We Dare You To Take This Road Trip To Idaho’s Most Abandoned Places
Idaho’s vibrant past has no shortage of historic places – schools, prisons, hospitals, churches, and even entire towns. But many of these spots also fell victim to time, financial instability, and Mother Nature and now stand empty. While many reminders of Idaho’s recent and distant past offer tours to curious visitors, others have been turned into museums. But even if only viewed from the outside, these urban-style ruins are still spectacular in the decay.
1. Old Idaho State Penitentiary
Built by the inmates who were housed within its sandstone cells, the Old Pen has seen thousands of prisoners and thousands more curious visitors pass through its grounds. At night, the grounds are rumored to come alive with paranormal activity. Whether by day spent exploring the peeling paint, crumbling walls, and rusted prison chambers or a spooky evening at one of the prison’s regular events, a historic tour that you won’t soon forget.
2. Wild Waters
What was once a vibrant, thrilling family destination in Northern Idaho came to an abrupt end less than a decade ago as competition took over. Wild Waters in Coeur d’Alene was originally the Northwest’s largest water park – a behemoth attraction that dominated the summer market for years. In 2010, the park didn’t reopen at all and very little remains of its former glory. Brackish water, rusting gates, and fading signs all sit corroding in Idaho’s turbulent weather, waiting for someone to restore or demolish it.
3. Albion State Normal School
The Albion State Normal School was once a vibrant educational institution for teachers that now stands abandoned, falling victim to time. Empty hallways filled with debris, shattered windows, and eerie auditoriums still lined with the decrepit remains of wooden seats all pulse with an inexplicable presence — whether paranormal or simply teeming with the memories of the past, there are multiple buildings on campus that all echo with unearthly sensations.
4. American Falls Old Townsite
Now underwater, the town of American Falls was once a thriving, active hub located on the west bank of the Snake River, but during what was easily the largest government relocation of its time, the town was moved in it’s entirety to avoid flooding by the nearby dam. The known history of American Falls is just as fascinating as what remains shrouded by the passage of time.
5. Silver City
A mere century ago, the lure of gold, precious ore, and the hope of a new life brought thousands of people to the Gem State, but after the dust had settled, Idaho’s mining towns went from thriving communities to hollow remnants. Silver City is an often overlooked but treasured part of Idaho’s “Wild West” that lies in beautiful, aging disrepair in Southwest Idaho, somewhat between Jordan Valley, Oregon and Bruneau. Formerly a busy mining hub, the silver crash at the turn of the 20th century sent this bustling city into a rapid downward spiral, but that doesn’t keep the town from trying to rebuild.
6. Hecla Mill
Burke is one of Northern Idaho’s ghost towns that has fallen into obscurity in favor of the more well-known towns near Boise. But the old Hecla mine and mill here is absolutely fascinating. While operations in Burke shut down decades prior, a temporary reopening of the Star Mine in the 90s brought a resurgence of local memories. The town sits along a canyon and is particularly remembered for its iconic hotel which was built above the railroad to save space.
7. Pioneer/Boothill Cemetery
With over 3,000 graves housed here, and very few resting here who died of natural causes, it’s safe to say that Pioneer/Boot Hill is a rife with legends and ghost stories. Many of those buried in Idaho City are unidentified – a result of the constant turnover of the mining town in its prime. Today, only 300 or so inscriptions are still readable.
This unique town just outside of the Donnelly-Cascade-McCall area is a ghost town at its core, but thrives as a historic reminder of Idaho’s western days. Barn weddings, reenactments, and filmings are welcome here with permission, but the real draw is that one can simply walk through town (it’s only a few blocks!) and see the remarkable historic textures and features of centuries long ago.
Idaho has some incredible places that still stand today as a reminder of our history, and as you can see from our map, this road trip is nowhere near complete. What other special abandoned buildings and tunnels are hidden in Idaho?
Please keep in mind that not all of these buildings are open to the public at all hours. Be respectful of local rules and ordinances and adventure at your own risk!