View of Sand Creek and the marina in Sandpoint, Idaho. Editorial credit: Kirk Fisher /

These Towns in Idaho Come Alive in Spring

Idaho is a relatively remote state in the northwest of the United States primarily known for its number one agricultural product: potatoes. But Idaho has so much more to offer, with its abundance of parks, vast and wild landscapes ranging from lush mountains to arid plains, and small towns full of things to see and do.

Although there is much to do here in both the summer and winter, spring is when the state comes to life. Idaho's small towns showcase the budding season's true charm, from the fresh produce of farmers' markets in Sandpoint to the bloom of vibrant flora in Sun Valley. Let’s look at seven small towns that are ideal to visit in the spring when the snows melt and the "Gem State" wildlands start to come alive.


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

Situated on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint is a small town of approximately 9,000 residents. It is an excellent spot to go when the nearby resort city of Coeur d'Alene is either too expensive or too full of tourists. Upon arrival, most visitors head to the waterfront promenade or the sandy beaches of City Beach Park to relax and take in the lake’s scenery and surrounding pine-covered mountains. Outdoor enthusiasts should explore the nearby Schweitzer Mountain Resort, which offers many opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and panoramic chairlift rides during spring.

Those interested in cultural attraction can witness Sandpoint's artistic side at the Pend Oreille Arts Council Gallery or catch a performance at the historic Panida Theater. Also, don't miss the chance to taste local flavors at the Sandpoint Farmers Market, which is full of fresh produce and artisanal crafts as the weather gets warmer.

Sun Valley

Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness near Sun Valley, Idaho
Scenic mountains and lake in the Sawtooth Mountain Wilderness near Sun Valley, Idaho.

Renowned for its stunning natural beauty, Sun Valley dazzles visitors with its vibrant springtime scenery. While the resort town is famed for its world-class skiing in the winter, spring brings a different charm. Home to around 1,800 residents, visitors have a range of options to choose from. For example, one can opt for a relaxing walk along the Sun Valley Lodge's manicured grounds or take a scenic drive to the nearby Sawtooth National Recreation Area, where blooming wildflowers should be beginning to carpet the landscape. Meanwhile, those interested in some sporting activities should bring their clubs and book a tee time at the White Clouds golf course. Along with challenging holes, the course boasts a fantastic view of the green, sweeping hills surrounding the town. While nature takes the top step in Sun Valley, history buffs can visit the Sun Valley Museum of History, which displays the area's past, dating back to its founding in the 1930s and beyond.


The marina in McCall, Idaho.
The marina along Payette Lake in McCall, Idaho.

McCall, a town tucked in the Payette National Forest, is a truly hidden gem in the springtime. Its unique landscape can be found around the base of the Idaho panhandle, where the desolate plains of the south meet the staggering mountains of the north. Here, one can enjoy a leisurely boat ride on Payette Lake, surrounded by towering pine trees and snow-capped mountains like Snowslide Peak. If you're feeling up for it, hike or bike along the numerous trails crisscrossing the nearby forests, or try a water sport like kayaking and paddleboarding at the lake.

Back in town, the small yet fun downtown area contains several boutique stores, cafes, and art galleries, perfect for a lazy day of exploring. Don't miss the McCall Farmers Market, where you can sample locally-grown produce and handcrafted goods.


View of the Sawtooth Mountains and town of Stanley, Idaho.
View of the Sawtooth Mountains from Stanley, Idaho.

Known as the gateway to the Sawtooth Mountains, Stanley provides spring visitors with a staging point to discover Idaho’s natural beauty and outdoor adventures. While quite a small town with a minuscule population of less than 150 people, Stanley is big on amenities and activities. One of the most popular activities nearby is to drive along the Sawtooth Scenic Byway, which winds through the jaw-dropping mountains and crystal-clear alpine lakes nearby. For a more hands-on option, visitors should check out the Sawtooth Wilderness Area and its opportunities for hiking, camping, and top-notch fishing.

Learn more about Stanely's past at the Stanley Museum, which houses artifacts and exhibits on various subjects relevant to this remote town's founding. After all the fun, visitors can end the day with a unique dining experience at the historic Redfish Lake Lodge, which boasts locally sourced foods with a view of the mountains.


Bike path in Ketchum, Idaho.
A peaceful bike path lined with foliage in Ketchum, Idaho.

Ketchum is a town that towers above the rest, sitting at a lofty 5,853 feet (1,784 m) in the heart of the Wood River Valley. Ode to this, it is the perfect spot for an escape into the mountains later in spring. Before taking in the outdoor sights, start in the quaint streets of the town with plenty of cultural attractions, like Sun Valley Center for the Arts. The center boasts rotating exhibits and performances by local and international artists to provide insight into the local arts scene.

Once you are ready to embark into the wild, it is easy to find many outdoor activities, including mountain biking, hiking trails, camping, and fly fishing in the nearby Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Sawtooth Lake. Don't miss the chance to soak in the stunning views from Bald Mountain, which are accessible via scenic chairlift rides. After a day of exploration, unwind at one of Ketchum's more upscale restaurants, like the Pioneer Saloon, or less expensive (yet still as tasty) eateries, like Lefty's Bar & Grill.


Cityscape of Lewiston, Idaho.
Cityscape of Lewiston and the Snake River in Idaho.

Lewiston is a bustling town located at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers near the border of Washington State. Home to about 35,000 residents, the town has an eccentric mix of destinations that are perfect to visit when spring comes around. Be sure to check out the Lewis-Clark Valley Wine Region, home to award-winning wineries and vineyards, where you can sample various local wines while taking in stunning river views. Not quite ready to sit back in the sun with a glass of red or white? Work up a sweat by kayaking or paddleboarding along the Clearwater River with the help of one of the local boat rental shops.

History enthusiasts appreciate a visit to the nearby Nez Perce National Historical Park, which preserves the history and culture of the Nez Perce tribe through interpretive programs and a very well-curated visitor center. Wrap up your day with a walk through Hells Gate State Park and get yet more epic views of the rolling landscape around it.


Goldburg Hot Springs in the Salmon-Challis National Forest near Salmon, Idaho.
Goldburg Hot Springs in the Salmon-Challis National Forest near Salmon, Idaho.

Salmon is a scenic town right outside of the Salmon-Challis National Forest. Ode to its location, the town offers the amenities an adventurer would need in the rugged wilderness of Idaho. Spring is the perfect time to check out the vast network of trails, perfect for hiking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing. Don't miss the opportunity to raft or kayak down the Salmon River, also known as the "River of No Return," for its exhilarating whitewater adventures that require the utmost care and safety to get out intact. Those without adequate experience can hire one of the many guides, like Idaho Adventure River Trips, so that everyone can have a blast in town.

For something a little less thrilling but just as interesting, visit the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural, and Educational Center. This center celebrates the legacy of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the contributions of Sacajawea, the expedition's native guide.

Spring Into Idaho

The spring is a time of rebirth and getting out of the house after a long and dreary winter. Regardless of where you are in the state, use this upcoming spring as a great excuse to get out and explore more. Whether the epic mountains to the north of Idaho or the expansive plains to the south, there are cultural, natural, and historic landmarks and destinations at every turn in and around the above-mentioned small towns. See what else you can uncover in Idaho this spring season.

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