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7 of the Quirkiest Towns in Idaho

by Staff

Idaho, also known as “The Gem State” for its abundant rare minerals, is a haven for tourist activity. Hidden behind the massive Rocky Mountains are some of the quirkiest small towns, showcasing different sides of the state’s charm. From skiing resorts like Driggs to historic mining towns such as Wallace, the possibilities are endless. Whether you are a nature lover or just interested in local history, these towns are perfect destinations. They are also far from the hustle and bustle of urban centers, providing a calm atmosphere for tourists to have a blast.

Driggs

Two men classic Nordic skiing in Teton Canyon near Driggs, Idaho, and Alta, Wyoming.


Driggs is a lovely town in the Teton Valley that attracts travelers with its relaxing environment. As the county seat of Teton County, the town boasts an array of activities that cater to all kinds of people. For example, outdoors people flock to areas like the Grand Targhee Resort in the winter and the Links Golf Course during the summer. From skiing down the resort’s 93 energetic trails to teeing off in the scenic surroundings of Teton Valley, these spots are perfect for some fun under the sun.

Back in town, Driggs has a homely vibe palpable through the smiling faces all around. As you meet the locals, a few places stand out, offering amazing conversations and experiences. Grand Teton Distillery is one such location, with years of experience crafting the finest spirits in the state. Tourists and locals can enjoy a round of drinks as they chat the night away. Before hitting the bed, be sure to stop by the Spud Drive-In Theatre for a fun movie and some delicious munchies. Just make sure not to drink and drive!

Sun Valley

Sun Valley, Idaho, in winter.

Sun Valley, Idaho, in winter.


Sun Valley beckons skiing enthusiasts with its excellent alpine ski areas. Located in Blaine County, this resort town has various skiing opportunities thanks to an abundance of giant mountains. Sun Valley Resort is a great place to start, boasting nearly 100 trails down the majestic Bald Mountain. These range from beginner trails to expert routes that challenge even the best athletes. Moreover, the area gets over 200 inches of snowfall each year, so there is always fresh snow to cut through. Add on areas like Dollar Mountain, which are ideal for newer skiers, creating a complete winter wonderland in Sun Valley.

While winters may be the main attractions, summers bring about a new side of this scenic town. A short drive away, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area shines with lush forests, glistening lakes, and tall peaks. Hiking, rafting, rock climbing, and fishing are just a few ways to take advantage of the fantastic surroundings. Hikers can choose between various trails, ranging in difficulty. For example, beginners love the tranquil Fishhook Creek Trail (4.5 miles), while experts can challenge themselves on the 5.3-mile Bald Mountain Trail’s steep inclines. That said, keep your eyes peeled as animals like the Canada lynx, wolverine, and Gray wolf often come up to the trails.

Idaho City

Historic building on Main Street, Idaho City, Idaho.

Historic building on Main Street, Idaho City, Idaho. By Frank Schulenburg, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons


Sharing its name with the state, Idaho City is a reprieve of culture within Boise County, Idaho. The town was founded in 1862 as “Bannock” to provide settlement for people during the bustling Boise Basin Gold Rush. In the 150 years following this, the town saw many ups and downs, from significant fires to a business boom. These events left Idaho City with a vibrant heritage, palpable through the array of cultural attractions still standing. People interested in the past can visit the Boise Basin Museum, Boco Collectibles, and Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church. From showcasing exhibits in the town’s heyday to displaying fine art for purchase, tourists adore these sites. There are also walking tours of the town’s historic districts with intriguing stories that are a blast to the past.

Hand in hand with the past, Idaho City has a lot of fun things to offer in the present. For example, the town center is loaded with shops, eateries, and cafes of all kinds. Tourists can spend the day shopping for souvenirs at stores like the Idaho City Trading Post gift shop. Or, one can grab a bite at the delicious BoCo Social, followed by a scoop of ice cream at the Sarsaparilla Ice Cream Parlor.

McCall

McCall hotel and main street at night with snow on the ground, McCall, Idaho, USA.
McCall Hotel and main street, McCall, Idaho, USA. Editorial credit: Charles Knowles / Shutterstock.com

McCall is a popular escape in the state’s northwest, thanks to its magnificent natural surroundings. From large mountains on one side to the tranquil Payette Lake on the other, outdoor pursuits await adventurous souls. Summer visitors take advantage of the weather at Payette Lake, where boating, fishing, and swimming are among the popular activities. Or, spend the day on land at the scenic Ponderosa State Park, an abode of Mother Nature’s charm. With dozens of hiking trails and campgrounds, it is the perfect place to experience Idaho’s nature.

As the snow begins to fall and the season changes to Winter, a new set of activities arises in McCall. Those interested in the outdoors flock to Brundage Mountain Resort, where 46 named routes await eccentric skiers. The Burgdorf Hot Springs is another option, providing natural hot springs 30 miles from the town center. Thus, no matter what the season, there is always an outdoor activity near McCall.

Back in town, the streets have a unique vibe, filled with vibrance. This is evident through the regular events that bring life into this Idaho town. Most people love the McCall Winter Carnival with its live music, fireworks, and renowned sculpting competitions. Even if you miss out on the events, downtown McCall is full of entertainment, and spots like Ice Cream Alley serve tasty snacks to keep you going.

Salmon

Front of an old building in Salmon, Idaho.

Front of an old building in Salmon, Idaho. 


As the name suggests, Salmon is a riverside town known for its fantastic fishing opportunities. Often used as a rest stop for adventurers, there is plenty to do in this quirky small town. Those interested in fishing head straight to the Salmon River, a glistening body of water filled with marine life. From rainbow trout to Chinook salmon, all you need is a valid Idaho fishing license to get started. Along with fishing, some parts of the river are much faster, making them ideal for extreme watersports. White water rafting is popular as the water can reach up to Class-IV rapids. Companies like Idaho River Journeys and Solitude River Trips offer a safe and adrenaline-filled time in the cascading waters.

Not everyone visiting Salmon wants to get into the cold river, and the town has the perfect answer: the Goldburg Hot Springs. A 30-minute drive away, this natural hot spring is a reprieve of relaxation, providing a warm environment to ease off. Although it does require an uphill hike through mountainous trails, the warm water is well worth the effort, and you’ll feel rejuvenated in no time. If this seems like too much effort, you can enjoy the Salmon River Scenic Byway from the comfort of your car. Spanning over 150 miles, the route showcases everything from Idaho’s Salmon River to the Lemhi Valley.

Back in town, the most popular attraction is the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural, and Educational Center. This museum is dedicated to the explorer Sacajawea and details events from her life, exploration, and hardships. The center also hosts regular events and programs, such as the Fall Frolic, where Native American tribes get together. Thus, even cultural travelers have something to do in this attractive Idaho town.

Wallace

Historic main street of the Old West mining town of Wallace, Idaho.
Historic main street of the Old West mining town of Wallace, Idaho. Editorial credit: Kirk Fisher / Shutterstock.com

Founded in 1884, Wallace is a quaint town steeped in history. Once a hub for silver mining in Idaho, each alley now reveals a new slice of history. A short stroll through Historic Wallace features rustic establishments such as the Northern Pacific Depot, Oasis Bordello Museum, and Wallace Mining Museum. These spots are a trip to the past, from exhibits showcasing the town’s railroading history to guided tours of old mine shafts. Behind the historic facades are quirky and vibrant cafes and stores. Among them, the 1313 Club Historic Saloon and Grill stands out for its delicious food and exciting conversations.

Venture outside town, and the paved streets turn into rugged trails, immersed in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. These forests are a haven for nature enthusiasts, with ample opportunities for hiking, biking, and wildlife viewing. The Route of The Hiawatha Trail is one such option, offering 15 miles of accessible trails accompanied by multiple trestles and train tunnels. The whole family can take on the challenge, which rewards completion with panoramic views of the nearby forests. However, be sure to keep an eye on the trail as the local mule deer, coyotes, and cougars often roam the area.

Cottonwood

The Dogs of Dog Bark Park, Cottonwood, Idaho.

The Dogs of Dog Bark Park, Cottonwood, Idaho. By Chris English, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons


Home to the “world’s largest beagle,” few towns are as quirky as Cottonwood. This 30-foot-tall beagle is actually a two-bedroom hotel named the Dog Bark Park Inn. It is a treat for animal lovers, adorned with all kinds of dog-themed features, such as carpets, stickers, and even a gift shop. Beyond the hotel, the quirkiness doesn’t end, and there are plenty of eccentric ways to have a blast. For example, the riveting Monastery of St. Gertrude is a medieval-style castle teaching the ideologies of Benedictine Life. After this, one can join the town’s 1,000 bubbly locals for a drink at the Wolftrack Brewing and Tasting Den. With all sorts of craft beer, spirits, and snacks, it is the perfect place to end the day.

Explore Idaho’s Quirky Charms

Whether it is historical stories or the dog-themed hotel, these Idaho towns exude quirky activities and attractions. Tourists can choose between their favorite activities and find the perfect town to match. Moreover, each town is home to incredible restaurants, parks, and shops that make any trip enjoyable. So, book your tickets soon to enjoy the array of eccentric possibilities in these small towns.

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