Discover The Coldest Place In Idaho

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Written by Brandi Allred

Updated: February 27, 2023

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Idaho might be famous for its potatoes, but you won’t believe just how cold the coldest place in Idaho can get. Ranked as the 14th largest of all the states, Idaho’s geography runs from plains to high mountains. This western state is located in the Intermontane West; it shares a small northern border with Canada. Despite its huge area, Idaho is home to under two million people, many of whom live in Boise, the state capital. 

Obsidian is technically the coldest place in Idaho even though it’s slightly south of the town of Stanley.

You won’t be surprised to learn that temperatures in Idaho can reach drastic lows. Winter weather can become extreme, leading to dangerous roads as well as fantastic skiing opportunities. Here, we’ll discover all there is to know about the coldest place in Idaho. We’ll also explore where the coldest temperature ever recorded in the state occurred. Additionally, we’ll find out just how much it snows, and where, in this massive state. Then, we’ll see what there is to do in Idaho’s coldest place. Finally, we’ll rank the top five coldest spots, and see how they compare to number one on our list.

The Coldest Place In Idaho

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The town of Obsidian is the coldest place in Idaho.

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Many places in Idaho are cold, but, are they the coldest place, on average? Here, we’ll define the coldest place in Idaho as the place with the lowest annual average temperature. By that metric, the town of Obsidian is the coldest place in Idaho. Obsidian has an annual average low temperature of just 35 degrees Fahrenheit (F). While many regard Stanley as the coldest place in the state, the official coldest place on average is actually Obsidian, which is just a few miles south of Stanley.

Idaho is a land of mountains and valleys, with an extreme range in latitude. The warmest places in the state are those that are located in low-elevation valleys. Unsurprisingly, higher elevation places, like Obsidian (elevation 6,780 feet), have generally lower temperatures. Other cold places in Idaho include Stanley, Island Park Dam, Chilly Barton Flat, and Sun Valley.

The Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded In Idaho

Idaho is home to one of the coldest temperatures ever recorded in the Lower 48. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Idaho is -60 degrees F. This astoundingly low temperature was recorded on January 18, 1943, at Island Park Dam. Located in the lower eastern corner of the state (near the borders of both Wyoming and Montana), Island Park Dam is responsible for Island Park Reservoir. Both the dam and reservoir can be accessed via HWY 20, in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. 

Additionally, Stanley, Idaho is frequently named one of the coldest places in the state. Stanley’s reported coldest-ever temperature is a frigid -52 degrees F. But, not even a number that low can beat out Island Park Dam for the coldest place in Idaho.

History Of Obsidian

The town of Obsidian is located just a few miles south of Stanley. Both towns are surrounded by three national forests: Boise National Forest to the west, Sawtooth National Forest to the south, and Salmon-Challis National Forest to the north. Moreover, both Obsidian and Stanley lie along the course of the Salmon River, which flows between towering mountain ranges on all sides. 

While there’s not much to say about the history and development of Obsidian (the town largely consists of a parking lot with a few buildings), there are notable landmarks nearby. These include Redfish Lake, which is a popular destination both for its picturesque waters surrounded by mountains and for water recreation, as well as the town of Stanley. 

Obsidian: Wildlife And Ecology

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Mountain goats have hooves that act like suction cups.

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The forested mountains and flat valleys of central northern Idaho are home to a stunning array of wild creatures. The largest of these include elk, mountain goats, black bears, mule deer, antelope, and even the occasional moose. Smaller animals you might catch sight of include badgers, pine martens, foxes, beavers, porcupines, wolverines, raccoons, and chipmunks. The area is also home to plenty of birds, including various species of owl, eagle, crane, hawk, and heron. You can even find sockeye salmon in nearby Redfish Lake. 

Things To Do In Obsidian

You won’t find much to do in Obsidian, the official coldest place in Idaho. But, the surrounding mountains have plenty to offer for anyone interested in outdoor activities. Many people start their Idaho adventure in Stanley, which is home to several places to stay, as well as a few restaurants. Nearby campgrounds (accessible in summer months) include the Sockeye Campground, Salmon River Campground, Casino Creek Campground, Basin Creek Campground, and Stanley Lake Campground. 

Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho

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If camping isn’t really your style, you might want to check out Redfish Lake Lodge. From there, you can enjoy hiking around and swimming in the lake. But, if your tastes are a little more urban, you’ll have to make the three-hour drive to Boise.


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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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