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6 Most Idyllic Small Towns in Idaho

The picturesque state of Idaho is located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Home to countless charming small towns packed with natural beauty and vibrant culture, Idaho is the ideal vacation destination. And, unlike some other states, no matter what time of year you visit, Idaho is definitely worth adding to your Pacific Northwest travel plans. From the iconic and historic slopes of Sun Valley to the tranquil shores of Stanley Lake, each town offers visitors a great mix of outdoor adventure, rich history, and small-town charm. Whether you’re looking for exciting outdoor activities or quiet relaxation, Idaho’s idyllic small towns promise an unforgettable getaway. Get ready to discover what makes these gems worth a visit.

Sun Valley

Sun Valley, Idaho, in winter.
Sun Valley, Idaho, in winter.

Idaho’s Sun Valley is known as America’s first ski resort. The city offers world-class skiing and snowboarding at Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain. Off the slopes, visitors can explore the Sun Valley Lodge, a historic landmark with luxurious accommodations and upscale dining options.

The Sun Valley Center for the Arts showcases local and regional artists, while the Sun Valley Museum of History offers insight into the city’s lesser-known but storied past as a Hollywood haven. If you can, try to attend the Sun Valley Film Festival, a premier film event that attracts filmmakers and cinephiles from all over the world. Whatever you’re into, Sun Valley has something for you.

Stanley

Highway 75 leads to Stanley, Idaho.
Highway 75 leads to Stanley, Idaho.

Located in the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains, Stanley is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise with its pristine lakes, rugged mountain peaks and abundant wildlife. Visitors can explore the scenic beauty of Redfish Lake or embark on a thrilling whitewater rafting adventure along the Salmon River.

For curious minds, The Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association offers a chance to learn about the area’s natural history, while the Stanley Museum offers a glimpse into the city’s compelling pioneer heritage. If you want a taste of local culture, don’t miss the annual Sawtooth Valley Gathering, a music festival that celebrates the region’s rich musical traditions.

salmon

Downtown Salmon, Idaho.  Image credit: Jimmy Emerson DVM via Flickr.com
Downtown Salmon, Idaho. Image credit: Jimmy Emerson DVM via Flickr.com

Aptly named Salmon is located on the banks of the, you guessed it, Salmon River. The area is considered a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike. The city is known for its world-class fishing and offers opportunities to catch prized steelhead and delicious Chinook salmon.

For those with a taste for the past, history comes alive at Sacajawea’s interpretive, cultural and educational center. Here visitors can learn about the famous Lewis and Clark expedition and the role of Sacajawea, a Shoshone guide. The Salmon River Scenic Byway offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, while the annual Salmon River Days celebration showcases the city’s community spirit.

Wallace

The charming town of Wallace, Idaho.
The charming town of Wallace, Idaho.

Wallace is a historic mining town in the scenic Silver Valley. It is known for its rich heritage and huge art scene. Visitors can explore the Wallace District Mining Museum to learn about the town’s mining history and view exhibits on underground mining equipment.

The Oasis Bordello Museum provides an insightful look at the city’s colorful past, while the Northern Pacific Depot Railroad Museum showcases the importance of railroads in Wallace’s development. Art lovers will appreciate the city’s numerous galleries, featuring works by local and regional artists, and the annual Wallace Artwalk, a celebration of creativity and community.

Veterans Memorial on the Plaza of the Franklin County Courthouse in Preston, Idaho.  Editorial credit: davidrh / Shutterstock.com
Veterans Memorial on the Plaza of the Franklin County Courthouse in Preston, Idaho. Image credits: davidrh via Shutterstock.

Located in the scenic Bear River Valley, Preston has small-town charm with its tree-lined streets and historic downtown. The city is known for its welcoming community and family-friendly atmosphere, making it a great place to visit with the whole team.

Visitors can stroll through Pioneer Park, home to the Oneida Stake Academy, a historic building dating back to 1890. For outdoor recreation, the nearby Cub River offers fishing, hiking and picnicking amid breathtaking natural scenery, making for a ideal afternoon. The annual Preston Night Rodeo attracts rodeo enthusiasts from far and wide, with exciting events and lively entertainment for all ages. There’s no shortage of fun in Preston.

McCall

Winter scene in the mountain town of McCall, Idaho, with cars driving through the streets.
Winter scene in the mountain town of McCall, Idaho, with cars driving through the streets.

Last but certainly not least, McCall is located on the shores of Payette Lake and surrounded by the beautiful Payette National Forest. The area is a year-round playground for outdoor enthusiasts. The town offers a variety of recreational activities including boating, fishing, hiking and skiing in the winter. Visitors can explore the historic downtown area, lined with charming shops, galleries and eateries.

A beloved annual event, the McCall Winter Carnival features elaborate ice sculptures, parades and fireworks and draws visitors from across the region. Payette Lake provides a picturesque backdrop for outdoor concerts and festivals during the summer months, while nearby Ponderosa State Park offers scenic trails and camping opportunities. Whatever activities you choose in McCall, the city promises an amazing experience!

As you can see now, there are many reasons to love Idaho. The idyllic small towns of Sun Valley, Stanley, Salmon, Wallace, Preston and McCall offer a perfect blend of natural beauty, rich culture and small town charm. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventure, indulging in the state’s rich history, or simply in need of a quiet getaway, these small Idaho towns promise an unforgettable experience. From world-class skiing at Sun Valley to the historic charm of Wallace, each town has its own unique feel that makes it worth exploring. So pack your bags and set out on a journey to discover the enchanting beauty of Idaho’s small towns.