The only substantial town for 50 miles in any direction, Challis is an old mining camp that has grown into a miniature version of Salmon—albeit without the water or the tourists. Apart from boasting the all-time Idaho record for least rain in a year (seven inches), Challis is a quiet market center for local cattle ranchers, with more bars—and barber shops—than you’d expect of a town this small.

On the south side of Challis, at the junction of US-93 and Hwy-75, the excellent, modern Land of Yankee Fork State Park visitors center (208/879-5244, daily summer, Wed.-Sat. fall-spring) has extensive displays on local mining history and maps to guide visitors to many evocative ghost towns and other relics sprinkling the surrounding hills. Gold was first discovered in the region in the 1870s, and nearby mines and mining camps boomed for the next 25 years, though by 1905 the last mine had closed. A few gold mines have reopened in recent years, though all of these are hidden away in isolated areas and protected behind high-security walls and fences; none are open to the public.