Nestled in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Idaho, the Gem State, is renowned for its stunning natural beauty. From rugged mountains and dense forests to expansive lakes and rivers, Idaho’s landscape is as diverse as it is breathtaking. But there’s another, less explored side to this state. Hidden amidst its scenic vistas are a number of intriguing abandoned places in Idaho.
Once-thriving mining towns, old military bases, deserted prisons, and vacant schools dot the state, offering urban explorers a unique perspective of Idaho’s past. These silent witnesses of history, now reclaimed by nature, are testaments to the passage of time and offer captivating exploration opportunities.
Note: Many of these locations are in an extremely delicate state. Specifics on locations, such as coordinates or maps, are not given. This is done so purposefully as a barrier to entry to those who may mean harm to these spots. I want to ensure that these abandoned places in Idaho are known about, but stay as vandalism and destruction free as possible. Remember: Take only photos, leave only footprints.
Breakdown: The Top 10 and More
If you have a specific location from the list below that you would like to immediately get more information about, click the links in the list to snap straight to that abandoned places in Idaho location.
- Silver City (Owyhee County)
- Old Idaho Penitentiary (Boise)
- Farragut Naval Training Station (Bayview)
- Ovid Ghost Town (Ovid)
- Burke Ghost Town (Shoshone County)
- DeSmet Mission (DeSmet)
- Wild Waters (Coeur d’Alene)
- Atomic City (Bingham County)
- Bayhorse Ghost Town (Custer County)
- Henry’s Lake Gold Dredge (Island Park)
Broaden Your Horizons Beyond Idaho
Are you interested in venturing outside the state of Idaho? Maybe you live close to the state line, or maybe you’re just looking for adventures outside your home state. Whatever the case may be, here are some guides to bordering states that may be helpful in effective urban exploration:
Don’t Forget About Trespassing Laws
It is important when considering abandoned places in Idaho to know the basics of Idaho trespassing laws. Luckily, we have developed a massive guide to trespassing laws in all 50 states. For laws that specifically relate to Idaho, please click here.
Without any further ado, let’s hop into the list of abandoned places!
The Best Abandoned Places in Idaho
Silver City (Owyhee County)
Silver City, nestled in Owyhee County, Idaho, is a spectral remnant of the bygone era of the old West. It stands as an eerie testament to the gold and silver mining boom of the mid-19th century. What was once a bustling community, brimming with miners, merchants, and hopefuls seeking their fortunes, is now a hauntingly beautiful ghost town.
The journey to Silver City itself is an adventure, with the city lying at the end of a winding, unpaved mountain road. As one approaches, the first glimpse of the town, with its aged structures standing stark against the rugged mountain backdrop, is like stepping back in time.
The cityscape is filled with numerous original structures, more than seventy in total, that remain standing. The architecture reflects the practical yet elegant style of the late 1800s, with wooden planks and stone, weathered by time, making up the city’s skeletal framework.
The Idaho Hotel, once the heart of the community, is a striking feature of the town. Though it has been restored and operates seasonally, the hotel, with its wooden façade and grand, double-decked balcony, paints a vivid picture of the town in its heyday. Inside, the décor and furnishings, reminiscent of the era, add to the immersive experience.
A short walk through the town reveals many other structures, frozen in time. The old schoolhouse, the post office, the masonry shops, and the numerous cabins and homes each tell a silent story of a bustling past. Peering into their windows, one can almost see the shadowy figures of the people who once inhabited this place, going about their daily lives.
Of particular note are the remnants of the area’s mining history. The old mines are now dangerous and largely inaccessible, but the remaining headframes, rusted machinery, and tailing piles offer a glimpse into the industrious activity that once dominated the region. The city was once home to about a dozen ore-processing mills, evidence of which can still be found scattered around the area.
The town’s church, standing with a defiant grace against the weathering forces of time, is a poignant symbol of the community that once was. The rows of silent, weathered gravestones in the nearby cemetery offer a solemn tribute to the individuals who once called Silver City home.
How Things Look Today
Walking the deserted streets of Silver City today, surrounded by the tangible echoes of the past, one can’t help but feel a sense of awe. The silence, broken only by the occasional creak of the old buildings or the rustle of the wind, adds to the town’s mystical aura.
Despite its deserted state, Silver City is a gem for history enthusiasts and photographers. It offers a unique window into the past, standing as one of the best-preserved examples of an Idaho mining town. Visitors are reminded to respect the history and the integrity of the structures, treating the site with the reverence it deserves.
Old Idaho Penitentiary (Boise)
A visit to the Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise is a chilling step back into the state’s darker history. As a striking relic of Idaho’s Wild West days, this site served as the state’s primary correctional facility from 1872 to 1973. Standing against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountain foothills, the sandstone buildings cast an imposing silhouette that tells tales of redemption and despair.
As you approach the penitentiary, the formidable outer walls, hand-carved by inmate labor from local sandstone quarries, are an immediate indication of the institution’s stark and punitive past. The prison’s somber exterior is only a precursor to the palpable sense of history that lurks within its stone walls.
Upon entering, the facility unfurls into a labyrinth of cell houses, solitary confinement areas, and administrative structures. Each of the site’s buildings holds countless stories of the inmates who lived, worked, and, in some cases, died within them. The cells, some surprisingly tiny, stand cold and silent, their barred windows a grim reminder of their purpose.
The site is home to several distinctive buildings, each serving a unique function in the operation of the prison. The administration building, for example, houses the wardens’ offices and control room, where the prison staff maintained an ever-watchful eye over the inmates. The Dining Hall, a large room with rows of long, empty tables and benches, echoes the mundane routine of the inmates’ daily lives.
The solitary confinement area, known as “Siberia,” sends a shiver down the spine. The dark, claustrophobic cells were used as punishment for the most unruly prisoners, the heavy silence only broken by the occasional drip of water from the ceiling.
How Things Look Today
The prison’s chapel stands as a poignant contrast to the harsh surroundings. Its stained glass windows, added by the inmates in the 1930s, filter soft, colorful light into the otherwise dark and dreary prison. Here, inmates sought spiritual solace and an escape from their bleak circumstances.
A particularly chilling feature is the execution area, known as Death Row. Five of the ten executions carried out at the Old Idaho Penitentiary occurred in its indoor gallows, while the other five were completed after the addition of a chillingly clinical execution chamber. This part of the penitentiary serves as a stark reminder of the ultimate punishment meted out within these walls.
Today, the Old Idaho Penitentiary, managed by the Idaho State Historical Society, provides a haunting glimpse into the past. Tours of the facility offer an understanding of prison life in the 19th and 20th centuries, the changes in prison policies, and the crimes and punishments of the era. Despite its eerie atmosphere, the site stands as an important piece of Idaho’s historical and cultural heritage.
Farragut Naval Training Station (Bayview)
Set amidst the serene wilderness of North Idaho, the Farragut Naval Training Station in Bayview was once a bustling hub of military activity. Established during the height of World War II in 1942, this facility quickly became the second-largest naval training center in the world. At its peak, it housed over 30,000 personnel, transforming the sleepy lakeside community into a military town almost overnight.
Situated on the southern tip of Lake Pend Oreille, the station sprawled over a massive 4,160 acres of picturesque forest land. Its location was no accident; the deep, cold waters of the lake were perfect for conducting secretive submarine research and testing, a crucial endeavor during the war years.
As you wander through the site today, it’s hard to imagine the flurry of activity it once witnessed. The drill fields where young recruits marched in formation now lie empty and overgrown, a silent testament to the discipline and determination of those wartime sailors. The large parade grounds, once filled with the bustle of military exercises, are now eerily quiet, serving as an open meadow amidst the encroaching woodland.
How Things Look Today
Scattered remnants of the station’s impressive infrastructure can still be found. The massive brig and the skeletal remains of the enormous mess hall echo the enormity of the station’s operations. Ghostly outlines of the more than 770 buildings that housed the recruits, their commanding officers, and the administrative hub of the station are still discernible in the landscape.
Perhaps the most poignant reminder of Farragut’s past is the lone chapel, one of the few original structures left standing. It served as a spiritual sanctuary for the many recruits who sought solace and peace amidst the trials of training and the fear of war. Its humble structure stands as a testament to the human spirit and a symbol of faith during a time of global turmoil.
Since the station’s decommission in 1946, nature has gradually reclaimed the land. The forests have slowly encroached upon the abandoned buildings and empty streets, covering traces of the immense naval facility that once stood here. Today, the site forms part of the Farragut State Park, a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy camping, hiking, boating, and wildlife viewing.
For those who know where to look, however, Farragut Naval Training Station still provides a haunting glimpse into the past, reminding us of the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation, the vast scale of the World War II effort, and the region’s pivotal role in the conflict.
Ovid Ghost Town (Ovid)
Nestled quietly in the Bear Lake Valley of Southeastern Idaho is the ghost town of Ovid. The town, once a lively farming community, stands as a somber yet fascinating vestige of the region’s agrarian past.
Founded in the late 19th century, Ovid quickly became a home for settlers looking for fertile soil and plentiful land. At its peak, the town was a thriving hub for the surrounding farming communities. The Main Street of Ovid, although modest, was filled with people attending to their daily tasks. The heartening sound of the local school bell, the chatter from the general store, and the solemn Sunday church gatherings painted a picture of rural Americana.
Today, time seems to have forgotten Ovid. The streets once filled with horse-drawn wagons, children playing, and farmers discussing crops, are now eerily silent. The wooden structures, which include the schoolhouse, a few homes, and the church, bear the signs of decades of weathering.
The once-bustling Main Street is deserted, with only the occasional visitor passing through. The paint on the buildings has long since peeled away, leaving the stark, grey wood exposed to the elements.
How Things Look Today
One of the most poignant structures is the old Ovid School. Its once-vibrant classrooms, full of eager young pupils, now lay empty and untouched. The faded chalkboards, ancient textbooks, and wooden desks create a surreal atmosphere that transports visitors back to a simpler time. The eerie silence of the abandoned school contrasts sharply with the lively learning environment it once fostered.
Surrounding the town, the expansive Idaho farmlands stretch out in all directions, a testament to the hardy pioneers who worked this land. These open fields, once teeming with crops, are now a sea of waving grasses, their golden hues shimmering in the afternoon sun. The beauty of this scene is a stark contrast to the somber emptiness of the town itself.
Despite the desolation, Ovid retains a certain charm, a sense of peace that can only be found in places where time stands still. Exploring this ghost town offers an authentic glimpse into the past and a profound appreciation for the enduring spirit of past generations.
The buildings may be empty, but the town is filled with the echoes of history. Walking the quiet streets of Ovid is a journey into the heart of Idaho’s agricultural past and a poignant reminder of the inexorable passage of time.
Burke Ghost Town (Shoshone County)
Tucked away in the Silver Valley of Shoshone County, Idaho, the ghost town of Burke stands as a haunting reminder of the region’s once-prosperous mining industry. The town, established in the late 19th century, was once bustling with activity, its streets echoing with the sounds of mining, the chatter of miners, and the ceaseless energy of a community built on the promise of silver.
The most striking feature of Burke is its unique geographical setting. It is nestled in a narrow canyon, so tight that the town’s main street was often described as being so cramped that there was no room for a traditional town layout.
Buildings were squeezed into the little available space, resulting in a uniquely linear town configuration. One can almost imagine the scene on a busy day, with miners rushing past the tightly-packed homes, stores, and saloons, their dreams of silver wealth ever present.
The focal point of the town was the Tiger Hotel, a marvel of construction squeezed between the canyon walls and the railway that ran through the heart of Burke. At its height, the Tiger Hotel was a symbol of the town’s prosperity, its well-appointed rooms hosting miners and visiting businessmen alike.
How Things Look Today
Today, Burke is a shell of its former self. The Tiger Hotel is now a skeletal structure, its decaying rooms eerily quiet. The railway tracks that once brought countless miners and tons of equipment into the heart of the town now lay rusted and silent. The bustling energy of the town has faded into silence, replaced by an uncanny stillness that engulfs the entire canyon.
Burke’s old mine entrances are now abandoned, the once-thriving veins of silver left untouched for decades. You can still see the old mining equipment scattered around, rusting under the harsh Idaho weather. The sight of these machines, once the lifeblood of the town, standing idle in the wilderness, is a poignant symbol of the town’s bygone prosperity.
Yet, amidst the desolation, there’s an undeniable sense of resilience. The remnants of Burke speak of the tenacity of the human spirit, of miners’ courage, and the enduring allure of the American West’s mining heritage. For those who visit, the ghost town of Burke offers more than just a glimpse into the past; it’s a stark, beautiful testament to the cyclical nature of boom and bust, prosperity and abandonment.
As you walk the silent streets, past the decaying structures, under the watchful gaze of the towering Idaho mountains, you can’t help but feel a connection to the miners who once called Burke home. Their dreams, struggles, and hopes seem to echo in the canyon, bringing a deep, poignant context to the ghost town’s haunting beauty.
DeSmet Mission (DeSmet)
In the heart of the Coeur d’Alene Reservation in northern Idaho, you’ll find the tranquil, abandoned site of DeSmet Mission. Named after Father Pierre-Jean De Smet, a Belgian missionary, it was a Jesuit mission established in the late 19th century. Designed to evangelize the Native American population, it played a significant role in the region’s history.
The mission’s architectural centerpiece is the Sacred Heart Mission Church. This ornate building, now vacant, was constructed with the help of local tribal members in the 1880s. The mission church is a unique blend of architectural styles, reflecting both European ecclesiastical traditions and the tribal culture of the Coeur d’Alene people.
Its tall, pointed steeple punctures the Idaho sky, acting as a solitary marker amidst the sprawling grasslands. Once, the bell in that steeple would have echoed across the landscape, calling the faithful to worship. Now, the bell is silent, and the building stands empty. Its once bright paint is faded and peeling, and the intricately carved wooden doors remain shut.
How Things Look Today
The mission’s surrounding buildings, including the priest’s residence and schoolhouse, tell a similar tale. Their weather-beaten exteriors, hollow interiors, and the overgrown vegetation creeping up the walls speak of a time when the mission was a bustling center of community life.
But it’s not just the physical buildings that hold history. The land around DeSmet Mission carries the weight of many stories, from the early encounters between Jesuit missionaries and the Coeur d’Alene tribe to the eventual decline of the mission. Even in its deserted state, the mission grounds hum with historical significance.
For those who visit, DeSmet Mission offers a poignant exploration of faith, culture, and history. As you wander the quiet grounds, the wind rustling through the nearby trees and the distant mountains standing stoically, you can almost imagine the past lives that intersected here.
This site is a place of solemn beauty, a physical embodiment of the complex relationship between cultural preservation and change. It is a reminder of a chapter in Idaho’s history that may be gone, but is far from forgotten. Even in abandonment, DeSmet Mission stands as a powerful testament to the resilience of faith and the enduring legacy of the Coeur d’Alene people.
Wild Waters (Coeur d’Alene)
Nestled in the picturesque lakeside city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, you’ll find the once-popular summer destination now known as the Wild Waters Water Park.
This abandoned aquatic playground was once a haven for thrill-seekers and families alike, filled with laughter, high-energy excitement, and the echoing calls of lifeguards. Now, the place stands in stark contrast to its former vivacious life, offering a haunting and evocative landscape of a once-celebrated recreational spot.
At its peak, Wild Waters boasted an array of water slides, including a thrilling multi-story drop slide that provided unmatched views of the surrounding scenery before sending riders plunging into the cool waters below.
The lazy river, once the scene of countless inner tube floaters lazily drifting along its winding path, now lies empty, the flow of water replaced by an eerie silence. The children’s play area, once animated with delighted squeals and splashes, now stands deserted, the vibrant play structures faded and worn by time and elements.
How Things Look Today
As you wander the desolate grounds, you encounter the remnants of concession stands that once served up cotton candy, hot dogs, and cold beverages, a silent testament to summer memories formed and friendships forged. The ghostly lifeguard chairs overlook the dry pools, hinting at the watchful vigilance that once ensured safety and happiness.
The park’s emptiness is amplified by the contrasting backdrop of Coeur d’Alene’s natural beauty, with the distant mountains and the clear lake reminding visitors of the location’s inherent charm. The site’s tranquility can feel eerie, with the rustling leaves and occasional bird calls the only disruption to the silence.
Even though Wild Waters stands empty, the echoes of its past life are palpable. The towering, now dry, water slides rise against the sky, the once-bustling picnic areas are quiet, and the empty parking lot no longer welcomes eager visitors. Yet these abandoned spaces carry a sort of silent narrative, resonating with memories of past summer joys.
Despite its abandoned state, the site has a haunting beauty, a monument to the ebb and flow of time. It stands as a poignant reminder of the simple joys of a bygone era and a memorial to the generations of families who found respite and enjoyment within its borders. For those who remember, the quiet of the abandoned Wild Waters park may conjure echoes of laughter and joyful shouts, the ghosts of summers past.
Atomic City (Bingham County)
Atomic City, located in Bingham County, Idaho, is an evocative example of an abandoned place in the state. Once a bustling hub during the height of the atomic age, today the town serves as a stark monument to a time of scientific excitement and Cold War tensions.
The town gained its futuristic moniker during the 1950s and 1960s when the nearby National Reactor Testing Station, now the Idaho National Laboratory, was a focal point for nuclear energy research. At its peak, Atomic City was home to hundreds of workers and their families, who lived in modest houses and enjoyed community facilities, including local shops and a bar.
However, as the decades wore on, the need for the research station dwindled, and so too did the population of Atomic City. Now, only a few residents remain in the town, a dramatic departure from its heyday when the promise of atomic energy seemed to be on the cusp of revolutionizing the world.
How Things Look Today
Exploring Atomic City now is like walking through a time capsule. The largely deserted streets are lined with buildings that hark back to an earlier era. The facades of homes and establishments, now weathered by time, display the architectural designs of the mid-twentieth century.
Among the notable sights is the Atomic City Bar, its sign weather-beaten but still visible, standing as a testament to the social life that once thrived here. There’s also a derelict gas station, its pumps long silent, serving as a poignant reminder of the town’s decline.
Atomic City is surrounded by the wide expanse of the Idaho desert, adding a certain desolation to the atmosphere. The quiet here is profound, broken only by the occasional passing train, a solitary reminder of the connection to the world beyond.
Walking the streets of Atomic City, one can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia and melancholy. The relics of the past juxtapose sharply with the advancing encroachment of nature, as wild grass and desert plants slowly reclaim the town.
Yet, despite its deserted appearance, Atomic City still holds an eerie allure. Its very existence as an almost abandoned town, built and then forsaken due to changing scientific and economic winds, lends it a haunting quality. It is a stark reminder of the transitory nature of progress, and the traces of life left behind echo the story of human endeavour and its inevitable ebb and flow.
Bayhorse Ghost Town (Custer County)
Nestled in the rugged landscapes of Custer County, Idaho, the Bayhorse Ghost Town serves as a poignant testament to the rise and fall of the American West’s mining era. This abandoned mining town, once rich with the buzz of prospectors and the clinking of tools, now lays silent, enveloped by the timeless Idaho wilderness.
Founded in the 1870s during the silver boom, Bayhorse thrived as miners extracted the precious ore from the belly of the earth. The town’s population grew, and along with it, a community was built, boasting saloons, mercantile shops, a hotel, and even a stagecoach station. The town’s heyday saw the streets filled with miners, businessmen, settlers, and families, all drawn by the lure of silver and the promise of prosperity.
However, as with many mining towns of the era, the fortunes of Bayhorse were inexorably tied to the volatile nature of its primary industry. The depletion of the silver ore, combined with the fluctuating market value of silver, led to the town’s decline in the late 19th century. By the early 20th century, the mines were abandoned, and the residents began to depart, leaving behind their homes, shops, and the mines that once provided them a living.
How Things Look Today
Today, the Bayhorse Ghost Town is a captivating remnant of the past. The wooden structures, some still remarkably intact, echo with the stories of the hardy individuals who once called this place home. Time-weathered buildings, the dilapidated remains of the mill, and other structures present a stark contrast against the backdrop of the sweeping Idaho landscape.
Old mining equipment, including ore carts and tools, are scattered around the site, hinting at the strenuous labor and industrious spirit that once defined Bayhorse. Inside some of the buildings, you can still see signs of daily life from a bygone era – household items, furniture, and personal effects left behind in the rush to leave.
Exploring the ghost town, one can’t help but feel an eerie sense of the past’s presence. The town, now reclaimed by nature, has an atmosphere of stillness, occasionally interrupted by the whispers of the Idaho winds. Despite the quiet, there’s a peculiar sense of life that clings to the town, perhaps the lingering spirit of those who built and lived in Bayhorse.
Visitors to Bayhorse Ghost Town are invited to reflect on the transient nature of boomtowns and the lasting impact of human endeavors on the landscape. It’s a thought-provoking site that invites contemplation on the cycles of opportunity, growth, decline, and abandonment that have so often repeated throughout history.
Henry’s Lake Gold Dredge (Island Park)
The Gold Dredge in Island Park, located near Henry’s Lake in Idaho, is an intriguing artifact from the bygone era of gold mining, a silent witness to the toil, dreams, and aspirations of a generation of miners.
Once a roaring machine sifting through rivers and streams for the glimmer of gold, this massive structure now sits quietly abandoned, a silent symbol of a frenetic past.
Constructed in the first half of the 20th century, the dredge is a testament to the human quest for precious metals and the significant role gold mining played in Idaho’s history. The machine was designed to sift through large quantities of river sediment, sorting the heavier gold particles from the lighter sand and gravel.
A vital player in the local gold mining industry, the dredge transformed the landscape and contributed to the area’s economic development.
The dredge’s colossal scale is still awe-inspiring to this day. The machine, once equipped with a complex system of conveyor belts, buckets, and sifters, is a stark reminder of the scale of the gold mining operations and the industry’s mechanical ingenuity. A walk around the dredge presents visitors with a palpable sense of the intensive labor that went into extracting just a few precious ounces of gold.
But with the depletion of easily accessible gold deposits and the eventual decline of the gold mining industry, the dredge was finally abandoned. The massive iron and steel beast was left to rust and decay, gradually being reclaimed by nature. The elements have not been kind, but the machine’s skeletal remains are still an impressive sight.
How Things Look Today
Today, the Henry’s Lake Gold Dredge is a poignant monument to the cyclical nature of industry, a symbol of a community’s rise and fall on the turbulent waves of gold prices and resource exhaustion. The machine’s ghostly silhouette against the Idaho sky is a stark contrast to the peaceful beauty of the surrounding landscape, an ever-present reminder of a once bustling industry that shaped the region’s destiny.
Visitors to the site can enjoy not only the historical significance of the dredge but also the surrounding natural beauty. The site offers a unique blend of industrial archaeology and scenic wilderness, making it a must-visit for history buffs and nature lovers alike. The dredge at Henry’s Lake tells a story of ambition, innovation, and resilience, as well as a cautionary tale of the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in Idaho
Those who are into urban exploration in the Idaho area should get comfortable with Idaho trespassing laws. Luckily, we have developed a massive guide to trespassing laws in all 50 states. For laws that specifically relate to Idaho, please click here.
For more about obtaining permission to explore abandoned places, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission. Finally, if you are wanting to find more abandoned places in Idaho, check out my resource How To Find Abandoned Places With Google Maps.
- John Bourscheid, Killer Urbex