The Best Ghost Towns to Visit in Idaho

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De Lamar, Silver City, Bayhorse, and Burke are just a few of Idaho’s most notable ghost towns. These destinations each have an interesting history, and visiting them takes you through some of Idaho’s beautiful countryside scenery.
Idaho is packed with ghost towns. Abandoned areas across the Gem State were predominantly founded by miners who hoped to strike it big but abandoned the area when the industry died down.
These long-silent sites are known as ghost towns for a reason: due to their isolated locations and run-down status, they can be challenging to visit.
Use the car insurance super app Jerry to find the perfect coverage as you explore off the beaten path in De Lamar, Silver City, Bayhorse, and Burke. 
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De Lamar 

View of mountains from ground level with the snow mountains reflected in a clear lake.
Mountain Range Idaho

What is the story of De Lamar?

De Lamar was built in 1888 and is named after its founder, Joseph DeLamar, a former sea captain.
Due to DeLamar’s inventiveness, the town flourished quickly and became moderately wealthy as large amounts of silver were discovered in the neighboring Owyhee Mountains.
De Lamar saw a quick boom and an even quicker decline. Residents began to move away to search for new job opportunities and better prospects as soon as the mining boom subsided. 
Remaining residents left in a second wave of abandonment after 1914, when WWI dropped the price of silver and severely hurt the industry.
While some buildings have survived, many have been destroyed by fires. De Lamar now occupies roughly 1,600 acres and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

What makes De Lamar special?

Although much of the town is in ruins, there are still a few intriguing spots to see:
  • The remains of the mill
  • A number of cabins dating back to the town’s founding
  • The nearby creek
Pro Tip Some of the remaining structures sit on the private property of an open-pit mining operation, so keep your eyes peeled for signs and make sure you’re not trespassing as you explore!

How to Visit De Lamar 

De Lamar lies near the western border of Idaho, with the largest nearby city being Nampa. It’s about a two-hour drive between the two locations.
If you’re heading to De Lamar from Nampa, get on the ID-55 S and follow it until you reach US-95 S
From there, continue on Yturri Blvd until you reach Long Ridge Road and Silver City Road.
This route will take you through the small town of Jordan Valley, Oregon, where you can stock up on gas, food, and other essentials.

Silver City

A view from a hill at the ghost town Silver City, surrounded by trees and greenery.
Silver City Ghost Town

What is the story of Silver City? 

One of Idaho’s largest mining towns became one of the best-maintained ghost towns in the state, if not the country. In 1864, silver was discovered in nearby War Eagle Mountain, and aptly-named Silver City was established.
At the peak of its popularity, Silver City was home to 2,500 residents, more than 300 houses, and 75 businesses. Thanks to its size, the town was one of the first places in what would become modern-day Idaho to have a telegraph and newspaper office.
The Battle for Poorman Mine took place here. The conflict began when a non-resident claimed that a prolific mining vein wasn’t under the jurisdiction of Silver City, but the town’s founder disagreed. Miners scrambled to get as much money as they could before the case was settled.
As the mines inevitably closed, they left prospectors, suppliers, and mine owners without work. Most residents left in search of better prospects and more mining opportunities elsewhere. 
Even so, not everyone left the prosperous mining town. In fact, a majority of the area’s remaining residents are direct descendants of the original Silver City settlers.

What makes Silver City special? 

The remaining residents of Silver City have worked to keep surviving structures well-maintained and safe for visitors to explore.
You can stay at the Idaho Hotel seasonally (May-October) for an authentic, historic experience
  • Visit Pat’s What-not Shop for books, souvenirs, and local mineral samples.
  • The Silver City Fire & Rescue Store also has local art, antiques, gifts, and more
  • Various other run-down buildings and structures date back to the founding of Silver City

How to visit Silver City 

Silver City is located only 30 minutes east of De Lamar, so it’s easy to design a road trip that stops in both locations!
To get to Silver City from Nampa, take ID-44 S and ID-78 E to Silver City Rd. From there, follow Silver City Rd to Washington St to arrive at your destination.
Keep in mind that the town is only officially open to visitors between May and October, so make sure to plan your visit during these months.

Bayhorse

Three horses on the lower-left staring together to the right in a field during a dust storm with clouds overhead and mountains in the background.
Windstorm in Idaho with horses

What is the story of Bayhorse?

First founded in 1877, Bayhorse was once a hot spot for gold, silver, and lead mining operations. 
As the population grew, so did the town. Over the next few years, a number of saloons, assay offices, banks, boarding houses, a Wells Fargo building, a post office, kilns and mills, and two cemeteries were constructed in Bayhorse.
However, tragedy soon struck. First, a section of the town was burned down. Soon after, there was a water shortage.
Bayhorse struggled to recover from those challenges, and the town’s numbers gradually dwindled until the area was abandoned in the 1920s.

What makes Bayhorse special? 

Bayhorse is one of the state’s best-preserved ghost towns, and it’s said to be the first of its kind along the Salmon River. Here are a few sights worth seeing:
  • The remains of the Bayhorse Saloon and Tram Base
  • The ruins of charcoal kilns
  • Old cabins and houses
  • The Bayhorse Cemetery
If there are any areas with visible fencing, do not go past the barrier—these areas have high concentrations of toxins from the silver mining that once occurred, making them dangerous to human bodies. 

How to visit Bayhorse

Bayhorse sits about 14 miles southwest of the city of Challis, where you can stock up on gas, food, and other supplies before heading out to explore.
To reach Bayhorse, head south on US 93 until you reach Idaho State Rd 75. Turn right onto Bayhorse Creek Rd and continue for about three miles to reach Bayhorse.

Burke

View of entrance to an old silver mine surrounded by grey dirt.
Old silver mine

What is the story of Burke? 

Burke was initially founded in 1887 and was home to the famous Hercules Mine, which was renowned for its massive silver resources. It’s also situated in a unique spot—the middle of a canyon. 
Burke had some interesting architecture, including a railroad that ran through the lobby of the Tiger Hotel.
As the mining town grew, tensions grew among workers fighting mine conditions, culminating in uprisings like the Coeur d’Alene Labor Strike. In 1892, union miners went on strike and mine owners retaliated by hiring nonunion workers, even recruiting armed guards to protect them. 
Striking miners eventually invaded the mines and engaged in armed fights with the guards, resulting in the dynamite-fueled destruction of a mill.  
Multiple natural disasters, including an avalanche, flooding, and fires, compounded with the decline of the mining industry, led to the eventual abandonment of the town.

What makes Burke special?

Burke is a particularly eerie ghost town because many of the town’s imposing structures are still intact. 
  • The remains of the railroad tracks still run through the town
  • Brick buildings and structures
  • An unmarked cemetery
  • The remnants of Burke’s unique architecture, including the cave-like holes carved into the side of the mountain where residents once lived
Make sure to stay out of any caves or wellings, as they are too dangerous to explore safely.

How to visit Burke 

The closest starting point to Burke is the nearby town of Wallace. Head there first to stock up on gas and food or stay the night at a hotel.
To get to Burke from Wallace, get onto Front St/I-90BUS/The Harry F. Magnuson Wy and continue onto ID-4 E/Burke Rd. Turn right onto Shifter Hills to arrive in Burke.

Why you need good car insurance

Visiting ghost towns can make for a spooky experience, but you shouldn’t let the prospect of difficult road conditions deter you. Make sure to shop for a protective car insurance policy before embarking on any adventures.
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