Top Idaho’s Small Towns To Open The Road To Adventure

Speaking of Idaho, it is not just any ordinary state but a place where you can find yourself indulged in all sorts of classic adventures with modern amenities assuring an enjoyable time there. Known for its rugged landscape, the state offers snowy mountains, fast-flowing rivers, and dense forests, but Idaho also has small towns on the edge of the wilderness that attract tourists from around the world, and if you are looking for even more adventure, check out our list of 10 thrilling things to do in Buckhead.

So, whether you’re planning a short two-day vacation with family or friends, if Idaho, it’s more than easy access to the outdoors that makes a great small town. Each town has a unique history that adds an undeniable character, such as the Olympic training grounds, adding to the credibility of the Tour experience.

Hence, if anything, Idaho’s small towns, rich in natural resources, guarantee unforgettable and never-before-seen outdoor recreation. So, let’s explore all the fantastic things you can do in Idaho’s enchanting, fun-filled destinations, and so much more.

Also Read: Top 10 Things To Do On Your Day Trips From San Francisco

Worth Visiting Towns In Idaho

As already mentioned, each town in Idaho has a unique history and topographical value that sets it apart from neighboring towns or, for some, the entire world.


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PERFECT FOR: Those who are up for Active outdoor recreation all year round
McCall Idaho
McCall Idaho

McCall is a gravitating destination for lovers of hot springs and water recreation such as boating, kayaking, paddling, and swimming, as this beautiful Idaho town sits on the shores of more than five thousand acres of Payette Lake.

Besides active water recreation, visitors have many opportunities to experience memorable and crazy whitewater rafting on Class IV and V rapids or a gentle and relaxing float trip down the Payette River with the family. The rafting experience you’ll find in McCall is unmatched anywhere else.

Although the hired expert will tell you if any member of your family is allowed on the raft boat, still keep in mind that every member of your family must be 16 or above to go rafting. Because any Class rapids accompanied by the savage water flow could prove dangerous.

Now that we’re on the subject of opportunities, those who like to enjoy some solitary kayaking on the river. Kelly’s Whitewater Park, located just south of the city, offers great opportunities for tourists and locals to improve their kayaking and paddling skills.

However, if you prefer skiing, you have two options: Brundage Mountain Resort, right in town, and Tamarack Ski Resort, located 20 miles south of town on Cascade Lake, with an extensive Nordic trail. Both ski resorts are open to adults and teenagers alike.

Like most towns in Idaho, McCall holds a unique festival to celebrate the town’s natural attractions. The town’s famous festival, called the Winter Carnival, takes place at the end of January every year and lasts for about 10 days.

This 10-day carnival features the Idaho State Snow Sculpting Championships of giant ice sculptures of different characters every year. You’ll be amazed at how unique and authentic they look — a trip to a winter beer garden, a chance to watch a thrilling motorcycle race.

Finally, the festival’s centerpiece is a Mardi Gras parade, where colorfully costumed crowds and fantastic dragon figures dance to live music. A giant statue leads the public in the parade, warming the hearts and souls of tourists and encouraging them to join the carnival and enjoy the festivities to the fullest.

Now on to the specialty of the city, the hot springs. McCall has two commercially developed hot springs, Gold Fork Hot Springs and Bergdorf Hot Springs. Both springs offer overnight stays in cabins to tourists and are accessible year-round. The tranquility and lack of all muscle soreness you will experience at the hot springs is one thing, but the fast and exciting snowmobile ride you need to take to reach the hot springs is worth it. The ride will indeed be one of the most unforgettable memories you might make on your journey in McCall.

The McCall is all about the best you can find in Idaho. The benefit of residing on the shore of Payette Lake is that the town is also surrounded by the Payette National Forest, which is like an all-in-one destination for tourists. You can enjoy hot springs, backpacking, and downhill skiing on a single site. And that leads us to two more praiseworthy best state parks established of entire Idaho., the Ponderosa Pine and Lake Cascade State Parks, right beside the Tamarack Ski Resort. Both state parks offer extensive access to water and diverse campsites.

Sun Valley

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PERFECT FOR: Experiencing skiing at America's No. 1 Ski Resort destination
Sun Valley Resort
Sun Valley Resort

Nestled in the heart of Idaho and enveloped by the towering Rocky Mountains, it’s no wonder that “Sun Valley” is a prominent name on the list of favorite tourist destinations worldwide. Plus, you can easily find pet-friendly resorts and hotels to relax and spend the night with friends and family.

Sun Valley is the home to the world’s first chairlift attraction, “America’s No. 1 Ski Resort,” still one of the best ski resorts in America to this day, and the birthplace of the now-out-of-service, Powder magazine.

In winter, the snow-capped high mountains provide an ideal training ground for professional-level skiing and snowboarding, which explains why the valley is home to athletes competing in the Olympic skiing and snowboarding championships. In addition to professional training, you can visit American ski resorts with friends and family, regardless of age and skill level, to experience the iconic winter adventure first-hand.

Although it is a widely known fact that the snowboarding and skiing experience this town offers is hard to find anywhere else, shockingly, it is only part of the reason we see Sun Valley flocked with local visitors and celebrities all year round. Another reason to appreciate the town is its clean and pleasant weather and, of course, the mesmerizing scenery, that the Wood River Valley offers.

In addition, the Sawtooth National Forest opens the gates to iconic summer adventures such as golfing, mountain biking (legally approved in 2014), fly fishing, mountain climbing, trail running, horseback riding, etc.

If the adrenaline rush of zipping down high mountains isn’t your thing, in that case, you’ll definitely love the smooth, paved 18-mile stretch of the Wood River Bike Path that connects Ketchum to its neighboring towns of Hailey and Bellevue and eventually leads to the cool mountain stream that flows from nearby Sawtooth.

As for delving into Idaho culture, Ketchum’s got a great list of restaurants and bars like the Sawtooth Club and Pioneer Saloon and boutiques selling everything from local art, and outdoor gear to high-end fashion. Author Earnest Hemingway concluded his work on “For Whom the Bell Tolls” at the Sun Valley Lodge. Open to visitors from around the world, fans of the author can find a wonderful opportunity to stroll the halls of Sun Valley Lodge and have a great time.

A must-see for visitors to Sun Valley in October is the Trailing Sheep Festival, which pays tribute to the Ketchum’s farming heritage with five days of cooking classes, sheepdog competitions, and wool workshops. There is also an exciting parade of approx. 1,500 woolly sheep strut walk Ketchum’s main street.

Finally, after experiencing all the crazy athletic mountain and road adventures, cultural festivals, and shopping. Don’t forget to check Sun Valley’s events calendar, so you don’t miss the town’s popular jazz festivals, wine auctions, and summer concert series.


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PERFECT FOR: World-class fishery and exotic experience of wildlife such as elk, deer, grizzly bears, wolves, and caribou
Sandpoint idaho blue
Sandpoint. Image: WIkimedia Commons

Now let’s talk about another town worth visiting in Idaho, which is covered by the Idaho Panhandle National Forests that span over three million acres, Sandpoint, located on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. Iconic recreational activities delight visitors year-round, and an abundance of art and culture makes it an excellent destination for friends’ trips and family vacations.

Before you begin delving into the culture and recreational activities that you can enjoy in this town, it is recommended to spend some time exploring attractive and gorgeous natural spots. You can start your adventurous journey in Sandpoint with Idaho Panhandle National Forests. In this lush evergreen mountain region, rivers support the world-class fishery and are home to exotic wildlife such as elk, deer, grizzly bears, wolves, and caribou.

Activities on a trip to Sandpoint in the summer include thrilling mountain biking and camping, and a must-see is Idaho’s best lake, which is, of course, Lake Pend Oreille, on the shores of which this quaint town sits.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort, just about 15 miles from Sandpoint, has you covered during the winter. This resort is exclusively famous for its exhilarating downhill skiing experience in Idaho. But it is not like visitors are forbidden to step into the town’s vicinity in the summers.

You can enjoy the 9-hole disc golf course, geocaching treasure hunt, mountain biking, and hiking in warmer months. However, if you are having a trip to Sandpoint in late July or August, try huckleberry picking in the Priest Lake area, which is famous for its abundance of ripe berries along numerous trails.

In August, visitors can also take in the unforgettable Sandpoint Festival, one of the city’s biggest events, featuring nearly eight nights of live music entertainment.

And that’s not all. For a more exciting and frenetic experience, check out Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, about 16 miles from town, which offers all-inclusive summer packages, cabin-style accommodations, daily horseback rides, fine dining, and evening campfires.

Sandpoint is not as huge of a town as you might anticipate, but nevertheless, the hoteling, clubbing, and all in all entertainment experience that you will get at this destination are world-class. It all starts with the popular dining spots in the town like Joel’s, where you can savor the Taqueria-style Mexican food, Thai Nigiri for sushi lovers, and finally, Baxters on Cedar for delicious American cuisine.

A visit to Laughing Dog Brewing pub is a must after a delicious, fulfilling dining experience with your friends. Here you can find more than 10 flavors in beers, all brewed locally and have major awards adding to the reputation of the brewery and the quality of the drinks. But if pubs are the places, you don’t prefer then worry not, because the relaxing atmosphere of the Pend d’Oreille Winery’s tasting room is something you’re definitely going to love. On weekends the winery hosts live music concerts.

Sandpoint is full of economical hotel options, so you need not panic here. But those who enjoy hotels with a classic and spacious layout are recommended to try the lakeside K2 Inn. It’s a tremendously budget-friendly hotel for town trips and is not more than a few blocks from the beach.


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PERFECT FOR: Peaceful and gentle outdoor activities and fishing
Salmon River near Lower Stanley, Idaho

Located on the Salmon River and in the embrace of Sawtooth and White Cloud Ranges, the trails surrounding the town lead the visitors to a unique and nature-filled wildlife experience. Stanley is a beautiful small town in Idaho. From a multi-day backpacking trip to fishing, you have a variety of peaceful outdoor activities to enjoy with your partner, family, or friends.

To experience fishing, you don’t have to do much; grab your fishing rod and other essentials, and you are good to go. The Sawtooth Lake is home to some trout species like arctic grayling, westslope cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and brook trout that visitors can catch and feast on.

As for backpacking, Barron Lakes is an ideal site for an overnight backpacking trip. In the winter, you can experience the crazy, thrilling experience of watching a snowmobile rally and being a part of it yourself. The rally departure point is usually Smiley Creek Lodge, 22 miles south of Stanley. Also, every year the road for the rally is well prepared and paved to avoid any untoward incident so that the tourists can enjoy the sledding experience on the 180+ miles of trails to the max.

You are bound to get tired from all the energetic and fun outdoor activities. So, you have to find a good place for you and your family. But don’t worry; Stanley has plenty of solutions to this problem. The town has several lodging options, but the historic Redfish Lake Lodge, located seven miles from town, is worth visiting at least once during a trip to Stanley. Whether you’re looking for a classic one-person lodge or a larger cabin that can accommodate a family of 9 or more, Redfish Lake Lodge has you covered.

Stanley Baking Company is a very popular breakfast restaurant that offers a wide variety of mouth-wateringly delicious breakfasts and pancakes, making your day feel nothing short of festive.

Things to Consider Before Visiting Small Towns in Idaho

  • Be Sure To Enjoy Outdoor Activities — Idaho is all about outdoor fun and crazy physical recreation. So better be fully prepared to indulge in some energetic activities, from exciting water activities like whitewater rafting, kayaking, paddle boarding, and jet boating to courage-taking ones such as Running, hiking, and biking. Most importantly, ski and snowboard in winter while family-friendly activities in summer like hike, backpacking, and camping. Be sure to try them all, so you don’t regret anything on your trip back home.
  • Pack Wisely — Pack face coverings for everyone as physical distancing is not possible at many attractions, in addition, to essentials such as water, toilet paper, snacks, and for camping or the backcountry. Ensure accommodation/camping arrangements before travel.
  • Restroom Breaks With Kids are Must With Kids — Public restrooms in parks, rest areas, or gas stations are usually not open, so take advantage of the restroom whenever possible, especially when traveling with children.
    Prioritize Yours And Others Safety — Analyze the destination for any travel restrictions or closures. Be sure to respect and follow safety precautions because the health and safety of you, your family, and your employees are the top priority.
  • Weather Is As Beautiful As The State — Natural disasters like blizzards, hurricanes, thunderstorms, etc. are rare news in Idaho. Most of the time the weather is beautiful, the skies are clear, and summers are warm and hot like the rest of the US. All in all, Idaho is an excellent choice for those looking to retire while still having access to beautiful scenery and a strong economy.
  • Be Prepared To Fall In Love With Huckleberries — Idaho’s state fruit, the huckleberry, is a specialty fruit you’ll find in nearly every ice cream, jam, and drink on your travels through the states. During huckleberry season, you can pick your berries or enjoy the flavors of huckleberry items on local menus and local farmers’ markets.

How We Pick Our Recommendations

Our Certified international team of travelers and experts keep an eye out for even the tiniest of details and firsthand experiences of all the attractions and entertaining activities of the visited destination because choosing a couple of towns from a state full of adventures and getting rid of all your fears, Idaho is not as simple and easy of a task as it may seem, enjoyable, nevertheless. We also assure to include the best picked out of numerous wonderful options first to visit and write about. Our travel team also recently made a guide for small towns in Indiana and Wisconsin. Besides their own, our travel team also considers the experiences of other guest travelers so that our writing is thoroughly analyzed, and we don’t happen to miss out on essential factors like the best time to visit these above-mentioned notable towns in Idaho, not to miss festivals, carnivals, and recreational activities. After analyzing all the essential factors and a couple more things, we conclude our recommendations with surety that our written information is accurate and as beneficial as possible for our readers.

Final Words

Idaho’s small towns are unique, and so naturally mesmerizing, you won’t believe your eyes are full of natural beauty and outdoor adventure. Every town may offer similar entertainment, but summer activities, including winter festivals and carnivals, and various championships, differentiate one town from another on a completely different level. All the beautiful towns mentioned in the article offer a fun adventure to enjoy with your friends as well as some peaceful activities to enjoy with your partner and your family. So, whether you visit with family, friends, or alone, Idaho’s towns are bound to provide countless memorable experiences of a lifetime.

Next Read: Mesmerising Waterfalls in Minnesota You Must Visit

Idaho's Best Small Towns To Open The Road To Adventure - FAQs

What is the best small town to live in Idaho?

McCall is one of the best towns to live in Idaho.

What city has the lowest crime rate in Idaho?

Rexberg is the safest city In Idaho, with an average rate of 0.38 per 1000 violent crimes occurring nationwide.

Are people in Idaho friendly?

People in Idaho are not only welcoming but extremely friendly and genuinely open, even to strangers.

Sara Anwar
Sara Anwar is hopdes' US director and a globetrotter. She joined the Hopdes team in July 2022. She has done more than 300,000 miles back and forth. She's been to more than 80% of the world, and her passion for understanding different cultures has only grown stronger with time. A traveler at heart, she loves to experience new cultures and learn new languages. Sara's wealth of travel experience makes her the perfect person to oversee a travel website – after all, who knows better what travelers want and need than she does?

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