The Ernest Hemingway Gravesite and Memorial are located in the towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley, Idaho. When you hear the name Hemingway, you probably first think of Key West, Florida, or Havana, Cuba. While he did spend a large chunk of his life in those locations, it is here in Idaho that he lived out his final years.
What am I doing here? Well, I have taken a long weekend off of work to ride a rented motorcycle around Idaho. I’ve come from Boise, across the Sawtooth Mountains, and into the beautiful Wood River Valley.
The journey has been really beautiful, I could see why a world-famous writer might choose to settle down here. He called the hills here “the loveliest mountains that I know.”
Truthfully, he probably would’ve settled in Cuba for the rest of his life. But, world politics had other plans. In 1959, the political situation in Cuba prevented Hemingway from returning to his home there. And by 1961, he would be dead.
Ernest Hemingway’s first foray into being an Idahoan came in 1939 with an invite to stay alongside other celebrities at the Sun Valley Lodge. Here, Hemingway finished his most popular novel, For Whom The Bell Tolls.
Today, visitors can stay in the “Celebrity Suite” dedicated to Hemingway. Decorated with photographs of the novelist as well as a bronze statue of the author at his typewriter, the suite commemorates the author’s stay at the Lodge.
The area made an impression on him – he loved the area for its hunting, fishing, and outdoor activities. He developed a life-long friendship with Holywood legend Gary Cooper who vacationed here and went hunting and skiing with Hemingway. The character of Robert Jordan from For Whom the Bell Tolls was modeled after Cooper.
Cooper would die from cancer in May 1961. Ernest would follow by suicide seven weeks later.
Here at the Ketchum Cemetery, I found the gates open but no direction whatsoever on where Hemingway’s grave is located on the property.
No other grave-seekers are here, either. My cell reception is not good. I am on my own to wander around and find it.
After a few false starts, I did locate the Hemingway plots under these massive pine trees in the center-ish of the cemetery.
Ernest and his fourth (and final) wife Mary are interred here side-by-side.
Ernest Miller Hemingway, July 21, 1899- July 2, 1961. Simple enough.
Other Hemingways are buried nearby. His son, Jack:
Jack’s daughter and Mariel’s sister Margot, who died of a drug overdose.
It’s a fine final resting place. I, too, became enchanted with the natural beauty of Idaho and I see what Ernest saw in it.
The end of his life was difficult. He couldn’t write, he was paranoid, insisting that the FBI was following him around Ketchum, and his multiple head injuries had taken their toll. He underwent electric shock therapies at the Mayo clinic in an attempt to combat his mental ills.
Hemingway’s Memorial on Trail Creek Road is approximately 1.5 miles from the Sun Valley Lodge. There is a small parking area, and on this day I’m the only one here.
Down the short pea gravel path is the memorial his friends and family built for him after his death. It is small but peaceful and well-done.
The water comes from a diverted stream that runs here on the property.
The water pools a little below a column of granite holding his bust above a plaque set into stacked flat stones before it continues flowing on its original course.
A great likeness of the literary giant looks in profile to the northeast. I wish I could tell you who made it, but information on the Memorial has been very hard to find.
The epitaph he once wrote for a friend, a victim of a hunting accident, is repurposed and engraved on his own memorial.
Hemingway’s demons led him to attempt suicide at least three times in his final months. His wife stopped the first one and a friend the second.
He finally took himself and his favorite shotgun downstairs in his Ketchum home the morning of July 2, 1961.
After a while, I found the shadows were getting a little longer, so it was time to move on from the memorial. Walking back up to my motorcycle, the scene is still quite serene even with a major highway just above the end of the path.
Okay, so if he lived in Ketchum surely someone saved the historic house and you can go see it, right? Well, no.
The Ketchum, Idaho house, and its associated 13.9 acres of land alongside the Big Wood River, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Managed by a local conservatory, the Hemingway house and property are still private property and closed to the public.
The only other Hemingway-related thing I’ve encountered in my travels is this shotgun shell. Supposedly from the same ammo box as the one that ended it. This shell is in a very macabre Hollywood Death Museum, which has since closed permanently.
Follow in the footsteps of Hemingway by making your way to the various Ketchum and Sun Valley watering holes and downing a few glasses of whiskey. The memorial and gravesite are free to the public, so you can save your money for the good stuff.
Visit the Ketchum Cemetery website here. The Ernest Hemingway Memorial is open 24 hours and does not have a website.
If you’re really into it, visit during the Hemingway Festival. The Festival kicks off each year in September.