The 12 Best Mountain Towns in the U.S.
THE BEAUTIFUL TOWNS WITH GORGEOUS VIEWS ARE GREAT TO VISIT ALL YEAR ROUND.
There's nothing like a trip to the mountains—where fresh clean air, endless possibilities for recreation, and breathtaking vistas await. During the winter, the majority of mountain towns revolve around activities like skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding. Don't overlook the summer months, though, as you'll take in views while hiking or biking across rocky terrain. The best mountain towns go beyond recreation, however, offering great restaurants, lodging options, and cultural activities. There are amazing towns in the Western "mountain states," but you'll also find destinations in the Midwest and even on the East Coast on this list. Read on to find out which 12 mountain towns travel experts say are the best.
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The Most Beautiful and Fun Mountain Towns in the U.S.
1. Ketchum, Idaho
Ketchum is famously the home of Sun Valley Resort, one of the most beautiful and historic ski resorts in the country.
"Ketchum, Idaho offers visitors a different kind of mountain town experience complete with scenic views, culinary delights, and fewer crowds," says Ray Gadd, director of marketing and PR at Visit Sun Valley. Ketchum is surrounded by five mountain ranges: the Pioneer Mountains, Boulder Mountains, White Cloud Mountains, the Sawtooth Range, and the Smoky Mountains, which includes Bald Mountain, also known as the "crown jewel of Sun Valley."
"Bald Mountain, or 'Baldy' as the locals call it, can be viewed from nearly any vantage point in town and is a mecca for mountain biking during the warmer months and skiing in the winter," says Gadd. "For a culinary experience with unparalleled mountain views, don't miss the opportunity to dine atop Bald Mountain at The Roundhouse." The food is amazing, but you might enjoy the gondola ride getting up to the on-mountain restaurant even more.
Others of Gadd's local favorites include Big Wood Bread, The Kneadery, Warfield Distillery and Brewery, The Covey, and Enoteca.
2. Lincoln, New Hampshire
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Another must-see mountain town is Lincoln, New Hampshire. According to Samantha Hamilton, creator and writer behind New England Wanderlust, there's no bad time to visit Lincoln, and you'll never run out of things to do.
"This little town is nestled in the White Mountains region, and is accessible to all the best things to do in the area," Hamilton explains. "Close by, you'll find Franconia Notch State Park, which is home to the famous Artist Bluff hiking trail, the iconic Flume Gorge, and the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway—the first of its kind in North America!"
Wait until autumn to visit and you'll find spectacular foliage along Kancamagus Highway, commonly known as just "The Kanc," Hamilton adds. "There's access to waterfalls, hiking trails and breathtaking scenic overlooks of mountain vistas."
If you're a skier seeking a getaway, Lincoln has plenty to offer in the department as well. "In the winter, Loon Mountain has one of the best ski resorts in New Hampshire, and a 10-minute drive away in South Woodstock is the magical Ice Castles," Hamilton explains, referencing the "award-winning frozen attraction" built by professional ice artists, per the Ice Castles website.
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3. Winthrop, Washington
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The West Coast is known for its stunning mountain views, but the town of Winthrop is particularly beautiful, Jessica Schmit, of the travel blog Uprooted Traveler, tells Best Life.
"The small town of Winthrop is tucked away in the Northern Cascades of Washington, surrounded by some of the most dramatic mountainscapes in the United States," she says. "The town itself is adorable, with Wild Western-facades and antique wooden boardwalks in its charming downtown."
But just outside of this cozy hamlet, there's even more to do and see, Schmit says—and you don't need to travel too far to take advantage of it.
"The real magic lies beyond Winthrop's borders, with some of the country's best hiking and backpacking opportunities just a short distance from town," Schmit says. "Come winter, there's still plenty of outdoor adventures to be had, from backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, or Nordic skiing. Best of all, the town generally flies under the mass tourism radar, so you'll get to experience Winthrop's incredible amenities without the crowds."
In March, you're in for a treat during Winthrop's annual Hot Air Balloon Roundup, where dozens of hot air balloons are launched over a three-day stint. And of course, the North Cascades serve as a breathtaking backdrop.
4. Breckenridge, Colorado
Part of the appeal of Breckenridge stems from the fact that it was a gold mining town long before it was a resort town. The many historic buildings located along its charming Main Street give Breckenridge a quaint feel.
"Breckenridge is a very welcoming mountain town," says Ashley Tepen of Hello Trail. "Step into any shop, restaurant, or bar, and they will make you feel like a local. Walking up and down Main St. Breck can provide hours of entertainment, not to mention the view of the ski slopes you get to enjoy all day long. No matter what time of year, Breckenridge is full of adventure. Whether you want to go hiking, biking, skiing, or snowboarding, or just want to kick back."
Tepen is also a fan of Breckenridge's many regular events. "Year-round Breckenridge hosts numerous festivals like the International Snow Sculpture Championships at the end of January, the Breckenridge International Festival of Arts, the Breckenridge Film Festival every fall, and one of the country's most popular Oktoberfests help cement Breckenridge as one of the best mountain towns in the U.S."
As an added bonus, it's extremely easy to get around Breckenridge without a car since shuttles like the Epic Mountain Express bring you straight from the airport. Once you arrive, you won't have trouble either: Downtown Breckenridge is walkable, a free gondola takes you up the mountain, and free buses are available to take you virtually everywhere else.
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5. Stowe, Vermont
Amar Hussain, founder of the travel blog Only Wanderlust, believes Stowe, Vermont, deserves a place on a list of the best U.S. mountain towns. "Of all the mountain towns in North America, Stowe, Vermont, has to be among the most stunning," he says. "Its church steeple dominates the skyline, second only to the vast array of mountains located all around the town. The town itself is located in almost a bowl-like opening in the mountain, making it a true hidden gem."
Along with Stowe's undeniable beauty, the community is also a hotspot for outdoor recreation. "The town is a haven for ski enthusiasts in the winter months, although I'd recommend taking a fall trip as the views of the surrounding trees are truly breathtaking," says Hussain. "It's a popular destination among hikers and walkers, too, as there are an endless array of places to explore and conquer."
For cultural activities, Hussain recommends the Noyes House Museum for a one-hour tour highlighting the lifestyle in Stowe during the 19th century.
6. Olympic Valley, California
The Lake Tahoe region is known for clear blue waters, snow-capped peaks, and a collection of some of the most alluring mountain towns in the country. Andy Chapman, President & CEO of Travel North Tahoe Nevada says it's hard to pick a single town among so many jewels, but he encourages visitors to check out Olympic Valley, California.
"[The town] offers the full Tahoe experience to match with your vacation preference," he says. "Whether it's enjoying world-class skiing or mountain biking and hiking, there's something for each type of traveler to enjoy, no matter their skill level. The strong sense of community is what makes travelers feel at home in our beautiful region and the magnitude of things to do keeps them returning."
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7. Bisbee, Arizona
Heather Kasvinsky, of This Noshtalgic Life, can't say enough things about Bisbee, Arizona. "Nestled into the Mule Mountains in the southwestern portion of Arizona lies Bisbee, one of the most charming and quirky destinations in the state," she gushes. "Bisbee is a picturesque mountain town with a rich copper mining history chock-full of beautifully eccentric residents. Artists, writers, and musicians abound here making it a well-known community of creative people."
As for the weather—who says mountain towns need to be cold and snowy?
"Bisbee is located just 10 miles from the border of Mexico and enjoys moderate temperatures year-round," adds Kasvinsky. "The historic center, Old Bisbee, evokes the feeling of stepping back in time. Downtown, visitors can sit outside at the Bisbee Coffee Company to mingle with locals and take in the town's culture. It's the perfect place for people-watching."
Kasvinsky then suggests strolling around the town to check out the "never-ending maze of old concrete staircases leading to other streets and residences that make the landscape of this town so unique."
8. Sevierville, Tennessee
Sevierville, Tennessee is best known as the hometown of Dolly Parton and the home base for visitors to the awe-inspiring Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Amanda Marr, director of Marketing and Communications of Sevierville Chamber of Commerce says, "Sevierville is a great place to experience the mountains. From ziplining and hiking one of America's most visited national parks to taking peaceful, historic drives to scenic vistas, there are plenty of unique ways to celebrate nature."
In addition to Sevierville's abundance of outdoor activities, shoppers will be thrilled, as the area is a great destination for antiquing.
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9. Asheville, North Carolina
"Asheville, North Carolina is one of the best mountain towns in the United States," says Larry Snider, VP of Operations of Casago Vacation Rentals. "It's surrounded by North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains and combines outdoor adventure with quaint mountain town charm. Asheville also offers a vibrant art scene and is surrounded by gorgeous hiking trails."
Snider suggests visiting the historic Biltmore Estate—a stunning mansion built by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s." Looking to unwind a bit? Asheville is one of the best U.S. cities for beer lovers, thanks to a thriving brewery scene and continues to make a name for itself as a great destination for foodies.
10. Park City, Utah
Matt James from Visitingly.com is quick to recommend beautiful Park City, Utah, as one of the best mountain towns in the U.S.
"Park City is one of the most popular ski towns in the U.S., and it's also a great place to visit in the summer," he says. "The town is home to the world-famous Sundance Film Festival, but you can also enjoy hiking, biking, and golfing in the summer. In the winter, you can hit the slopes at the Park City Mountain Resort or the Deer Valley Resort."
Beyond just enjoying the mountains and the scenery, rest assured that Park City is home to a historic Main Street filled with inviting shops, galleries, and restaurants.
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11. Jackson, Wyoming
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James also encourages visitors to schedule a trip to Jackson, Wyoming.
"Jackson is a classic western mountain town situated near the Grand Teton National Park," he says. "The town is home to a vibrant arts scene and is a popular destination for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and skiing. In the winter, you can also enjoy dog sledding, snowmobiling, and ice skating."
While you're in Jackson, be sure to have your picture taken underneath the famous antler arches downtown. Another stop that's not to be missed is the National Museum of Wildlife Art located near the National Elk Refuge.
12. Helen, Georgia
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You might have to pinch yourself to make sure you're not dreaming when you set foot in Helen, Georgia. Alanna Koritzke of Periodic Adventures says the little village looks and feels like it's been picked out of in Europe.
"Helen is a unique mountain town because it's really a Bavarian-style village in the South, which sounds like an oxymoron," she says. "The architecture, food, and activities are European and will make you feel like you were transported to Germany."
According to Koritzke, the best time to visit Helen is in Autumn for their lively Oktoberfest celebration. She adds that the winter holidays are also very popular because the town square is decorated and full of lights.