Idaho City – Idaho City, Idaho - Atlas Obscura

Idaho City

Idaho City, Idaho

A former gold rush boomtown has managed to stay in business for over 100 ramshackle years. 


In the 1860s, Idaho City was one of the Old West’s largest gold rush mining towns, with a staggering population of over 7,000 residents. Though its population has plummeted, the half-ghost, half-real town still survives today.

During the American gold rush, more than $250,000,000 worth of precious metal was mined from the nearby Boise Basin, turning the frontier outpost into a bustling mining mecca with more than three dozen saloons and two dozen law offices. While most pop-up towns of its ilk have been lost to time, Idaho City still thrives more than 100 years after its founding.

The gold rush days may be long gone, but much of the boomtown atmosphere still lingers, to the delight of visitors. From the Idaho World Building to the old schoolhouse to the old Pioneer Cemetery full of headboards telling intriguing tales from the past, the historic city offers a wealth of landmarks and artifacts for the curious.

Visit Idaho City, and you can stroll along the planked boardwalks that formerly rang beneath the boots of rough-and-tumble miners or walk by the “Merc,” where it once cost a pinch of gold to buy an apple. On a walk through the town, curious explorers can peek through the bars of the old jail, where desperadoes carved their names into the thick wooden walls, or stop by the Boise Basin Museum’s excellent collection of gold rush memorabilia and gain a new understanding of life in the 1860s. 

Today, Idaho City caters to its tourist population as well as acts as a jumping off point for a number of outdoor recreation opportunities. Be it precious metals or precious tourism dollars, the boom times are far from over in this town. 

Know Before You Go

Idaho City is easily accessible via State Hwy 21, just 45 minutes northeast of Boise. The GPS coordinates and address lead to the Idaho City Visitor Center.

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