The Most Beautiful Towns In Idaho

Learn about the history of the Oregon Trail in Pocatello, Idaho
Learn about the history of the Oregon Trail in Pocatello, Idaho | © Witold Skrypczak / Alamy
Photo of Sophia White
21 July 2021

Known for having nearly every known type of gemstone within the state, the Gem State has plenty of other hidden finds as well. Home to Lake Coeur d’Alene, the Sawtooth Mountains and Yellowstone National Park, Idaho has an extensive network of rivers, waterfalls, mountains, forests and geological formations which showcase areas of natural beauty at seemingly every turn. Here’s our pick of the most beautiful towns across the state.

Idaho Falls

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Often featured on “Best Places To Live” lists due to its high quality of life and rich economic activity, Idaho Falls also plays host to its fair share of tourists. It’s within easy reach of Yellowstone, the Craters of the Moon, several natural forests, and it falls in the shadows of the Grand Teton – so you’ll find an escape to the wilderness here. It’s also home, as you may expect, to waterfalls along the Snake River. If you wanted to take in more of town life, there is a rich cultural scene and arts community within the area.

Garden City

Architectural Landmark
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Within the state’s capital of Boise, you’ll find Garden City – a separate municipal town which was named for the gardens that were raised by the area’s Chinese immigrants and settlers. The town is almost completely surrounded by Boise, making it a popular area for Boise commuters, but its green spaces, proximity to the river and strong community ties have made it an increasingly popular area for Idaho residents. Take a stroll down the main street, aptly named Chinden Boulevard – a combination of the words China and garden – to explore the area’s many gardens, or take a seat by the river to marvel at the surrounding mountains.

Lewiston

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Lewiston traces its history back to the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805. The town is located at the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers, which still serve as a center point for the town. Hells Canyon, Salmon River Canyons and Hells Gate State Park are among the most popular attractions in the town, but don’t let the names fool you – there’s nothing hellish about these areas of outstanding beauty. The town’s panoramic views and natural wonder make it obvious why early explorers settled here, and why the town has thrived ever since.

McCall

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Boat marina and beach at Payette Lake, McCall, Idaho, USA.
© David R. Frazier Photolibrary, Inc. / Alamy

McCall is a resort town on the southern shore of Payette lake, with popular activities such as motorized and non-motorized watersports and swimming – or you can just lounge on the shores and take in the sights. For those who want white-water thrills, the nearby Payette River is a perfect playground. Idaho’s West Central Mountains are the real attraction here, with an extended winter sports season and numerous hiking and biking trails for the summer. Summertime also brings music and arts festivals in the town.

Pocatello

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Standrod Mansion, built in 1901, at N. Garfield Avenue in Pocatello, Idaho - M7PPGG
© Witold Skrypczak / Alamy

A university town that also serves as the gateway to the Northwest, Pocatello was founded in 1889, the passing point for pioneers, gold miners and settlers making their way along the Oregon Trail. Enticing people through its variety of museums, nearby hiking trails and the beautiful old town – which features a number of buildings from the turn of the century that are now included on the National Register of Historic Places – there’s also a popular zoo which honors the country’s wildlife heritage. It’s an important piece of American history and a worthy stopping point if you’re venturing towards any of the many nearby attractions.

Rexburg

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Rexburg is situated between the Teton and Big Hole mountain ranges, and is close to prominent and renowned national parks like Yellowstone. It’s host to world-class hunting and fishing grounds, which bring in swathes of enthusiasts during the high season. Rexburg is excellent for exploring eastern Idaho due to its easy reach of Sun Valley and Jackson Hole, in addition to the other main national parks. The town has been regenerated since the devastating floods in the 1970s, and this included the building of some of the most spectacular late-20th-century churches in the country.

Salmon

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Salmon is another town that was part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition – though with additional historical significance as it was also the birthplace of Sacagawea. The Lemhi River flows into the Salmon River at Salmon, making it an appealing spot for white-water rafters, fishermen and thrill-seekers. The town regularly celebrates its history, both its Lewis and Clark and Native American roots, with annual Heritage Days and a permanent interpretation center among other museums. Salmon is a must-visit location – an important town in the history of the Western frontier, and wonderfully placed beneath the impressive mountains.

Sandpoint

Architectural Landmark
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A group of kayakers enjoy a beautiful summer day on Sand Creek River and Lake Pend Oreille in the downtown area of Sandpoint, Idaho, USA
© Kirk Fisher / Alamy

In the northern tip of Idaho, Sandpoint has breathtaking natural features everywhere you look. The town is located on the vast 43-mile-long Lake Pend Oreille, which boasts a total of 111 miles of shoreline – plus it’s surrounded by the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains. It was previously one of the West’s great railroad towns, and its rich railroad and 19th-century heritage can be explored in the town’s museums. The historic Panida Theater is an excellent showcase of both early 20th-century architecture and contemporary artistic talent in the town.

Sun Valley and Ketchum

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The neighboring towns of Sun Valley and Ketchum showcase two of the most important parts of Idaho – its natural beauty and its infamous history. The towns bring in an abundance of tourists who are primarily drawn to the high-octane skiing on offer in the Bald and Dollar Mountains. The area was widely popularized by Ernest Hemingway in the late 1930s – and Ketchum is also notorious as the location where Hemingway committed suicide. The towns have turn-of-the-century mountain architecture, and during the summer months there are themed Wagon Festivals which take you back in time.

Twin Falls

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ECMN3E - Twin Falls Idaho Main Street shops and traffic of small town with trees
© Bill Bachmann / Alamy

Twin Falls may be the largest city in some 100 miles, but it still manages to retain the charm of its older, much smaller self. The town was first settled in 1846 by explorers on the Oregon Trail. But excavations in caves during the 1950s uncovered artifacts that revealed human activity which ranks among some of the oldest found in North America. Historical wonder is coupled with exciting architecture in the form of the Perrine Bridge, a 1500-foot truss arch bridge over the Snake River Canyon. The nearby Shoshone Falls also showcases the town’s natural beauty.

These recommendations were updated on July 21, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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