View of buildings in First Avenue in Sandpoint, Idaho. Editorial credit: Kirk Fisher /

8 Serene Towns in Idaho for a Weekend Retreat

Idaho is an unsung corner of the United States, offering plenty of tourist opportunities. The state's stunning landscape is slowly getting on the radar of explorers coming to this far north of the country, where they can experience dramatic mountain views, untouched swathes of forests, and plains that stretch to the horizon. Home to less than two million people for a size about ten times New Jersey, there is a lot of space to discover in Idaho, and even more for those looking for a weekend getaway. The best places to visit for a weekend are Idaho’s serene small towns, which boast ample activities and attractions. From skiing down the trails near Sun Valley to learning about Wallace’s rich history, Idaho has the potential to make it a trip to remember.

Sun Valley

Skiing on Bald Mountain near Sun Valley, Idaho.
People skiing down Bald Mountain near Sun Valley, Idaho.

Sun Valley is a resort town located in the Wood River Valley of central Idaho and is much associated with winter sports enthusiasts for its world-class skiing. Founded by gold prospectors in the late 19th century, the area's potential as a ski resort came to light when Count Felix Schaffgosch arrived at the end of his search for a resort. Since then, "America's First Destination Ski Resort" has attracted visitors all over, including celebrities like Ernest Hemingway, who fell in love with the area and made it his home. While the 2,000 acres of skiing terrain on Bald and Dollar Mountains are the primary reason to visit, Sun Valley also offers excellent hiking and biking trails, rapid rivers for whitewater rafting, and golf courses for all levels. Neighboring Ketchum is home to the Sun Valley Museum of Art and Wood River Museum of History and Culture, as well as an array of boutiques and restaurants to suit any taste. With the historic Sun Valley Resort, picture-perfect Knob Hill Inn, and many other lodges to stay, the area is a classic weekend retreat, as it has been for almost 100 years.


House in Driggs, Idaho with the Teton Mountains in the background.
A house in Driggs, Idaho with Wyoming's Teton Mountains in the background. Editorial credit: Reimar /

This small town is right at the doorstep of many spectacular mountain ranges in the southeast of Idaho, including the pointy summits of the Tetons. Driggs is for those looking to immerse in nature without the crowds, a laidback lifestyle that almost seems forgotten in urban cities. An easy drive away leads to Teton Canyon for its hiking trails and viewpoints, and Darby Canyon, where a few caves and a waterfall exude grandeur. The tiny town center has just the right amount of shops selling outdoor gear and souvenirs for visitors to take home, while to the north, the airport is home to the Warbird Airplane Museum, where history buffs are thrilled to see its collection of vintage planes. Consider a retreat here if solitude is what you are after, where your accommodation options range from the rustic huts of Teton Valley Cabins to the homely atmosphere of Pines Motel, either right in the heart of downtown or out in the wild.


Aerial view of McCall, Idaho during winter.
Aerial view of McCall, Idaho during winter.

McCall sits in an idyllic location for a landlocked state, on the glimmering shores of Payette Lake and surrounded by pine-forested mountains. The town's emphasis on natural experiences made it a well-preferred destination for relaxation and staying active. Visitors can choose between the Ponderosa State Park for hiking, biking, and wildlife watching or head straight to Payette Lake for swimming and boating, and this is just during the summer months. When the snow begins to cover, McCall is a paradise for all sorts of winter activities, from snowmobiling to cat-skiing through scenic landscapes. After the outdoors, one can find their perfect spot in the town center, where local boutiques, restaurants, and the Salmon River Brewery are all within walking distance. It is not surprising that McCall works very well as a retreat destination, with excellent accommodations such as Shore Lodge and the Nordic Inn, each with comfortable rooms and wellness facilities to offer.


The Sawtooth Mountains and town of Stanley, Idaho.
Sawtooth Mountains in the backdrop of Stanely, Idaho.

Guarded by the Sawtooth Mountains on three sides, Stanley is quite a competitor when it comes to beautiful landscapes for a small town. There are over 730,000 acres of wilderness to explore in the surrounding Sawtooth National Recreational Area, with spectacular alpine views accessible by hiking, horseback riding, or mountain biking. Similarly, its rivers and lakes are renowned among locals for fishing and rafting. In winter, although one of the coldest places in the lower 48 states (a record of -54°F in 1981), Stanley boasts fine snow terrain for backcountry skiing and snowmobiling. Of course, before you head out to do these activities, visit downtown to browse for outdoor equipment and fishing gear or simply have a delicious meal. Spots like Papa Brunee’s and Vanisso Sun Worldwide are ideal, with great food options available throughout the day. Despite its size, Stanley has a variety of accommodations to choose from for a retreat, such as the Mountain Village Resort, which comes with incredible views of the mountains and its very own hot spring.


Main Street in Wallace, Idaho lined with buildings.
Historic buildings lining Main Street in Wallce, Idaho. Editorial credit: Kirk Fisher /

One of the most vibrant towns in the state, tucked in the Silver Valley beneath the foothills of the Bitterroot Mountains, Wallace has its share of a charming community in a region this beautiful. While the area has many things to do for outdoor enthusiasts, such as biking through trestles on the 15-mile-long route of the Hiawatha to flying above the trees with Silver Streak Zipline, history is where the town shines. A former silver mining town, Wallace is one of the few communities in the country that has its entirety listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is a lot of history to take in at the Barnard-Stockbridge Museum and the Northern Pacific Depot Museum, but to dive into its mining past, one must visit the Wallace District Mining Museum. The nearby four-mile Pulaski Tunnel Trail is another historic experience that allows visitors to trace the devastating moment of the 1910 fire. Regarding accommodation, Wallace is fabulous for its options, ranging from The Brooks Hotel in the center of town to the aptly named Wallace Inn with its indoor pool and hot tub.


A cabin amidst forests in Featherville, Idaho.
A cabin amidst forests in Featherville, Idaho.

Featherville is one of the most isolated towns on the list, but it is only two hours of drive from Boise, the state capital. Located deep in the Trinity Mountains, the town is truly an escape into nature, with only a handful of businesses catering to the very few who decide to visit. The pristine environment is a playground for adventurers, which offers activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and ATV off-road driving on rugged land, while fishing and boating are best done on the Anderson Ranch Reservoir nearby. Unlike other towns, Featherville has a different approach to visitors coming for a retreat, with the Featherville Resort being the primary option for lodging. However, the unspoiled scenery, natural hot springs, and starry night skies are great reasons to consider a trip here, and together, they will most likely change how most people think of a retreat getaway.


Aerial view of Snake River and town of Lewiston, Idaho.
Aerial view of Snake River and town of Lewiston, Idaho.

Lewiston lies in western Idaho, where the Snake and Clearwater rivers meet. Among the few known things, Lewiston is regarded as the gateway to Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in America, where jet boats and rafts launch to explore its sheer scale. Visitors looking to get on the water while sticking closer to town can opt for a paddleboarding or kayaking session on the rivers or join a fishing trip in search of steelhead. The Lewis-Clark Valley has a rich history to discover, whose heritage can be understood as easily as a walk in the heart of downtown or an in-depth guided tour with a tribal member at the nearby Nez Perce National Historical Park. With a climate similar to Burgundy and Bordeaux, the area is also known to produce high-quality wine, and visitors can taste a great variety of it in the cellars and vineyards in and around town. Twisted Vine Wine Tours and Clearwater Canyon Cellars are some of the best options for tourists who want the full wine experience. Take in the best of Lewiston by coming for a retreat; the Hells Canyon Grand Hotel and Hampton Inn are top selections for comfort, convenience, and relaxation.


First Avenue lined with buildings in Sandpoint, Idaho.
Colorful shops and eateries lining First Avenue in Sandpoint, Idaho. Editorial credit: Kirk Fisher /

Sandpoint is a scenic abode in the center of the Idaho Panhandle. With an expansive waterfront on the northwestern shore of Lake Pend Oreille and right next to multiple mountain ranges, the town is another retreat of the outdoors. A typical summer's day is best spent next or on the water, either on a boat ride at Dover Bay or a paddleboard on Sand Creek. The mountains are also well-preferred for the views, with plenty of trails for hikers to choose from that begin right from the center of town. Swipe it to winter, and nearby Schweitzer, with its ski runs is at its prime, boasting 2,900 acres of terrain for every snow sport. For its beautiful location, Sandpoint is perfect for a weekend getaway; whether staying on the lakefront at the Edgewater Resort or the forest at Talus Rock Retreat, tourists will go home feeling great and relaxed.

Seldom visited compared to its neighbors on all sides, Idaho is perfect for a weekend retreat with its incredible mountain scenery and rustic charms. Ode to its small towns, the state boasts lovely natural surroundings, cultural heritage, and accommodations that tourists adore. Moreover, each town has something unique to share, from the boating opportunities in McCall to the array of wines in Lewiston. Thus, when it comes to serenity, few places in the United States can deliver such an experience as great as Idaho.

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