Last Updated on December 15, 2022 by Helen E. White
Idaho is a state where adventures can be had no matter the season. Winter has snowboarders, skiers, and snowmobiles pouring in from all over the country, while summer draws tourists in search of lakeside getaways. With countless mountain peaks, lakes, and nature preserves, this state is the perfect destination for those who might enjoy the outdoors.
While many other small towns in America resort to tricks to attract tourists, Idaho simply relies on its hospitality and natural beauty. Most small towns are simple, letting the backdrop of snow-capped mountains and towering trees set the scene. The state was founded by pioneers in search of a better life, who often settled as miners or settlers. Although this was decades ago, the ingenuity and cozy atmosphere has not yet died out.
The locals are happy to offer outdoor tips and point any serenity-seeking visitor in the right direction. The best way to explore Idaho is through a road trip with a car loaded with sports equipment. You’ll want to take advantage of the state’s attractions as much as you can.
Best Small Towns in Idaho
Here are the fifteen best small towns to visit in Idaho :
On the shores of Payette Lake, McCall is a sleepy little town amidst dense forests.
He prides himself on being confident, fun, friendly, and beautiful, and so far, no one has to deal with these descriptors.
During the winter months, McCall hosts the Winter Carnival, where people from all over the state come to enjoy the ice sculpture displays, games, live entertainment, and ski or snowboarding at the nearby Brundage Mountain Resort.
Once the warm weather sets in, McCall is known for its pleasant temperatures and sunshine, making it the perfect place for hiking, water skiing, horseback riding, and other outdoor activities.
McCall also has a wide variety of lodging and dining options.
Wallace was once an old mining town that brought silver to the economy of the American West.
The lure of this precious metal caused people to immigrate to Idaho in the hope of becoming rich.
Today, silver is still mined in Wallace and visitors can come to see how it works at the Sierra Silver Mine, where a retired miner guides visitors of all ages through an underground silver mine and trolley ride.
Wallace is a well-rounded city that also offers delicious dining options, and an abundance of cultural events, and is just steps from all kinds of outdoor recreation.
It is a unique little town that is sure to stand out from the rest of Idaho.
With less than a hundred residents, Stanley is one of the smallest but most beautiful cities in Idaho.
Stanley is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and is a must-visit small town for adventurers.
You can sleep in a cozy hotel or camp in the wilderness and use Stanley as a base for hiking, climbing, river rafting, horseback riding, soaking in hot springs, mountain biking, and exploring the surrounding forests.
Due to its friendly community, many people who visit never want to leave.
4. Priest River
Priest River exists where two rivers meet just seven miles south of the Canadian border.
The town used to be home to one of the region’s logging companies, so you should visit during the Timber Day Festival and stop at the Timber Education Center.
During the winter, it’s an ideal base for skiing on Schweitzer Mountain and snowshoeing along the riverbeds.
Summer is rarely too hot, so visitors can enjoy life on the water and go boating, swimming, fishing, camping, hiking, rafting, mountain biking and much more.
Salmon is a town that clings to an old Wild West identity without grit.
The western-themed architecture and unspoiled surroundings can make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, especially if you’re a fan of the city.
You’ll have to venture through unpopulated and rugged terrain to get here if you’re coming by car, but it’s well worth it.
The Salmon is an ideal base for lovers of the outdoors, and white water rafting and is next to the Frank Church River of the No Return Wilderness Area.
If you’re visiting during the winter, spend days on the slopes, hiding in log cabins and eating comfort food at the many restaurants in town.
6. Sand Tip
Sandpoint is no stranger to the top ten lists of the best places in Idaho.
This impressive little town sits on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille and is surrounded by the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains.
Sandpoint is worth visiting at any time of the year.
When it’s warm, visitors can row, fish, swim, and boat on Pend Oreille Lake.
Once the snow comes, ski, sled, and snowboard at Schweitzer Mountain.
The city is known for attracting all kinds of creatives such as writers, painters, sculptors and performers who use the region as a muse for their work.
As a result, Sandpoint has a thriving cultural and arts scene that has events throughout the year for visitors to enjoy.
Before the hit movie “Napoleon Dynamite,” Preston was an unknown dot on a map of most of the United States and the rest of the world.
But when Preston resident Jared Hess showed Preston as a quirky, adorable and fun little town, fans came running.
The city took advantage of being the main place to sell “Vote for Pedro” T-shirts, tater tots and chapstick.
Today, Napoleon’s legacy has faded slightly, but Preston has managed to maintain its feel-good atmosphere.
Even if you’re not a fan of the quirky movie, you should stop to enjoy the nearby nature parks like the Glendale Reservoir and other lakes.
Hailey began as a pioneer colony, where the settlers had to create a community that could survive the snowy winters.
Located at the northern end of the Rocky Mountain Range, Hailey is a hotspot for outdoor recreation, water sports and snow skiing.
Autumn is one of the most beautiful months when the red leaves of the fire brigade fall and line the streets.
Hailey residents love to celebrate, so there’s a good chance you’ll visit during one of the many festivals.
Some of the city’s favorites include the Trailing of the Sheep Festival, Northern Rockies Music Festival, Crosstober Bike Race and Beerfest, Sun Valley Film Festival, and the Independence Day Rodeo.
All of this, plus local performances and smaller events take place throughout the year.
The city frequently attracts artists of all stripes who leave a cultural mark on Hailey every time they visit.
Although Hope has fewer than a hundred residents, it has more character than many cities ten times its size.
Ask the locals to point you in the direction of “Beyond Hope” and you’ll be taken to a nature preserve filled with white-tailed deer and flocks of geese.
It is not uncommon to see a bald eagle in the region as well.
Camp at Sam Owen Campground to fully immerse yourself in beautiful nature.
Completely serene, Hope is the place to go to truly get away from the stress that exists in your everyday life.
You can spend the day relaxing on Pend Oreille Lake, taking a water taxi tour, swimming, and hiking.
And when you want to get back to some buzz, Hope is just a few minutes from Sandpoint, another top-notch small town that’s more tourist-oriented.
10. Island Park
If you go to Yellowstone National Park, you can’t help but stop and enjoy the time in Island Park.
This small town is a haven for outdoor addicts of all stripes – there’s fishing, hiking, camping, hiking, snow sports, and much more, all within a short drive.
If you’re not the camping type, Island Park has dozens of log cabins that make it the perfect cozy retreat after a long day of exploring.
The city also has the longest Main Street in the United States, filled with fun and quirky shops to browse.
Best of all, you’ll be away from most of the Yellowstone crowd if you stay at Island Park but still just a short drive away.
11. Garden Valley
Garden Valley is a small town that is as peaceful as its name suggests.
It is the right destination for adrenaline seekers who still want a place where they can opt for adrenaline and relax.
The typical itinerary here focuses on getting out and exploring, then rejuvenating in one of the hot springs or resorts.
During the winter, head to the Idaho X-Sports Adventure Park for exciting themed snow adventures and go tubing or sledding.
In the summer, there’s the Idaho Whitewater Unlimited tour, where you’ll get soaked while rafting the Payette River and riding horseback trails through the woods.
Locals can usually be found hanging around the Starlight Mountain Theatre, a venue with live performances, or the Dirty Shame Saloon, a Western-style pizzeria and pub.
12. Bonners Ferry
Bonners Ferry is located in the middle of the Kootenai River Valley and is surrounded by multiple mountain ranges.
If you love history and enjoy a quiet lifestyle, then this small town is a must for you.
In town, grab a beer from the local brewery, take a tour of the Fairbanks-Morse Power Plant, and stop by the Pearl Theatre.
There are also a variety of restaurants and antique shops to peruse.
Just minutes from here are natural sites like the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, Katka Peak Trail, Myrtle Peak, and the Selkirk Scenic Loop.
In winter, you can go snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and even ice skating in the great outdoors.
13. White Bird
White Bird is an amazing little town that suits any adventure traveler.
Bring a tent or RV and park at one of the pristine campsites.
Then spend as much time as you like exploring the nearby wildlife areas where you can swim, hike, horseback ride, ATV, bird watch, hunt, and fish.
White Bird is close to the Salmon and Snake rivers, two major waterways that are an essential stop for anyone touring Idaho.
Don’t let the “Beware of Bears” sign dissuade you from staying in Montpelier as you enter this quirky little town.
Montpelier is a quirky little town perfect for history buffs and those looking for a bit of adventure.
It is surrounded by nature reserves with outdoor activities that will keep you entertained no matter what time of year it is.
In the past, wanted outlaw Butch Cassidy pulled off one of Montpelier’s biggest bank robberies.
Though no one knows what happened to Butch Cassidy, his legacy lives on in Montpelier, the city that is home to the last bank Cassidy robbed.
Today, there are heist re-enactments and even a small museum dedicated to this wild time in history.
Cottonwood is famous for being home to the Dog Bark Park Inn, a bed and breakfast shaped like a beagle, though the locals call it “Sweet Willy.” A husband and wife duo created this interesting accommodation after making some money selling chainsaw art (carvings done solely with chainsaws).
Today, visitors can view Cottonwood from the comfort of the world’s largest beagle sculpture.
Aside from this original inn, Cottonwood is home to the Monastery of St.
Gertrude, Cottonwood Butte Ski Field and the Raspberry Festival.
The small town even has its airport.