The 25 Best Mountain Towns in the U.S.

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Right about now, we could all really use a magical trip to the mountains. Think: fresh air, rugged trails, the smell of marshmallows roasting over an open fire and cozy cabin rentals. What’s more, a high-altitude escape may actually be closer than you realize—like within driving distance. From old standbys such as Aspen and Stowe to a few spots you’ve probably never even heard of (what’s up, Hamburg?), these are the best mountain towns in America.

The 12 Most Charming Small Towns in South Carolina

best mountain towns stowe vt
Mark Vandenberg

1. Stowe, Vt

  • Getting There: 45 minutes from Burlington International Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: scenic views, ultra charming

Nested at the foot of Mount Mansfield, Stowe is a quintessential New England town and everything you’d want in a Vermont getaway. In terms of outdoor attractions, there are ski slopes, backcountry trails, waterfalls and The Current’s annual outdoor sculpture show. While the cute little downtown area has wonderful shops, restaurants, breweries and inns.

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best mountain towns jackson hole wy
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2. Jackson Hole, Wy

  • Getting There: Fly into Jackson Hole airport
  • Why We Recommend It: tons of outdoor activities, Old West flair, close to national parks

What’s not to love about Jackson Hole? This tourist mecca thrills visitors with its spellbinding natural beauty, rustic charm (how about those iconic shed antler arches in the town square?), high-end hotels, ski areas and access to not one but two national parks. After exploring you’ve definitely worked up an appetite, head to Glorietta for handmade pasta and locally sourced wood-fired meats.

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best mountain towns aspen co
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4. Aspen, Co

  • Getting There: 20 minutes from Aspen/Pitkin County Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: renowned skiing, luxury shopping, lots of arts and culture

Few places (if any) manage to marry the rustic and refined quite like Aspen. Of course, the slopes are killer. But you can find epic skiing all over. People go to Aspen for more than snow-capped peaks. The upscale shopping, ritzy resorts, award-winning dining and après scene really set this legendary resort town apart from the rest.

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best mountain towns gatlinburg tn
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4. Gatlinburg, Tn

  • Getting There: 1 hour and 16 minutes from McGhee-Tyson Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: things to do all year round, tons of hiking trails

The fabled gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg in eastern Tennessee is a playground of outdoor adventure. No matter the season you visit, there’s always something active (and totally awesome) to do—from hiking and whitewater rafting to skiing and snowshoeing when the temperature drops.

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best mountain towns banner elk nc
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5. Banner Elk, Nc

  • Getting There: 1 hour 52 minutes from Tri-Cities Regional Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: great food, quaint town, lots of wineries

Even the name Banner Elk just sounds rustic doesn’t, it? This picturesque alpine village in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains certainly fits that description. Best of all, it puts an array of outdoor activities within arm’s reach. For avid skiers, Beech Mountain Resort lies to the north. Just outside of town, you’ll find trails and the famous mile-high swinging bridge.

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best mountain towns hood river or
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6. Hood River, Or

  • Getting There: 1 hour from Portland International Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: scenic hiking, lots of breweries, farm-to-table eats

Named after the nearby Hood River, this small town in Oregon isn't actually a high-altitude destination. The reason it earned a place on our list is its location within the Cascade Range. Mount Hood casts an imposing shadow. It also provides ample opportunities for hiking, biking and soaking in scenic vistas. Lest we forget the wineries and craft breweries just outside of town.

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best mountain towns north conway nh
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7. North Conway, Nh

  • Getting There: 1 hour 32 minutes from Portland Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: great ski town, family friendly, outlet shopping

“Live free or die" is the official motto of New Hampshire. Freedom to do whatever you want—as long as that falls within the category of climbing rock faces, hiking rolling hills, skiing Bretton Woods, swimming in crystal-clear lakes, rafting on the Saco River, playing golf, shopping along Main Street and perusing art galleries—well, that’s exactly what awaits in North Conway.

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best mountain towns leavenworth wa
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8. Leavenworth, Wa

  • Getting There: 40 minutes from Pangborn Memorial Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: European vibes, tons of outdoor activities

You might be surprised to learn there are actually a handful of Bavarian-style towns across the country—though none more authentic than Leavenworth in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. Between the alpine-style building, German restaurants, beer halls, ski slopes and the Nutcracker Museum, you might forget you’re still in America (especially after a few pints). Leavenworth is basically like a trip to Germany with no passport required.

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best mountain towns bar harbor me
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9. Bar Harbor, Me

  • Getting There: 22 minutes from Hancock-County Bar Harbor Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: family friendly, tourist favorite

Bar Harbor is the perfect home base for exploring Acadia National Park. (We’d highly recommend catching the sunrise from the overlook at Cadillac Mountain.) More than just a place to rest in between treks, this utterly enchanting seaside village treats visitors to fresh-caught local lobster, strolls along the craggy coastline, whale watching and, of course, oodles of Down East charisma.

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best mountain towns lake placid ny
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10. Lake Placid, Ny

  • Getting There: 16 minutes from Saranac Lake Adirondack Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: great eateries, fall foliage, lots of cold weather sports

With its unique mix of peaceful Adirondack ambiance, gorgeous scenery and adrenaline-rush activities, Lake Placid is certainly a contender for the best mountain town in America. Soak in the views from the eight-passenger Cloudsplitter Gondola. Unwind with a relaxing walk around Mirror Lake. While thrillseekers can go bobsledding at the Olympic Complex (Lake Placid hosted the Winter Games in 1980).

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best mountain towns telluride co
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11. Telluride, Co

  • Getting There: 1 hour and 29 minutes from Montrose Regional Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: lots of skiing, vibrant night life

It’s no secret that Colorado has so many awesome alpine towns. But Telluride is just a cut above the rest. Protected by the snow-capped San Juan Mountains, this mining hub turned four-season vacation destination entices travelers with its abundant recreation—skiing, snowmobiling, hiking, biking and fly fishing—plus Victorian-era architecture, Old West character (ahem, saloons) and events like Telluride Jazz Fest.

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best mountain towns sun valley id
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12. Sun Valley, Id

  • Getting There: 26 minutes from Friedman Memorial Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: uncrowded ski slopes, lots of history, upscale vibe

Sun Valley is hailed as the birthplace of resort skiing in North America. (Chair lifts were actually installed back in the 1930s.) Today, it remains one of the most sought-after spots to hit the slopes in the country. Besides conquering advanced runs (or bunny hills if that’s more your speed), be sure to visit the pedestrian-friendly village and the Sun Valley Museum of Art.

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best mountain towns big sky mt
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13. Big Sky, Mt

  • Getting There: 57 minutes Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: lots of adventure sports, tons of bars

With a name like Big Sky, you’d guess this storied spot in the Rocky Mountains of southern Montana is going to be a place of wild, untamed wilderness. That’s totally accurate. Yellowstone National Park lies to the south of town, which means you’re only a short drive from hot springs, geysers, canyons and forests. While Big Sky Resort boasts 6,000 skiable acres.

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best mountain towns eureka springs ar
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14. Eureka Springs, Ar

  • Getting There: 1 hour and 11 minutes from Branson Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: quaint town, great hiking trails, access to hot springs

Eureka, we found the best alpine town in Arkansas. (Corny, but it’s true!) Set in the Ozark Mountains, Eureka Springs lures stressed-out travelers with its natural springs. You can destress with a steamy soak morning, noon or night. In between trips to the bathhouse, be sure to check out the boutiques, art galleries, museums, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and Thorncrown Chapel.

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best mountain towns mammoth lakes ca
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15. Mammoth Lakes, Ca

  • Getting There: Fly into Mammoth Yosemite Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: great skiing terrains, lots of lakes

No roundup of mountain towns would be complete without Mammoth Lakes. Situated within the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, this dazzling destination offers visitors more fun-filled activities than you could possibly pack into a single trip. Enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, boating and rock climbing in the summer. Winter brings the chance to try snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

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best mountain towns homer al
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16. Homer, Al

  • Getting There: Fly into Homer Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: friendly, scenic views, bear viewing

Located at the southern end of the 138-mile-long Sterling Highway, near the Kenai Mountains, Homer has us hook, line and sinker. Yes, that’s a fishing pun. But that’s because “the Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea" is the ultimate spot to catch halibut. It’s also great for boating, bird watching, sipping local brews and seeing volcanic peaks across Cook Inlet.

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best mountain towns blue ridge ga

17. Blue Ridge, Ga

  • Getting There: 1 hour and 52 minutes from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: cool weather, vibrant arts scene

One of the most charming small towns in Georgia, Blue Ridge, just 90 miles north of Atlanta, feels like a remote and far-flung refuge of alpine pursuits. Hike the trails that bisect the 106,000-acre Chattahoochee National Forest, go white water rafting on the Ocoee River, cast a line in the trout-filled streams and ride the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.

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best mountain towns lewisburg wv
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18. Lewisburg, Wv

  • Getting There: 10 minutes from Greenbrier Valley Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: historical landmarks, vibrant arts community, great restaurants

If loving (almost bordering on obsession) Lewisburg is wrong, we don’t want to be right. With a thriving arts scene, antique stores, quaint cafes, tours of Lost World Caverns, shows at the Greenbrier Valley Theatre and a slew of interesting historic sites, can you really blame us for getting so pumped about this darling West Virginia town?

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best mountain towns taos nm
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19. Taos, Nm

  • Getting There: 1 hour and 26 minutes from Los Alamos County Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: lots of cultural heritage, tons of outdoor adventure

In need of some soul searching? Add a rejuvenating trip to the New Age mecca of Taos to your shortlist. This New Mexico gem stirs the senses with a mashup of the mystical, natural and wellness-driven activities. With a population of 5,960 residents, there are more heart-opening and muscle-burning activities than people. Is that an over exaggeration? You be the judge.

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best mountain towns park city ut
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20. Park City, Ut

  • Getting There: 43 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: small-community feel, cultural hub

Surrounded by the Wasatch Range, Park City is a winter tourism darling that leads the charge in skiing and snowboarding, well, depending on who you ask (if it’s us or the thousands of snow bunnies that visit each year, they’d totally agree). Its other major claim to fame? The Sundance Film Festival. Devotees also rave about the many restaurants, bars and shops.

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best mountain towns truckee ca
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21. Truckee, Ca

  • Getting There: 1 hour 46 minutes from Reno-Tahoe International Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: renowned logging town, tons of water sports

California has so many great mountain towns, but Truckee ranks at the top of our list of all-time favorites. This salt-of-the-earth North Lake Tahoe destination doesn’t fall victim to the touristy trapping of some of its neighbors. Instead, it welcomes visitors with open arms and loads of backcountry appeal. When the decision is between hiking, paddle boarding and walking around Old Town, there’s no wrong choice.

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best mountain towns jim thorpe pa
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22. Jim Thorpe, Pa

  • Getting There: 46 minutes from Lehigh Valley International Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: small town vibes, scenic parks

Tucked away in the Poconos Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania, Jim Thorpe is the perfect escape from the pressures and stress of everyday life. Equal parts history and natural beauty, it serves up attractions like the Asa Packer Mansion, Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary, Jim Thorpe Memorial and Stonekeep Meadery with a side of small-town hospitality.

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best mountain towns bottineau nd

23. Bottineau, Nd

  • Getting There: 1 hour and 18 minutes from Minot International Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: small town vibes, lots of outdoor activities

Perched at the foot of the Turtle Mountains, Bottineau invites visitors to channel their inner outdoorsman (what exactly that means is really open to interpretation). Plan a canoe excursion through the lakes and wetlands. Fishing for walleye and cooking ‘em up over an open fire feels very off-the-grid. When snow covers the ground, it’s all about embracing the untouched terrain and making your tracks.

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best mountain towns custer sd
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24. Custer, Sd

  • Getting There: 1 hour and 2 minutes from Rapid City Regional Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: historic town, holds one of the largest bison herds in the world

The slogan, “minutes, not miles, from adventure,” pretty much sums up a trip to the former mining town of Custer. The crown jewel of South Dakota’s Black Hills puts visitors within spitting distance of Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore, Black Elk Peak and Jewel Cave National Monument, the third-longest cavern in the world.

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best mountain towns hamburg nj

25. Hamburg, Nj

  • Getting There: 1 hour and 16 minutes from Newark Liberty International Airport
  • Why We Recommend It: lots of antique shops, family friendly

The Garden State is more closely associated with beaches than mountains. And while that’s certainly an accurate characterization, it leaves out the likes of Hamburg. What can you expect from this under-the-radar town near the New Jersey stretch of the Appalachian Trail in addition to great hiking? Golf and wine tasting, plus goat yoga at Crystal Springs Resort.

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