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Custer Historic Mining Town: Challis, Idaho

History, ghost town and wilderness combine to form the perfect afternoon adventure.

Custer historic mining town

Custer Historic Mining Town, Challis

Custer Historic Mining Town is exactly what it sounds like, a glimpse into yesteryear and an era that spurred development out West. Located in the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park, this is a wonderful afternoon trip for the entire family. Camp nearby or just go for a leisurely retreat to this ghost town.

Visitors to Custer have the opportunity to tour Pfeiffer House (a wealthy family home from the era) the Assayer’s Office (where they used to weigh the gold), McKenzie House (he ran a salon in town and owned a livery stable), the blacksmith’s barn, the Custer School House (where is the museum is located), the Empire Salon (the gift shop) and a couple other little cabins such as the prospector cabin, an opportunity to go in and view how people lived when they were searching for gold.

The Yankee Fork Mining District netted $13 million worth of minerals that was extracted from the area, 40 percent of that was gold. Custer really blossomed after a fire in 1897 tore through nearby Bonanza, another mining town. Buildings still remain in Bonanza, about two miles from Custer, but due to their dilapidation, they are not open to the public. The District’s heyday was from 1875 to 1917 when the minerals began to dry up.

During peak time, Bonanza had 600 people in 1881 and Custer housed about 342 people in 1900. Today, in 2012, there is not a soul living up there. In the 1960s, there was a gentleman who did live in this area and helped create the preservation of this area.

Visit Custer on July 14th, 2012 for the annual Custer Day. The town does reenactments of cooking techniques from the turn of the century and offers food for visitors and a look back into the glory days of Idaho’s prosperous mining towns. Visitors are bused into the ghost town on this one day to ensure there is space for everyone.

Between Bonanza and Custer, there is also Yankee Fork Gold Drudge, people can take tours through this facility with original workers from the 1940s and 1950s. They refurbished everything and made it into a museum — or ATVs can access the town on the Custer Motorway Adventure Road from the town of Challis.

The town is open to visitors seven days a week starting Memorial Day and running through Labor Day. Park hours are 10 am until 5 pm and guided tours, a slide show and gold panning are all available.

More about Custer Historic Mining Town

Location: 24424 Highway 75, Junction of Highways 75 and 93, Challis, Idaho 83226

Phone: 208.879.5244


Image courtesy of Visit Idaho

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