Nothing is 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. In the warmer months, hiking, rafting, fishing, and mountain biking take over. The best mountain towns go beyond recreation, however, offering great restaurants, lodging options, and cultural activities. Whether you're looking for a relaxing spa getaway, amazing culinary experiences, or epic outdoor adventure, this list will guide you to the best mountain towns in the U.S. Read on and plan your next getaway.
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, 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 dining 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. Other of Gadd's local favorites include Big Wood Bread, The Kneadery, Warfield Distillery and Brewery, The Covey, and Enoteca.
2. 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 gives 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 2023, 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, downtown Breckenridge is extremely walkable while a free gondola takes you up the mountain and free buses are available to take you virtually everywhere else.
3. Stowe, Vermont
Amar Hussain of 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. Just don't leave town without trying some of the famous apple cider.
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4. 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."
5. 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 says. "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."
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." She 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."
6. 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, the area is also a great destination for antiquing.
7. 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."
He also suggests visiting the historic Biltmore Estate—a stunning mansion built by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s." Asheville is also 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.
8. 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." Park City is also home to a historic Main Street filled with inviting shops, galleries, and restaurants.
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9. Jackson, Wyoming
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. Also not to be missed is the National Museum of Wildlife Art located near the National Elk Refuge.
10. Helen, Georgia
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 hamlet looks and feels like it's 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.