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America’s top mountain towns offer something for just about every traveler. Many feature a variety of delights right downtown like vibrant art scenes, antique shops, tasty brews, and farm-to-table cuisine. Of course, outdoor adventures abound due to the nature of the surrounding landscape. These options in particular can be found everywhere from the west to the east, just make your pick and start booking those reservations.
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Leadville is the country’s highest incorporated city at more than 10,150 feet in elevation, tucked into the Colorado Rockies. Yet most people tend to visit popular Colorado mountain towns like Aspen and Vail. Come here if you want to avoid the glamour, glitz, and high prices, with scenery that’s just as stunning. This was one of the richest, longest-lived and bawdiest mining boom towns, with 70 square blocks of its downtown area now designated as a National Historic Landmark of Victorian architecture. There’s plenty for history enthusiasts to discover, as well as outdoor adventurers of all types, along with plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars to explore.
Located at the foot of the eastern Cascades enjoying a dramatic backdrop of mountain peaks, Leavenworth is a Bavarian-themed village that will make you think you’ve stepped into a town in the Bavarian Alps. There’s lots of ways to enjoy Bavarian culture here, including beer, brats, and more beer, traditional music, and all sorts of events. Its Oktoberfest and the Christmas Lighting Fest, which takes place throughout much of December, are the most popular.
Stowe is one of New England’s most picturesque mountain towns, a top spot for leaf-peeping in the fall with brilliant colors framing a white-spired church and covered bridge. It sits in a wide valley adjacent to Mount Mansfield, which offers a paradise for skiers. There are plenty of opportunities to hike during the warmer months, including the Pinnacle Trail that leads to the summit of Stowe Pinnacle where you can take in a panoramic view of the rugged wilderness below. You’ll find lots of venues for shopping, dining, and other attractions too.
Asheville, North Carolina
Long known as a quirky, artsy town, Asheville is in a valley surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and provides access to one of the world’s most scenic drives, the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s also famous for its live music and beer, with a long list of breweries spread throughout and plenty of delicious eats with lots of trendy farm-to-table restaurants. Urban Orchard Cider produces some great ciders and has a tasting room too. Check out the Asheville Art Museum, art studios and galleries, or combine your enjoyment of art and beer on an Art and Beer Tour through the River Arts District.
Sun Valley is famous as a ski destination (it’s the place where the world’s very first chairlifts were installed in the 1930s), but it offers activities year round that can be enjoyed while surrounded by stunning mountain beauty. There are miles and miles of hiking trails, horseback riding routes, rivers for fly-fishing, gorgeous lakes for swimming and other fun on the water, picturesque golf courses, and more. After a day of play, decadent spas offer a perfect way to relax.
Located just outside spectacular Grand Tetons National Park at the southern end of the Jackson Hole valley, Jackson is one of the country’s most magnificent mountain towns. It also offers lots in the way of dining, shopping, and entertainment along its wooden sidewalks. You’ll be faced with almost an overwhelming number of things to do, from hiking in the national park and Snake River Valley, horseback riding and mountain biking, to whitewater rafting and paragliding. Be sure to ride the aerial tram that leads from Teton Village to the top of Rendezvous for jaw-dropping vistas. The flight from the tram’s peak is the largest vertical drop in the nation.
Just an hour’s drive from Yellowstone, along the banks of the Yellowstone River, Livingston is known for offering some of the world’s best trout fishing while the surrounding mountains offer trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The downtown area hosts regional history and art museums, art galleries, shops, and saloons. In the summer, there are many festivals and events to attend like the Summerfest music festival, the Gallery Associated Art Walk, and the 4th of July Rodeo.
A mecca for outdoor adventurers, Bend is tucked between snow-covered peaks and a high desert plateau on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. There are gorgeous views around every corner and a wide range of things to do, including everything from recreational activities to shopping and brew-hopping. Check out volcanoes, waterfalls, and caves and then come back and dive into the legendary beer scene that was built on the foundation laid by Deschutes Brewery.
Nestled in a box canyon in the San Juan Mountains, Telluride has a storybook feel with its streets lined with beautiful Victorian storefronts and frontier-era facades. As there are no stoplights, billboards, or neon signs, it manages to retain its charms of bygone days, yet you’ll find plenty of hip bars and fantastic eateries to enjoy after taking advantage of the activities in the surrounding mountains. While it’s a popular ski town, in the summer, visitors can enjoy hiking to waterfalls and mining ruins.
Without a doubt, Juneau is America’s most breathtaking capital city. Perfectly made for adventure seekers and wildlife lovers, it’s surrounded by dramatic peaks, with even the downtown area backed by precipitous mountains. There are many opportunities for hikes, including trails that lead to glacier views and waterfalls, or you can get a bird’s-eye view over it all on a flightseeing tour. With countless whales, primarily humpbacks along with the occasional pod of orcas, whale watching tours are popular too. In town, enjoy the historical buildings that house unique shops and eateries.
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains surround the artsy New Mexico town of Taos, known for its rich history, distinct adobe buildings, countless art galleries, and outstanding food scene. Fly fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, hot-air ballooning, river rafting, and even llama treks are never far away and nearly always enjoyed with a mountain view.
This historic mining town in the Sierra Nevada foothills still retains its wooden sidewalks while being jam-packed with art, culture, shopping, and dining venues. There are old-time theaters, antique stores, and classic saloons. Surrounded by forests, rivers, and mountains, the opportunities for recreation among spectacular scenery are nearly endless too.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee is one of the top mountain towns for a family getaway. It’s a gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park with opportunities to hike to waterfalls like Laurel and Grotto Falls while keeping an eye out for bears too. The town hosts a thrilling mountain coaster, huge aquarium, and a host of other attractions, not to mention a long list of shops and restaurants. For a panoramic look over it all, ride the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway that stretches for two miles.
Nestled in the heart of Mount Washington Valley at the edge of White Mountain National Forest, the picture-perfect village of North Conway is an ideal base for outdoor activities and home to the famous Conway Scenic Railroad. A ride will bring you to stunning views of famous Crawford Notch Pass, which in the fall is especially dazzling with splashed of red, yellow and orange. Along the main street in town, enjoy a variety of shops in a charming atmosphere. Don’t miss Zeb’s General Store with its 0ld-time vibe that includes a candy counter, a wide array of specialty New England foods, and antique fixtures.
Hot Springs, Arkansas, is home to Hot Springs National Park, with historic bathhouses for relaxing in the famous spring water. There are miles of hiking trails spread throughout the West and North Mountain areas, with everything from easy treks to more challenging jaunts. You’ll find plenty to explore downtown too, including restaurants, bars, and shops.
The small town of Homer lies on the southern coast of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula and enjoys a backdrop of the snowcapped Kenai Mountains. Of course, you don’t only get mountains here, there are glacier views and opportunities to get out on the water too. In fact, this hamlet by the sea is considered the halibut fishing capital of the world. You might want to walk the Homer Spit, a nearly five-mile-long area extended into Kachemak Bay to take in some of the most jaw-dropping views while exploring the tide pools. In the downtown area you’ll find plenty of eateries with halibut on the menu, as well as shops, a museum, and art galleries.