Main Street in downtown Sandpoint, Idaho.

7 Most Scenic Small Towns in Idaho

Idaho’s location in the USA’s Pacific Northwest region has blessed the "Gem State” with stunning scenery defined by the snow-capped mountains of the majestic Rockies. Set amidst this rugged beauty is a treasure trove of small towns that offer no end of fun things to do, along with scenery that’s the envy of many larger destinations.

These scenic gems also serve as restful retreats for those looking to escape the often hurried pace of life in the 21st century, allowing those who do visit a unique opportunity to enjoy an authentic Idaho experience. From the lakeside setting of McCall and Sandpoint to the bountiful rivers of Salmon and Bonners Ferry, with stops in Hailey, Wallace, and Driggs along the way, these seven most scenic small towns in Idaho are waiting to be explored.


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

McCall is located just minutes away from the state border with Oregon and is a captivating destination that’s equally popular for its outdoor adventures as it is for its cultural richness. Adding to its attractive setting is its location on the shores Payette Lake, a focal point for outdoor summer activities including boating, kayaking, and fishing, or relaxing on sandy beaches in Ponderosa State Park.

In winter, the fun transitions to snow sports such as ice skating and snowshoeing. Also fun is the McCall Winter Carnival, held in February with elaborate snow sculptures, live music, parades, and fireworks​. Little Ski Hill, just two miles west of McCall, is another great reason to visit in winter and offers more than 18 miles of cross-country ski trails with options suitable to all ages and skill levels. The McCall Ale Trail is another great reason to visit this scenic town, with stops at local breweries offering an array of craft beers unique to the region.


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

Located in east-central Idaho near the border with Montana, the charming town of Salmon is well-known for its scenery. Adding to its allure is its proximity to the Salmon River and the vast Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, making it a hotspot for white-water rafting and fishing. A more relaxed outdoor experience can be enjoyed at the Goldbug Hot Springs, a natural wonder offering stunning views and therapeutic waters.

Salmon is also a popular spot for culture vultures, with attractions like Lemhi County Historical Museum and the Sacajawea Interpretive Cultural & Education Center of particular interest. Highlights include displays relating to the story of Sacajawea, a Lemhi Shoshone woman who played a crucial role in the Lewis and Clark expedition, as well as exhibits about the region's historical significance and its rich native heritage.

Bonners Ferry

The spectacular town of Bonners Ferry, Idaho.
The spectacular town of Bonners Ferry, Idaho.

Bonners Ferry is located in Northern Idaho close to the border with the province of British Columbia in Canada in the beautiful Kootenay River Valley and is surrounded by three mountain ranges. Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge is a must-visit for outdoor types, especially for wildlife spotting and birdwatching, as well as hiking and nature walks.

History buffs will find the revitalized downtown of Bonners Ferry fascinating, with highlights including the Pearl Theatre, an entertainment venue set in an old church dating from 1894, and the Boundary County Museum with its local history displays including fascinating details of the indigenous Kootenai people. The Kootenai River Inn Casino & Spa offers a luxurious waterfront setting for a great stay… and a little flutter.


Basque dancers performing at the Trailing of the Sheep Festival in Hailey, Idaho.
Basque dancers performing at the Trailing of the Sheep Festival in Hailey, Idaho. Image credit Bob Pool via Shutterstock

Hailey is situated in the beautiful Wood River Valley of Central Idaho and is a delightful blend of natural beauty and small-town charm that’s well worth exploring. It’s handily located at the edge of the Salmon-Challis and Sawtooth National Forests, two vast natural areas boasting ample opportunities for hiking and mountain biking. It’s also located only 11 miles south of the famous Sun Valley and Ketchum resort towns, making it an ideal base for those looking to enjoy skiing and snowboarding.

The town itself is fun to explore, with walking tours led by the Historic Preservation Commission offering an insight into its architectural heritage, showcasing landmark properties like St Charles Church and The Liberty Theatre.


Downtown area of Sandpoint, Idaho.
Downtown area of Sandpoint, Idaho. Image credit Kirk Fisher via

Sandpoint’s pretty lakeside setting on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille has ensured the town’s popularity among travellers who have recognized it as one of the most beautiful small towns in all of America. Lake Pend Oreille itself is a sight to behold. Idaho's largest lake and the second deepest in the United States, it’s popular for activities from boating, fishing, and swimming to fishing for trout, bass, and northern pike. The surrounding mountains offer extensive hiking trails, too, as well as biking trails.

In-town highlights include the historic Panida Theater, built in 1927 and still a great place to catch a live performance, along with local art galleries and boutique shops. Winter is equally enchanting in Sandpoint with the nearby Schweitzer Mountain Resort offering skiing, snowboarding, and other snow-based activities.


Main street with it's turn of the century brick buildings in the historic mining town of Wallace, Idaho
Main street with it's turn of the century brick buildings in the historic mining town of Wallace, Idaho

Its location astride the I-90 highway connecting Spokane with Missoula makes scenic Wallace an ideal stop for Pacific Northwest road trip. Set amidst the beautiful Idaho Panhandle National Forests in the Bitterroot Mountains, Wallace's identity is deeply rooted in its silver mining heritage. Established in the late 1800s, it became known as one of the world's largest silver producers, an intriguing past that can be explored at the Wallace District Mining Museum (guided mine tours are available).

Wallace's entire downtown area is fun to explore, too, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its many beautifully preserved buildings. Thousands of miles of trails and retired mining roads are also located in the area. These trails are perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and ATV riding. During the winter, these paths become ideal for snowmobiling, including the Route of the Hiawatha and the 73-mile Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.


Street view with quaint buildings and cars traveling in Driggs, Idaho.
Street view with quaint buildings and cars traveling in Driggs, Idaho. Image credit RaksyBH via Shutterstock

Located just seven minutes’ drive from the border with Wyoming, Driggs’ Teton Valley setting with its backdrop of the Teton Mountains is certainly a pretty one. Topping the list of things to do in Driggs is exploring Grand Teton National Park and the nearby Caribou-Targhee National Forest, both boasting numerous trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

In winter, Driggs becomes a haven for snow sports enthusiasts and is the closest town to Grand Targhee Resort, renowned for its exceptional skiing and snowboarding conditions. The resort is famous for its substantial snowfall, offering some of the best powder skiing in the region. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are also popular activities in the area.

The Final Word

There’s no doubt that Idaho's scenic small towns offer an unparalleled travel experience. These charming locales serve not only as a reminder of the beauty and the enduring appeal of the state’s most scenic locales, but they also offer something for everyone when it comes to fun things to do. Whatever your passion, these seven most scenic small towns in Idaho will keep you coming back for more.

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