When you think about Idaho, you may imagine wide open plains, rolling hills, and snow-covered mountains. While those initial images may represent a certain sector of the area, Idaho is a vast state with a variety of things to offer.
One of the most notable things you may not think of is the number of ghost towns that dot the state. Below are the top 10 Idaho ghost towns you can’t miss on your next trip to the state!
Are There Ghost Towns in Idaho?
Though it may surprise you, Idaho has several ghost towns that travelers can visit and explore. From larger, more well-known ghost towns to ones that even native Idaho residents have probably never heard of, we have a big list for you to choose from.
What Is the Oldest Idaho Ghost Town?
If you’re looking for a truly authentic ghost town experience, you may wish to visit Silver City, the oldest ghost town in Idaho. It’s located about 30 miles outside of Boise and easily accessible during a day of sightseeing.
10 Ghostly Idaho Ghost Towns You Need to See
Be sure to take a look and see which ghost towns might be calling you to visit. Let’s jump into the list!
Founded in 1876, Bonanza originally served as a town for the recently discovered General Custer Mine. It was a bustling mining town until the end of 1910 when the population was down to less than 12 families. Today Bonanza, along with the nearby ghost town of Custer, is being rebuilt, as a fire damaged several buildings in the 1880s.
Due to its reconstruction, several buildings may be closed or off limits to visitors in the coming months. But, the town is definitely still worth seeing. The nearby Yankee Fork Gold Dredge is open seasonally for tours and offers an interesting insight into Bonanza’s lost history.
Formed in the early 1860s, Bayhorse is also in the Yankee Fork State Park near Bonanza and Custer. Though the founder of Bayhorse is unknown, this particular ghost town’s structures remain impressive.
It offers an authentic look at what the town may have looked like 150 years ago. Original structures such as the Mill and storehouses still stand overlooking the main area of the town.
A notable feature about visiting Bayhorse is that it’s open for seasonal campers. The site is in the heart of “downtown” Bayhorse. Local guides remain onsite to answer questions and share a bit of history about the town during your stay.
If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of one of the long-since-passed residents wandering the property at night.
Traveler’s Tip: Check out these abandoned places in Utah — some of them are ghost towns!
In 1884, locals discovered lead and silver in what would soon be known as Burke, Idaho. As a result, several mining towns popped up in and around the area. The town of Burke is unique in that it is in a canyon that’s only 300 feet wide at one point.
In 1906, a line was brought right through the center when the railway was making its way across North America. That caused motorcars and carriages to pull over every time the train passed through. The railway was a necessity for the town, so much so that they even divided the Tiger Hotel in two to accommodate its creation.
They constructed an elevated walkway to keep the two sides of the building connected. Today, you can visit and see the remnants of this once bustling city.
Like many ghost towns, there are claims that Burke is a hub for paranormal activity. So, visitors are warned to be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary.
We’ve already briefly talked about Custer in this article, but let’s go ahead and take a bit of a closer look. Founded in 1879, a couple of gold prospectors established Custer. By 1896, it had over 600 residents. However, due to the economic downturn of the nearby mines, by 1910, it was almost completely deserted.
In 1981, Custer became a historic landmark in Idaho. Today, travelers from all over enjoy it. As with visiting any ghost town or rural landmark, be aware of your surroundings and be sure to bring plenty of water for your visit.
#5. Silver City
As we mentioned above, Silver City is the oldest and probably most well-known of the ghost towns on this list. In addition, one of the things that sets this particular town apart is it has endured very minimal change over the years.
Many of the surrounding ghost towns suffered due to fire or weather-related incidents (Silver City was lucky in that it didn’t meet the same fate). Because of this, visiting Silver City is like stepping into a city frozen in time. There’s much to see!
The Idaho Hotel is an attraction you can’t miss when visiting. It maintains most of its structure from its initial construction in the late 1800s. With its authentic nature, it’s not hard to see why Silver City is one of the best Idaho ghost towns.
Chesterfield is a different one for our list. While many of the towns on this list started as mining towns, this particular ghost town started as a settlement by Chester Call.
He was a Mormon looking for a new settlement for himself and his family. His journey began in 1880 when he had the idea to create a space he could live as he pleased.
The Chesterfield Foundation currently runs Chesterfield. The foundation is an organization that actively cares for and restores the town when needed. RV sites are available, as well as tent camping sites.
In the late 1800s, the town of Wickahoney served as a popular depot and stagecoach stop in rural Idaho. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public.
Today, the majority of Wickahoney that remains is partially deconstructed as the weather has worked against the mostly lava rock structures. This town can be difficult to find as it’s off the beaten path. But once found, it offers an interesting look into life on the Idaho plains.
#8. De Lamar
Located only 6 miles from Silver City, De Lamar started as a mining town in the southeast corner of Idaho in 1888. Its time as a booming town was short-lived as it rapidly declined after 1980.
This town is unique in that, even after the mining boom calmed down a bit, it was still moderately populated until 1930. Today, De Lamar is open to the public for tours.
As with most ghost towns, watch your step while exploring the buildings and surrounding areas. They may be unsafe.
#9. Rocky Bar
Founded in 1863, Rocky Bar was a gold mining town near the Feather River. At the height of its popularity, it boasted a population of 2,500. Rocky Bar was such a popular town during its mining days that it was a potential capital for the Idaho territory.
In 1892, a fire destroyed most of the town. Today, some of the original structures still remain but are treacherous if disturbed. If you visit Rocky Bar in the near future, be sure to exercise extreme caution.
#10. Idaho City
Idaho City came about in 1862 at the height of the Boise Basin gold rush. The original name was Bannock but changed to Idaho City as the population grew.
Though a fire destroyed much of the city’s original structures, the first Catholic church in the town still stands. So are the local hotel and a few general shops.
A few buildings have been turned into museums and are open seasonally to the public. Be sure to stop by the local blacksmith shop on your way through town!
Can You Take Things From Ghost Towns?
Ghost towns can be interesting sites full of treasures from a forgotten time. The National Register of Historic Places has acquired many of the ghost towns we mentioned on this list. Therefore, the State protects them.
Because of this, it would be unwise to try to take anything from these locations. Not only does it deface the property, but it could also result in heavy fines or legal action against you. As with most things, it’s better to leave things as you found them.
Are Idaho Ghost Towns Worth Visiting?
Now that we have learned a bit more about the ghost towns Idaho offers, you may wonder if ghost towns are worth the visit. We’ll let you decide that for yourself. But on our end, we think you can’t go wrong with checking out these unique towns that seem frozen in time.
Will you put any of these ghost towns on your bucket list?
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