Grumpy’s and grab a Schooner 🍻 to celebrate a tough trek.
Hiking the Pioneer Cabin trail is not for the faint of heart. It’s a challenging climb gaining over 2000 feet of elevation in just a few miles. So, make sure to plan ahead of time by downloading the map 🗺, bringing layers, and making sure you’re in good shape. You’ll love this trail!
Let me know in the comments if you found this trail guide helpful!
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