Attractions March 25, 2017
The One Idaho Town That’s So Perfectly Western
Idaho is full of delightfully historic towns that ooze new frontier nostalgia, architecture, and small town charm. But of all the quaint towns that fit the rustic, rural lifestyle Idaho has come to be known for, few can live up to the iconic Wild West status of Idaho City. This humble gem looks straight out of an old-timey Western and embraces its unique culture to the fullest. But while old fashioned saloons and the rich history is incredible, there is so much to love about this cozy town!
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Welcome to one of the coolest small towns on earth: Idaho City, population 459.
This welcoming small town began as "Bannock" in 1862, a mining town within the Boise Basin that flourished and produced more gold than anywhere else in the region.
Some say the town was forged by fire. A brochure from the 1970s once called it the "Ghost Town that Refused to Die."
As true of the old Western towns seen in classic shoot-em-up movies, nearly every building in Idaho City has always been predominantly made of wood. When multiple fires scorched the town in the 1860s, burning it to the ground, like a phoenix... it just kept rising time and time again. Even the town's most recent fire hasn't crumbled the town's enduring community spirit.
The Visitor Center should definitely be your first stop for directions to the best historical places in the city. And believe me, there's a
lot of them.
This unique little nugget of a town was once wilderness inhabited only by Native Americans, with the occasional mountain man passing through. Within months of the first strike, the area became the largest settlement of the Pacific Northwest, with a population that surpassed Portland in size by 1863.
In this wonderfully rugged town, you'll find incredible stories around every corner, starting with the architecture.
Every building has a tale to tell. The Boise Basin Museum, old Idaho Territory Penitentiary, the Idaho City Hotel, and more - whether up and running or just standing for the historic aesthetic, there's no denying how incredible all the western charm is! The oldest general store in the state is here as well - the Boise Basin Mercantile - although it no longer acts as a grocery and necessities shop.
Occasional western-themed festivals and events recreate the town's gold rush history.
But opportunities to relive the olden days - and capture them on camera - are much more plentiful.
...gun shootouts included.
And of course, you'll also find the most unique shop in the world right in the heart of town.
But it's the fantastic beauty of the surrounding mountains that takes Idaho City's historic charm up a notch.
This rugged haven is uniquely found just north of Boise, and finds itself as a easy gateway to the breathtaking Sawtooths.
In winter, thousands pass through or stop in this delightful town to enjoy the bounty of fresh powder and famous yurt camping opportunities.
Of course, every season is pretty fantastic!
But don't mistake this idyllic town for a hokey movie set. This literal gem embraces all of the small town values and Idaho community pastimes we've come to know and love, like football...
And community events.
But no matter how you choose to spend your time here, a visit to the Pioneer Cemetery is a must.
These headstones are so old that they're not even made of stone at all - they're made of wood! Fascinatingly, this seemingly small cemetery holds the graves of over 3000 people, only a fraction of whom have been identified and of those, very few known to have died of natural causes. Like the wild and dangerous western town that it once was, in Idaho City it was far more common to catch a bullet in the streets than reach old age. Stand-offs and poker games gone wrong were all too common.
And getting to this wonderfully historic town (or leaving) is best experienced on the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway.
Because why would you want to miss this view? This beauty winds through the Boise National Forest through dense forests, across high mountain valleys, and along portions of the Boise River, Lucky Peak, and the South Fork of the Payette River.
Here in Idaho, we love our small towns, and Idaho City is one that just can’t get enough attention! What’s your favorite thing to do in Idaho City?