In our opinion, Idaho is one of the best states in the country for road trips. With such diverse scenery to explore and so many backcountry roads to navigate, it’s impossible to run out of places to discover! As a predominantly rural state, however, the heart of Idaho is rooted in our small towns, which invite visitors and residents alike to immerse themselves in nature and history.
Peaceful, lovely, and straight out of a magazine, these small havens boast a cozy, nostalgic lifestyle that is rare nowadays, without the crowds. We’ve listed some of our state’s most charming small towns before, and even some that boast the best scenery, but today we’ve created an easy road trip that will take you to some of our favorite overlooked towns that embody both beauty
and charm – plus plenty of good eats and things to do with the family while you’re there.
1. Idaho City
Charming, western, and rugged, you're going to want to drive along the blissful Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway to get here. Here, you'll take a trip back in time to Idaho's Wild West days, have the opportunity to explore backcountry yurts and marvelous snowy landscapes, or enjoy a massive slice of pie from Trudy's--a bucket-list gem if there ever was one!
Stanley is no doubt an Idaho favorite when it comes to mountain getaways--this itty bitty gem sits at the base of the Sawtooths and is home to some of the most ruggedly "Idaho" scenery in the state. Wehther you spend your time exploring the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, soaking it up in Boat Box Hot Springs, exploring the landscape by horseback, or getting your boots wet in a fishing adventure, there's something for everyone here. Plus... snow to boot in winter!
Overlooked, historic, and totally magical when to comes scenery, Salmon is a true hidden gem. This little town may be most well known as Sacajawea's birthplace, but you'll also find an undeniably quaint family community, beautiful scenery, and plenty of education and recreation opportunities.
4. Clark Fork
Home of the stunning Clark Fork Delta, Green Monarchs, and the roaring Clark Fork river, this border town is absolutely marvelous... and overlooked! You'll find plenty of peace and quiet here in the heart of picture-perfect green beauty.
5. Bonners Ferry
Bisected by the beautiful Kootenai River and just a short jump from Canada, Bonners Ferry is located on the outskirts of Idaho's most unspoiled wilderness in the Panhandle. The town grew out of a river crossing for prospectors heading to gold discoveries in Canada in the 1860’s, but today is a scenic getaway for any Idahoan looking for a rugged, woodsy experience. Just watch out for bears! While you're there, stop at the Bonneville Hot Springs (not to be confused with the same-named springs further south) or grab a bite to eat at Mugsy's Tavern or Soulshine.
While this gorgeous waterfront haven is growing rapidly--thanks to its designation as the most beautiful small town in America--there's still oodles of small town charm to be found here. Its scenic location on the Pend Oreille means endless beaching and bay-lounging opportunities, while the nearby proximity of multiple mountain ranges, expansive green meadows, and a truly charming downtown vibe means plenty of photo ops and immersion into this lovely gem. For dining, it's hard to go wrong! For ambiance, Baxters of Cedar is absolutely delightful. For views, Trinity at City Beach is hard to beat.
7. White Bird
Historic, lush, and welcoming, this itty bitty town is treasured for its history and beauty--the "Best of Two Rivers" as a small town hideaway between the Snake and the Salmon. The beautiful White Bird Summit is a stunning, winding overlook that has enough curves to form 37 circles if pieced together.
This road also has some history behind it.
Greater Kooskia Chamber of Commerce/Facebook
Kathy Zimmerman/Greater Kooskia Chamber of Commerce
This cozy town on the banks of the Clearwater River is nothing short of idyllic. Surrounded and spliced by sparkling waterfront beauty and the lush green foothills and meadows of Idaho's Panhandle. Uniquely, Kooskia is the perfect destination for anyone fascinated with old buildings and historic ruins: dozens of abandoned schoolhouses dot the area, including throughout nearby Kamiah.
What a perfect family outing! Of course, Idaho has far too many lovely small towns to include in just one trip, so please share your favorite towns and photos!
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