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Small Town Travels

Southwest Idaho’s full of hidden gems. Don’t miss out on these small towns. They’ve got big celebrations — and big fun.

Donnelly

Jet Skiing on Lake Cascade

Situated north of Cascade, and just south of McCall, this fun, cozy town is your gateway to the ultimate alpine adventure.

Skiing fanatics can’t miss Tamarack Resort, a mountain littered with secluded runs and powder stashes. Nordic skiers and snowshoers will love exploring the miles of pine-studded tracks at the base of the mountain.

In the summer, swim, fish, boat, and camp along the shores of Lake Cascade. Or you can head up into the mountains to explore. Afterward, visit Gold Fork Hot Springs for a soak in their tiered pools.

A mile outside of town you’ll find Roseberry, an old Finnish settlement that’s now a ghost town. It comes back to life every summer with cowboy auctions, antique fairs, and picnics. The high point of the summer is the Summer Music Festival. Launched in the 1970s, the festival still stays true to its hippie roots with local and national acts, vendors, activities, and groovy dancing.

The other highlight of the year is Donnelly’s annual Huckleberry Festival. The huckleberry is Idaho’s state fruit for good reason, and Donnelly celebrates by painting the town purple the second weekend of August. You’ll find huckleberry ice cream, lemonade, candy, syrup, and cocktails, all made by local artisans. A small-town festival wouldn’t be complete without a pie-eating contest! Other festival highlights include concerts, vendors, parades, bull riding competitions, and a 5k fun run.

local’s tip: Don’t miss the event that started the tradition — The Huckleberry Pancake Breakfast.

Complete your visit with a night at the Ashley Inn, where vintage coziness meets luxury accommodation.

Emmett

Get your cherry fix at the Emmett Cherry Festival

Slow down and take it easy in this tiny agricultural community nestled by the banks of the Payette River. Tranquil, bucolic — the perfect countryside escape.

Life in Emmett shifts with the seasons. The fields and orchards are bursting with fresh produce — there’s a reason they call it the “valley of plenty.” Visit in the fall to pick your own apples, then head to the historic downtown district for the Harvest Festival Street Fair. Hayrides, games, and local artisanal goods — it’s quintessential small-town fun.

The crowning jewel of Emmett’s agricultural season is the Emmett Cherry Festival. It’s a tradition stretching back to the 1930s. Every year in mid-June, 55,000 visitors descend on Emmett for the four-day festival. Parades, carnival rides, concerts, and contests abound. And at the center of it all are Emmett’s exquisite cherries. Cherry pies, cherry jams, fresh cherries by the bucket — heaven.

local’s tip: The highlight of the festival is the cherry pit spitting contest, where kids and adults compete for the longest spit of a cherry pit.

Round out your stay in Emmett with a night at Frozen Dog Digs Bed & Breakfast. This modern ranch structure in the valley’s foothills is famous for its gourmet breakfasts made with local produce.

Glenns Ferry

The Snake River is known for its world-class fishing.

Once the site of the most treacherous river crossings on the Oregon Trail, today Glenns Ferry is a charming community full of history and recreation.

In the summer, it’s home to the Elmore County Fair & Rodeo. The event features fairground classics like carnival rides and live music, as well as a rodeo with bronc and bull riding competitions.

At the heart of the Glenns Ferry community is the Three Island Crossing State Park. Spend your day hiking, fishing, and birdwatching along the network of riverside trails. On your tour of the park, you’ll spot original wagon ruts and Conestoga wagons. Their Oregon Trail History and Education Center offers interpretive exhibits on pioneers, early settlers, and Native history.

local’s tip: Class up a camping trip by reserving one of Three Island Crossing’s guest cabins.

Melba

Check out our Off Roading Guide for other great places to go ATVing.

Further down the Snake River at the base of the Owyhee Mountains is Melba, a tiny agricultural town with a big history.

Outdoorsmen will love Melba’s surroundings. Fish in Melba’s streams and boat the river, or head for the hills to hike or ride. Our pick? Water skiing the Snake River.

Melba is the home of Idaho’s only archeological park. Celebration Park sits on the banks of the Snake River, the site of a huge field of basalt melon gravels deposited by the prehistoric Bonneville flood. Raptors from the neighboring World Center for Birds of Prey soar overhead. Petroglyphs adorn the boulders, some carved up to 10,000 years ago. Sign up for a guided tour or interpretive program to learn all about Paleolithic lifeways and Idaho’s ancient roots.

local’s tip: Don’t miss out on every Southwest Idahoan’s favorite field trip memory — throwing darts with a Paleolithic atlatl.

Camp for the night at Celebration Park’s campground. Huddling by the campfire underneath a sky of brilliant stars, you’ll feel miles away from hectic modern life.

Garden Valley

Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

Welcome to the whitewater capital of the world. This tiny unincorporated township is full of opportunities for adventure.

Sleigh rides in the winter. An off-road ATV stampede in the summer. Hot springs and outdoor adventures all year long. The best of Idaho’s natural beauty is right at your fingertips, and local guides and outfitters will steer you off the beaten track.

Local’s tip: When you’re ready to wind down from a long day in nature, take in a show at Starlight Mountain Theatre for backcountry live entertainment.

And that whitewater we mentioned? Garden Valley sits on the banks of the South Fork of the Payette River, where whitewater fanatics play all summer. The Payette River system is nationally famous for its rapids, and no Idaho trip would be complete without a rafting expedition.

But whitewater can also be a spectator sport. Sightseers gather from all over for the North Fork Championships. Every summer the top competitive kayakers in the world gather on the Payette to compete for the title of Extreme Kayak World Champion. It’s a weekend full of adrenaline rushes and wild parties.

Staying overnight? Don’t miss the opportunity to bunk at Terrace Lakes Resort. Tucked into the Boise National Forest and complete with hot springs and a golf course, it’s a can’t-miss.

Idaho City

Photo Credit: Idaho City Chamber

Travel back in time to a city preserved in Idaho’s gold rush era. Located less than 40 miles northeast of Boise, historic Idaho City features well-preserved wood and brick buildings that were bustling with miners, traders and others as far back the mid-1800s.

Today, Idaho City Days celebrates its history in a weekend-long event of carnival games, historical buildings tours, music, poetry reading, cider pressing, and other events.

Weiser

This trail stretches 84-mile long and passes through the towns of Midvale, Cambridge, and Council.

Once upon a time, it was part of the Wild West, complete with saloons and outlaws. Nowadays this small ranching town is chock-full of countrified fun.

One of Weiser’s best-kept secrets is the Weiser River Trail. The old Pacific and Idaho Northern Railroad was transformed into an 84-mile trail through the river landscape. The trail is well-known for its wildlife, especially among local birdwatchers. It’s perfect for day hikes or even multi-day bikepacking trips.

Every June, visitors flock to the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest and Festival. Hundreds of fiddlers around the country come to compete. In between rounds of hoedowns and waltzes, the fiddlers play jam sessions late into the night. Watch folk music performances, the parade, carnival, and the legendary battle of the bands.

local’s tip: Treat yourself to a visit to Weiser Classic Candy and chow down on their signature Fiddlesticks.

Spend the night at Galloway Inn Bed & Breakfast in the historic downtown.

This is just a small handful of great small town festivals and experiences. Southwest Idaho is made up of even more year-round events. If you would like help planning your next trip, reach out to us.

Not done partying yet? Check out our guides to the McCall Winter Carnival and the Treefort Music Festival.

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