Custer, Idaho is riddled with the hints of its former activity, like iron mining equipment rusted to a halt in overgrown grass and bullet holes in the poker table left after a skirmish.
Custer grew out of the various mineral rushes of the 1870s. After a grass fire destroyed the nearby town of Bonanza, Custer grew even more populous. It was just a one street town, but it was stirring with men, women, and children. However, as the mining industry dried up and gold was was more scant, the town was deserted.
But thanks to a 1981 designation as a historic site, the ghost town was saved from obsolescence. Significant portions have been restored and docents are on site during the summer to provide historical information. A few private cabins, the town schoolhouse, and the Empire Saloon have been restored and maintained in their 19th century state. The saloon no longer offers libations, and docents have water for sale but nothing else, so carry food and water if you plan to stay a while.
Know Before You Go
Turn of off Highway 75 at Sunbeam (on the route between Stanley and Challis) and follow the gravel road nine miles. Leave time to stop at the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge on the way to Custer, where docents tell the story of how the dredge was built and operated. For a truly "Idaho" experience, take the old Custer Motorway from Challis through the mountains (high-clearance vehicle recommended but not required).