Idaho is one of the most underrated states in the U.S. and with its dramatic mountain views, it's easy to think otherwise. With a reputation for potato farming, it is somewhat easy to understand why not many people are clamoring to hop on a flight and head to these wide-open fields and farmlands. Those who do take the chance on this less popular tourist destination, though, will find nothing short of wonder and amazement around every river bend.
And if the mountains aren't calling you home, then it might just be Idaho's charming small towns that pull you in. Not everyone is celebrating the hustle and bustle of cities these days and if a laid-back, casual getaway is what you need, then Idaho's smallest, most scenic stops are exactly what you need. While there's no shortage of lesser-known towns to explore in a state like this, there are some that should be first up on everyone's list.
Not to be confused with Montpelier, Vermont, this Montpelier isn't even close to a city. It's a historic part of Idaho and bears great significance thanks to its location along the Oregon Trail, which was once known to be one of the most harrowing journeys in all of America. It's also close to the Utah border, so it could potentially be a great destination for anyone located in that region, as well. Thanks to more frequent flights into Boise with major airlines, many of Idaho's nearly-forgotten towns have become that much easier to visit - including Montpelier.
One of the first stops in this town should be the National Oregon/California Trail Center, which is home to exhibits that allow visitors to feel as though they're going through the motions of having traveled the Oregon Trail as it once was. When you're done riding through the wild west on a wagon train, head to the Butch Cassidy Museum. This is the last known location of the legendary outlaw, and it's also the only building he robbed that's still standing to this day. Bear Lake, another hidden gem in this region of Idaho, is only about 30 minutes outside of Montpelier. According to Fodors, the lake is often referred to as the 'Caribbean' of the Rocky Mountains thanks to its crystal-clear waters and gorgeous, sandy shoreline.
Driggs is an easy town to get to thanks to its close proximity to Jackson Hole, which is also a great vacation destination. What most people notice immediately about Driggs are the spectacular views that flank it on nearly every side. With the Teton Mountains as its backdrop, the landscape is positively dramatic, with each peak contrasting with the beautiful valley that lies before it. Those who venture outside of this mountain town will find plenty of hiking in the Teton Mountain range, with trails ranging in difficulty from easier, valley-level walks to rock scrambling elevation hikes.
The Big Hole Mountains are also worthy of a gander and offer even more outdoor activities such as mountain biking and fishing. Don't be fooled by the small size of this town, though - during the summer months, festivals abound and the entire town of Driggs comes alive to celebrate. On the 4th of July, visitors will be treated to a spectacular view that has nothing to do with the mountains, and everything to do with the hot air balloons that are flown in honor of Independence Day. And yes, for a fee, visitors can get a ride in them as well! One visit to the Teton GeoTourism Center will point visitors in the right direction and usually has information on all the town's goings-on.
This incredible small town is also home to the deepest river gorge on the continent, also known as Hell's Canyon. Its depth is lower than that of the Grand Canyon and the views from the surrounding area are absolutely breathtaking. This isn't the only recreational spot, though - Lewiston is full of hiking adventures and even water sports. In Hells Gate National Park, visitors have the option to board a boat and take a tour of the Snake River, whose rapids are not for the faint of heart.
If extreme outdoor sports aren't quite your thing, then consider visiting one of Lewiston's many vineyards, which is another thing the area is known for. Many of them are award-winning and great views can be had from any tasting room. When you've had your fill, explore the local history of the area and learn about the Nez Perce, also known as the Nimiipuu people, who were very generous to explorers Lewis and Clark when they came through the area centuries ago.