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8 Picture-Perfect Towns in Idaho

by Staff

Located within the majestic landscapes of the Rocky Mountains, Idaho beckons travelers with its eye-catching and awe-inspiring towns. From the world-renowned Sun Valley to the historic charm of Wallace, each town offers its unique experience, blending natural beauty, exciting landmarks, and cultural richness. Idaho’s allure lies not only in its stunning scenery but also in the distinctive character of its towns, each with a story to tell. As travelers explore these towns, they will experience Idaho’s heart, discovering what makes each place below unforgettable.

Sun Valley

A person skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Sun Valley is a premier destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The Sun Valley Resort, established in 1936, is a testament to the town’s legacy as the first destination ski resort in the United States. Bald Mountain, or “Baldy,” offers world-class skiing in the winter and transforms into a hiker’s haven during the summer season. The Sun Valley Center for the Arts, founded in 1971, adds a cultural dimension, showcasing contemporary and visual arts. The tranquility of the Big Wood River winding through the town is yet another natural wonder to explore.  

Ketchum

The spectacular town of Ketchum nestled in the mountains of Idaho.
The spectacular town of Ketchum is nestled in the mountains of Idaho.

Ketchum is an artistic enclave nestled in Idaho’s Wood River Valley. The town captivates visitors with its cultural vibrancy and outdoor wonders. The Ernest Hemingway Memorial in nearby Sun Valley pays tribute to the iconic author who found inspiration in the region. The Ketchum/Sun Valley Heritage and Ski Museum, housed in a historic train station, delves into the area’s skiing history. The Sawtooth Botanical Garden, showcasing native plant species, adds a touch of natural beauty. Ketchum is well worth visiting on its own or during a trip to Sun Valley. 

Wallace

Main street in the historic mining town of Wallace, Idaho.
Main street in the historic mining town of Wallace, Idaho. Image credit Kirk Fisher via Shutterstock.

Wallace is a town that exemplifies Idaho’s rich mining history. The Wallace District Mining Museum, housed in the historic Northern Pacific Depot, is a must-visit for anyone interested in learning about the town’s mining legacy. The Oasis Bordello Museum offers a unique glimpse into a bygone era and Wallace’s history. Located within the Bitterroot Mountains, the Route of the Hiawatha trail, a former railroad route, provides a scenic adventure for cyclists and hikers. Additionally, Wallace’s well-preserved downtown, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a picture-perfect addition to any visit.

Sandpoint

Main street through the downtown area of Sandpoint, Idaho
Main street through the downtown area of Sandpoint, Idaho. Image credit Kirk Fisher via Shutterstock.

Sandpoint is is located on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, drawing visitors with its hard-to-beat combination of waterfront charm and mountainous landscapes. The historic Panida Theater, dating back to 1927, is a cultural hub that hosts performances and events. Schweitzer Mountain Resort, a renowned ski destination, transforms into a hiking and mountain biking paradise during the warmer months. The Cedar Street Bridge Public Market, spanning Sand Creek, offers a unique shopping experience. Sandpoint’s City Beach Park, with its sandy shores and scenic views, is also a great place to relax during the warmer months. 

Kellogg

The Silver Mountain Resort ski lift gondola going up the mountain at summer in the city of Kellogg, Idaho
The Silver Mountain Resort ski lift gondola going up the mountain at summer in the city of Kellogg, Idaho.

Silver Valley’s Kellogg is a town with a mining heritage and plenty of natural beauty. The Crystal Gold Mine, a historic silver and gold mine, provides guided underground tours, offering an up close and personal look at the town’s mining history. Silver Mountain Resort, featuring a gondola ride and a mountain bike park, showcases the region’s outdoor opportunities. Kellogg’s location in the Bitterroot Mountains adds a scenic backdrop, making it a destination perfect for the adventure seeker. 

Challis

Goldbug Hot Springs in Idaho, in the Salmon-Challis National Forest on a summer day
Goldbug Hot Springs in Idaho, in the Salmon-Challis National Forest on a summer day.

Challis lies between the Salmon River and the Challis Mountains, emanating the spirit of the American West. The Land of the Yankee Fork State Park encompasses the historic ghost towns of Custer and Bonanza, providing a glimpse into Idaho’s gold rush history. The Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural, and Educational Center honors the Lemhi Shoshone woman who accompanied Lewis and Clark. The Challis Bison Kill Site, an archaeological site, offers a glimpse into the region’s ancient past. Moreover, the beautiful Salmon River meanders through the town, making Challis unlike anywhere else in Idaho. 

Hailey

Deer Creek in Hailey, Idaho.
Deer Creek in Hailey, Idaho.

Hailey‘s location in the Wood River Valley gives visitors the experience of both small-town charm and outdoor recreation. The Friedman Memorial Airport, known for its scenic mountain views during landings, is a unique entry point to the region. The Blaine County Historical Museum, housed in a former library, chronicles the town’s history. The Wood River Trail, a multi-use path, offers opportunities for biking and walking amidst unforgettable surroundings. Bald Mountain, a prominent peak, provides a stunning backdrop to the town.

Salmon

The beautiful natural landscape around Salmon, Idaho.
The beautiful natural landscape around Salmon, Idaho.

Salmon, known as the “Gateway to the Sawtooths,” is surrounded by rugged mountains and the Salmon River. The Salmon River Scenic Byway, winding through the Bitterroot Mountains, offers breathtaking views. The Town Square, with its vibrant local shops and galleries, is a way for visitors to experience the town’s community spirit. Salmon’s proximity to the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness makes it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, a place where adventure and nature provide a fantastic getaway. 

The beauty of Idaho unfolds through each of these unique towns. From the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the tranquil shores of Lake Pend Oreille, each town leaves an indelible mark on those who venture to visit them. Idaho’s allure lies not only in its breathtaking scenery but also in the unique character of its towns, each a testament to the state’s rich history, culture, and nature.

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