St. Joe River Scenic Byway in Idaho, landscape with brown thistles on Turtle Lake near Saint Maries, Idaho. Image credit Robert Appleby via AdobeStock.

These Small Towns in Idaho Come Alive in Summer

Idaho, also known to many as “The Potato State,” sits in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, neighboring many other gorgeous regions. Set next to the breathtaking province of British Columbia, Canada, to the north, and the great state of Montana lies to the east, and just south is Utah. Idaho is the 14th largest state, yet it also is considered the 7th least populated state. Explore the quaint cottage communities of Idaho, whose populations come alive in the summertime, featuring its history, attractions, and amenities. The history, culture, amenities, and festivities that each of these towns has to offer, will surely entice visitors from all over to come to these lovely small towns in Idaho!


City of Rocks National Park near Almo, Idaho
City of Rocks. Image credit Keith via AdobeStock.

Almo is a rural community; this tiny town is home to 150 people, though the town itself has so much appeal. Situated next to the picturesque City of Rocks National Reserve, Almo draws in a lot of tourism, in particular to the Tracy General Store. Tracy General Store is a historical site that was constructed in 1894 and still runs and operates today! In the summertime, many families flock to this area to explore all that this remote area has to offer, from visiting the nearby national parks to the history of the first general store in the area, Almo is a great small town to spend a day with the family. 


Wild horses in the Idaho Desert near Challis in winter
Wild horses in the Idaho Desert near Challis. Image credit natureguy via AdobeStock.

Challis is another small gem within the state of Idaho that has great history which draws in people from all over the country and around the world. Challis was established in 1878, named for A.P. Challis; the gentleman who was the surveyor in the area when the town site was being planned out. In the early 1900’s, there were more sheep that called Challis home than there were actual residents in the entire region! The town has incredible Western vibes that not only draw in many tourists every year, but will definitely entice visitors to explore every square mile of this charming little community. There are a number of old buildings in this town that remind us of its rich heritage.


Tourists collecting rocks at the Spencer Opal Mine in Dubois, Idaho.
Spencer Opal Mine, Dubois. Image credit James St. John via Wikimedia Commons.

With a population of approximately 500, the town of Dubois is another quaint destination. Located in Clark County, the town acquired its name from a prominent politician. Dubois is named after the state's very first senator. Despite the small size of this community, Dubois still attracts many visitors each year with the nearby Spencer Opal Mine, and the Webber Creek Trail.

The Spencer Opal Mine experience is like none other! This establishment allows tourists to come learn about Opal, their mining practices, and they even let visitors dig for their own opal in their mine; a truly family-friendly excursion! For nature enthusiasts, the Webber Creek Trail is an almost 16-mile hike and features a pristine lake to indulge in as well. The trail is rated as moderate, making for a great day trip while staying in Dubois.


Bridge over the canal surrounded by mountains during sunset in Grace, Idaho
Bridge over canal in Grace, Idaho. Image credit Dalton Overlin/Wirestock via AdobeStock.

Established in Caribou County with around 915 full-time residents, Grace is another small town with a very intriguing history that is truly captivating! The Northern Shoshone Indigenous tribe used to inhabit the region in the early 1500’s. This is very appealing to many people who want to increase their knowledge of North American Indigenous history. It is currently home to approximately 1,000 full-time residents, and an economy that is traditionally driven by agriculture and tourism, as it also attracts many people that are passionate about mountain biking, and riding ATVs.

 Another point of interest in Grace is Black Canyon Park. This 1,100-acre reservoir has 12 miles of shoreline for visitors to enjoy, whether for fishing, boating, or kayaking. Tourists will surely enjoy the crystal clear waters and the beautiful mountains surrounding Grace.

Whether making the trip here to enjoy the history and fresh produce, the beautiful Black Canyon, or to take in the scenic mountainsides while shredding them on your bike, Grace, Idaho, will leave those who visit yearning for their next trip back!


Clearwater river view west of Kamiah with tree-covered mountains on either side
Clearwater river-view, Kamiah. Image credit jaypetersen via AdobeStock.

Home to approximately 1300 people, tucked away in the Bitterroot Mountains, is the town of Kamiah. This enchanting mountain community has a beautiful riverfront city park as well as the famous Hearthstone Restaurant & Bakery. Many people also stop in to visit the Kamiah Valley Museum or to test their skill at the famous excursion, “The Heart of The Monster.”

 “The Heart of The Monster” is a historical park located In the Nez Perce- Clearwater Forest near Kamiah, Idaho. The story behind the name of the park is not only captivating, but inspiring. The Nez Perce National Park recounts three stories about three sites within the park, so visitors will have a full day of learning and excitement ahead here!

The Hearthstone Restaurant & Bakery was established in 2002, and attracts many passing tourists to enjoy some of their fresh baked bread, or many of their lovely breakfast and lunch options. One thing that is not well known, is that they are also a Tea house. Offering a comfortable, relaxing spot to enjoy a morning cup of tea and plan the rest of the day in Kamiah.


Man in a boat fishing on the Mackay Reservoir, Idaho
Fishing in the Mackay Reservoir. Image credit NorthwestWildImages via AdobeStock.

Many fail to note the small community of Mackay when they think of Idaho due to the fact that it is close neighbors to both the cities of Salmon and Stanley. Mackay rests at the bottom of the majestic Mt. Borah, the single highest mountain in all of Idaho. This once prosperous mining town is now a popular tourist attraction for those interested in ghost towns, or trail riding in the deserts and into the backwoods of this beautiful countryside. Mackay is also home to almost 600 full-time residents who get to enjoy the breathtaking hillsides around them year-round. 

St. Maries

Travel on the Saint Joe River Scenic Byway in Idaho – Landscape of the Saint Joe River Near Saint Maries
St. Joew River near St. Maries, Idaho. Image credit Robert Appleby via AdobeStock.

Lastly, St Maries is a small town situated near a plethora of mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes, and it makes for the best vacation spot in all of Idaho by far. Set in a flourishing valley, near the St. Joe River, St. Maries boasts some of the best boating, floating, and white water rafting activities on its 120-mile-long stretch. 

One of the main reasons people come to St. Maries is to embark on the 300k Bitterroot Loop. This venture consists of a 4-day camping and biking tour where participants will explore the surrounding areas of St. Maries and spend their nights in the blissful nature that surrounds them. Visitors will get to see state parks, many famous biking trails and even the Old Milwaukee scenic route to Marble Creek. Watch this small town grow during the summer months as many families from all over come to enjoy the wonders that St. Maries has to offer!


There are many small places in Idaho that boom during the summer months, and even activities that entice tourism in the winter as well. Idaho should not be overlooked as the state boasts quite a few activities that explode, especially during the summer months. While it is home to some extremely small towns, it does not mean there are no opportunities for fun experiences here! Hike, swim, fish, and enjoy the unhurried lifestyles of the folks in these small towns.

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