Idaho City is one of the coolest day trips from Boise, and one of the closest cities to Boise that is preserved in the Gold Rush era in Idaho. The city offers history, shopping, eating, hiking, and even swimming. Here are our favorite things to do in Idaho City, Idaho.
Click the links below to skip to any of the following sections:
History of Idaho City
Shopping on Main Street
Swimming at the Idaho Hot Springs
Visiting Placerville, Idaho
History of Idaho City, Idaho
Idaho City currently has a population of 485, but believe it or not, they were the most populated city in the entire Pacific Northwest at one point.
The city was founded in 1862 during the Boise Basin Gold Rush, which happened shortly after the California Gold Rush. During that decade, there were more than 200 businesses in Idaho City and a population of more than 20,000. As the gold in the area dried up, so did the people in town. By 1870 the population of Idaho City was below 1,000 people.
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Idaho City is located only around 40 miles from Boise but can take a little more than an hour on a nice day. The road is windy, but beautiful, and makes it a great a day trip from Boise.
Main Street in Idaho City is still very much intact and you can stroll along the streets and see the mix of history and current shops. It is a great place to shop for antiques or local crafts and artistry. We would also suggest visiting the Boise Basin Museum, a look at the city and area’s history and how the Gold Rush affected everyone in the area.
Directions from Boise to Idaho City
To get to Idaho City from Boise:
- Follow ID-21 (Warm Springs Blvd.) in Boise past Lucky Peak Reservoir
- Continue onto ID-21 for 40 miles (you will need to take a left at around Mile 9 to continue onto ID-21) until you reach Idaho City
Shopping on Main Street in Idaho City
Shopping on Main Street in Idaho City is one of the most fun things to do in town. The town is made up of plenty of shops to last a whole day, including antique shops and those by local craftsmen.
If you are looking for a new piece of unique furniture, jewelry, clothing, or really any kind of antique you could want, Idaho City makes the perfect day trip from Boise. You can park at the end of Main Street and walk all the way down, ending at Sluice Box, an eclectic antique store.
Eating in Idaho City
There are plenty of Idaho City restaurants to fuel you up after a long day of shopping.
The Idaho City Historical Area is home to a few restaurants and saloons, including Diamon Lil’s Steakhouse & Saloon, The Gold Mine Bar & Grill, Trudy’s Kitchen, and don’t leave without getting some ice cream from Sarsparilla Ice Cream Parlor & Gift.
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Every single bar and restaurant in town is full of history and eclectic decorations that make it more than just a meal.
Hiking near Idaho City
Just like the rest of the state of Idaho, a good hike is never too far away — and Idaho City is no different.
Just minutes outside the center of town, you can find beautiful hikes for all levels, including the Charcoal Gulch Hike, which will take you around two hours round trip.
According to the Boise National Forest Service, elevations in the area range from 3,200 to 8,800 feet. Make sure you are hiking to your ability, because rangers in the Idaho City Ranger District cover more than 400,000 acres. In the area of Idaho City, there are trails for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, motorized activities, skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and plenty of other activities.
Swimming at the Idaho Hot Springs
The Springs is a natural hot springs in Idaho City that you can visit most of the year. Many areas of Southeast Idaho are built above natural hot springs, and Idaho City has taken these hot springs and made them into a beautiful and peaceful destination to visit — as a day trip from Boise or as an overnight stay.
The Springs is a pool to bring your kids or as a relaxing date trip — they have family days and adults-only days, so choose the day that is right for you. They do require reservations in advance, mostly to make it so it’s not too full, so make sure you visit their website beforehand.
If you’d like to stay overnight, the Springs has a resort called Inn at the Pines.
Placerville, Idaho became a town around the same time, and for the same reason, as Idaho City. Although it never got nearly as big as its counterpart, it was also home to thousands of miners at one point and holds a lot of history.
If you are taking a day trip to Idaho City, I would suggest making a stop in Placerville on your way home. The drive will give you a beautiful trip through the forest, and you will end up in Horseshoe Bend on your way back to Boise.