March 28, 2023

I grew up in Boise and I’ve spent a whole lot of time exploring one of the best small cities in Idaho. Often called “The Gem State” due to its abundance of pure sources, Idaho usually flies beneath the radar. However those that have been there, know that it’s an undiscovered mecca for year-round outside recreation.

From snowboarding in Solar Valley to mountaineering in Stanley to soaking in sizzling springs all around the state, there may be countless territory to discover. However what makes it even higher is that the outside journey hubs simply occur to be distinctive little mountain cities the place there may be loads to do after a tough day on the path.

Here’s a checklist of the 6 greatest small cities in Idaho to contemplate in your subsequent summer time street journey or winter ski trip.

Finest Small Cities in Idaho – Mapped

6 Finest Small Cities in Idaho

1. Ketchum/Solar Valley

Residence to the world’s first chairlift and the birthplace of Powder Journal, ski tradition runs deep on this vigorous mountain city of two,800. With greater than 3,400 vertical toes, Solar Valley has grow to be the coaching floor for dozens of Olympic skiers and snowboarders. However this premier American ski resort has loads of terrain for all ability ranges and ages.

Central Idaho, the place Ketchum is situated, sees about 250 days of solar per yr and Ketchum definitely doesn’t shut down when the snow melts. In 2014, Solar Valley opened up its lifts to mountain bikers, so now the downhill adrenaline rush could be skilled year-round.

In case you favor flat, paved terrain, the 18-mile Wooden River Bike Path hyperlinks Ketchum with its neighboring cities of Hailey and Bellevue and hugs the attractive chilly mountain waterway that flows from the close by Sawtooths.

Climbing, sizzling springs, fly fishing, and horseback driving are additionally proper in your doorstep in Ketchum.

For tradition, Ketchum’s fundamental drag is lined with nice eating places and bars just like the Sawtooth Membership and the Pioneer Saloon, which serve up conventional Idaho fare (assume elk and bison), and boutique outlets promoting all the pieces from native artwork and outside gear to high-end vogue. Hemingway followers will need to spend a while strolling the halls on the Solar Valley Lodge the place the writer labored on For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Additionally, positively try Sun Valley’s events calendar once you’re on the town. There’s at all times a ton of stuff happening like jazz festivals, wine auctions, and a summer time live performance collection. And each October, Solar Valley hosts the Trailing of the Sheep Pageant, paying homage to the West’s ranching heritage with 5 days of cooking lessons, sheepdog competitions, wool workshops, and — after all — a sheep parade. There’s nothing fairly like seeing 1,500 woolies strut their stuff down Ketchum’s fundamental drag.

For a dog-friendly place to remain in Ketchum, try the Limelight Lodge.

Hiker on trail next to ice and snow-covered lake in Sun Valley, Idaho
Norton Lakes Path close to Ketchum, Idaho

2. McCall

Positioned on the shore of the 5,330-acre Payette Lake, McCall is all concerning the water. Boaters, kayakers, SUPers, and swimmers gravitate right here to discover the nooks and crannies of the deep blue glacial lake.

The world can also be dwelling to a number of the greatest whitewater alternatives within the nation. The Payette River presents all the pieces from mellow float journeys for the household to sections with class IV and V rapids. Kayakers also can work on enhancing their abilities at Kelly’s Whitewater Park simply south of city.

However McCall might be most well-known for its Winter Carnival which takes place on the finish of January. Originating in 1965, this large 10-day pageant options elaborate, life-sized ice sculptures, fireworks, a winter beer backyard, stay music, and a Mardi Gras parade.

You even have your selection of two close by ski resorts. Brundage Mountain is situated proper on the town and is an intermediate mountain recognized for its extensive groomers and persistently tender snow. Then there’s Tamarack Ski Resort, situated 20 miles south of McCall on Lake Cascade, with an in depth Nordic path system. For extra enjoyable issues to do in McCall through the winter, head over to this publish.

A number of commercially developed sizzling springs are simply accessible from McCall, together with Gold Fork Scorching Springs and Burgdorf Scorching Springs, the place you’ll be able to keep in a single day in considered one of their cabins. Each are open year-round, though you’ll want a snowmobile to succeed in Burgdorf in winter.

Man sitting in packraft with down on Payette River outside of McCall Idaho
Spend a day floating down the Payette River in McCall, Idaho

3. Stanley

Sitting on the Salmon River and surrounded by the Sawtooth and White Cloud Ranges, Stanley — inhabitants 260 — is the right base for accessing Idaho’s stunning backcountry. From simple day hikes to multi-day backpacking journeys and summit expeditions, the paths round city result in distant wilderness experiences.

Don’t neglect your fishing pole as lots of the area’s alpine lakes, like Sawtooth Lake, are stocked with trout species. Within the spring, steelhead cruise via city on their 900-mile upstream journey.

If you wish to plan an in a single day backpacking journey, I like to recommend Baron Lakes.

For lakefront lodging that don’t require a sleeping bag, the historic Redfish Lake Lodge, seven miles from city, has a spread of choices from easy rooms to massive, stand-alone 10-person cabins large enough for the entire household.

In winter, snowmobilers rally to Stanley and its 185+ miles of groomed trails and countless fields of contemporary powder — you could possibly spend days zipping round by sled. Most snowmobilers depart from Smiley Creek Lodge, 22 miles south of city, the place in the summertime you’ll be able to glamp in a decked-out tepee or yurt.

Whereas the mountains actually are the attract Stanley, the city itself has some spots you shouldn’t miss. Stanley Baking Firm does epic breakfasts and serves up monumental specialty pancakes.

Landscape view out over creek and meadow in Idaho with tall, snow-dusted mountains in distance
Fishhook Creek Path exterior of Stanley, Idaho

4. Sandpoint

Thick inexperienced forests, miles of mountain biking singletrack, and a chief location on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille make northern Idaho’s Sandpoint well worth the trek. Consider it because the quieter, slower-paced neighbor to Coeur d’Alene.

Regardless of being dwelling to fewer than 8,700 residents, Sandpoint’s eclectic eating scene may preserve you busy for weeks. Taqueria-style Mexican at Joel’s, tremendous contemporary sushi at Thai Nigiri, and the well-known key lime pie at Baxters on Cedar — a preferred new American joint — are just some of the spots to hit up.

For drinks, try the taproom at Laughing Canine Brewing which serves 10+ domestically brewed, award-winning beers. And the Pend d’Oreille Vineyard has an exquisite however relaxed tasting room with stay music on Friday and Saturday nights.

You’ll need to avoid wasting vitality to play at Schweitzer Mountain, Idaho’s largest ski resort. It’s open all yr, and within the heat months, you’ll be able to play the 9-hole disc golf course, head out on a geocaching treasure hunt, go mountain biking and mountaineering, or strive your hand at huckleberry selecting (late July to late August).

There are a ton of accommodations to select from on the town, together with a number of lakefront choices. The K2 Inn is a good finances selection simply a few blocks from the water. For one thing extra Wild West, try the Western Pleasure Visitor Ranch, which is situated 16 miles from city, with all-inclusive summer time packages, cabin-style lodging, day by day horseback rides, gourmand meals, and night campfires.

Views out over Lake Pend Oreille from Schweitzer Mountain in Sandpoint, Idaho during winter
Lake Pend Oreille from Schweitzer Mountain in Sandpoint, Idaho

5. Driggs

As vacationers flock to Jackson, Wyoming each summer time to expertise the Tetons, the city of Driggs on the opposite facet of the mountain presents another and equally unimaginable homebase minus the crowds.

Within the winter, with entry to each Grand Targhee and Jackson Gap, Driggs is an incredible spot for skiers and snowboarders. Grand Targhee Resort, simply 20 minutes from downtown, has a laid-back, family-friendly vibe with over 2,000 acres of various terrain. It’s additionally the primary resort within the nation to supply fats biking — winter mountain biking on snow-covered trails. In the summertime, the mountain hosts the three-day Annual Grand Targhee Bluegrass Pageant.

Driggs can also be dwelling to the headquarters of the National Outdoor Leadership School. One of many main outside schooling facilities within the nation, NOLS has a large vary of Teton Valley journey itineraries to select from together with backcountry break up boarding, backpacking, and rafting.

While you go to downtown, pull up your rig and head again in time on the Spud Drive-in Theater. I additionally advocate sampling native cheeses on the Teton Valley Farmer’s Market on Fridays and or sipping on potato vodka on the Grand Teton Distillery.

For one of the best views of the area, take a scenic flight with Teton Aviation or a hot-air balloon trip with Teton Balloon Flights.

Two nordic skiers on groomed trail outside Driggs, Idaho with the Tetons in distance
Nordic snowboarding close to Driggs, Idaho

6. Idaho Metropolis

This 700-person historic city sits immediately on the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, which winds up and over the Boise foothills. The path to Idaho Metropolis, the most effective small cities in Idaho, presents a fast escape with speedy entry to sizzling springs, the Boise Nationwide Forest, and a style of Idaho’s previous.

Based within the 1860s as a booming gold mining city, Idaho Metropolis as soon as had fancy theaters, dozens of saloons, a bowling alley, the state’s first Catholic church, and a county jail that housed the criminals of the Previous West. Go to the Boise Basin Museum for a glimpse of what life was like through the increase.

The Springs Scorching Springs Retreat, a industrial sizzling springs facility, is likely one of the city’s greatest attracts, the place you’ll be able to soak in considered one of their massive geothermal swimming pools. In addition they supply massages and there’s a full-service cafe and bar onsite. Go to on Monday, Thursday, or Friday for an adults-only setting. Whichever day you select to return, it’s a good suggestion to make reservations.

In case you’re searching for extra of an off-the-grid expertise, there are a number of all-natural sizzling swimming pools not too far north of Idaho Metropolis together with Pine Flats and Kirkham Scorching Springs. Alongside Freeway 21, Idaho Parks and Recreation additionally runs six furnished backcountry yurts which are obtainable for lease year-round.

Oh, and one final thing — nobody involves Idaho Metropolis with out getting a slice of the unimaginable do-it-yourself pie at Trudy’s Kitchen. Go on….go for it.

Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway near Idaho City, Idaho
The Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway is an exquisite drive connecting Boise to Idaho Metropolis

What do you assume are one of the best small cities in Idaho? Do you’ve gotten any so as to add to this checklist? Tell us within the feedback!

Discover the 6 best small towns in Idaho where adventure & modern amenities meet. Learn the best things to do, where to eat, stay and more.