The American West has to be one of the most beautiful regions on the globe. From the time of the earliest pioneers to the gun-slinging cowboys of legend, the towns of the West have developed a certain charm and mystique that can’t be matched anywhere else. Check out these lesser-known communities that embody the spirit of the West.
1. Black Hawk, Colorado
This gambling town is a historic mining settlement founded in 1859 during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush. Today, the Black Hawk is home to only 118 permanent residents, making it the least populous town in Colorado. Besides the great casinos (it has more than Atlantic City, New Jersey), Black Hawk provides visitors with a glimpse into the mining history of the state.
2. Pioche, Nevada
This is one of Nevada’s most historic towns, and it offers some great dining to boot. The Historic Silver Cafe, a home-style restaurant, is the longest standing restaurant in the area. A few popular menu items include handmade tacos and Philly steak sandwiches. Pioche also offers several other tourist attractions, including Boot Hill, the Million-Dollar Courthouse, and the Thompson Opera House.
3. Moab, Utah
Mountain biking is a big deal in Moab—some claim it has some of the best trails in the world—in addition to rock-climbing and hiking. And the location, with its stunning crimson peaks and arches, is to die for. This is the place to go if you’re an adrenaline junkie looking to set up your base camp in a charming small town. There’s only one main street in Moab, but the sense of community is really strong.
4. Las Cruces, New Mexico
Nestled between the dramatic Organ Mountains to the east and the powerful Rio Grande to the west, Las Cruces is home to a number of fine art galleries, museums, a thriving music scene, and beautiful desert landscape all around. This place is also known for its insanely nice weather: Las Cruces averages about 350 days of clear blue skies per year.
5. Jackson, Wyoming
There’s pretty much no outdoor activity that you can’t do here. Whether you prefer to walk, hike, swim, ride, sled, ski, or even catch a lift in a hot air balloon, Jackson is a great place to visit. Besides its close proximity to Grand Teton National Park, this town is surrounded by epic scenery and offers some great downtown spots, like their historic movie theatre and the Rusty Parrot Spa.
6. Stanley, Idaho
This place is teeny when it comes to population (there are only 63 residents at last count), but it’s big on beauty. Set against the jaw-dropping background of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, you come to Stanley for the sweeping panoramic views of Idaho’s choicest cuts of nature. When you're done exploring, make the Sawtooth hotel your quaint and cozy base camp.
7. Kanab, Utah
A little bit campy, a little bit Wild West, and a bunch of beautiful. Kanab is surrounded by some of the most stunning landscapes in Utah, and it knows it. While in town, you’ll find gloriously tacky tourist traps, retro-style lodgings, and even some recreated Western film scenery. If you like kitsch AND incredible views, this is where you want to go. While you’re in Kanab, check out the nearby Best Friends Animal sanctuary, or the gorgeous Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.
8. Greybull, Wyoming
This small town is filled with flowers, campers, and old-fashioned charm. Strolling through the town, it might be hard to tell what decade you’re in. You’ll find charming houses with trellises of colorful blooms, a cheerful downtown, and lots of cute places to pick up one-of-a-kind knick knacks. During your visit, be sure to stay at the historic Greybull Motel and grab a hot slice at CC’s Pizza.
9. Deadwood, South Dakota
In addition to having a name that is straight out of an old Western film, Deadwood has strong ties to actual famous historical events. Buffalo Bill met his end in this little town, and visitors can visit the final resting places of he and Calamity Jane, among other notable characters. Many of the hotels have movie props from famous Western films, and each hotel has its own modern casino. There are plenty of opportunities to learn about the history of the West, or just kick back and enjoy the small town charm of Deadwood.
10. Breckenridge, Colorado
If you’ve heard of Breckenridge, you’re probably a skier. Tucked into the majestic Rocky Mountains, this little hamlet does offer some grade-A slopes and powder, but there’s a lot more to be had here as well. Breckenridge has an adorable downtown area, complete with historic architecture and speciality food shops. It’s also a great place to go hiking, fishing, and try your hand at some white water rafting. Though the area has become a bit more resort-oriented in the past few years, people who are unfamiliar with Colorado should definitely put Breckenridge on their hit-list.
11. Alma, Colorado
When you walk into a bar in Alma, you’re treated like a regular. But that might have something to do with there being only one bar in all of Alma. Don’t let that scare you off, though. Besides a gorgeous location, Alma has that old-fashioned, slightly tacky feel that guarantees you and your family will feel like locals in no time. There’s plenty of hiking, climbing, and horse-riding to be had, and the town’s quirky-nature is sure to charm you. Head to nearby Wheeler Lake for a breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside.
12. Bozeman, Montana
A quaint and well-maintained small Western town, Bozeman is chock-full of history and charm. Wild horses can frequently be seen roaming the outskirts of town. This town’s historic theater, The Ellen, was built in the early 20th century and remains a favorite local haunt. Check out Yellowstone National Park while you’re out there, or hit up nearby Burke Park if you don’t have time to tackle Yellowstone but still want an adventure.
13. Ketchum, Idaho
You might surmise from the name, Ketchum is a great place for fishing. The rural community has been largely untouched by the increased tourism in the area, and retains its old-fashioned charm even as its art and music scene blossoms. The town’s official motto is “Small Town, Big Life,” and there’s no better way to describe Ketchum. Check out nearby Bald Mountain for some world-class skiing and hiking.
14. Wallace, Idaho
Wallace is a historic city in the Panhandle region of Idaho. “City” might be a bit of an overstatement – Wallace has a population that hovers around 750 people. An old silver mining town, the community still centers around a painfully adorable Main Street. Inexplicably, on September 25, 2004, Mayor Ron Garitone proclaimed Wallace to be “the center of the universe.” Specifically, a sewer access cover was declared to be the precise location of the center of the universe. A specially made manhole cover was made to mark the spot. If you’ve always dreamed of having all of creation revolve around you, I guess visiting Wallace might just be your big break.
15. Monowi, Nevada
According to the 2010 census, Monowi is the smallest town in the United States. How small? There is just one permanent resident. Uno. Elis Eiler is the lone resident of Monowi. She acts as mayor, granting herself a liquor license and paying taxes to herself. She is required to produce a municipal road plan every year in order to secure state funding for the village's four street lights. In 2004, Elsie founded a 5,000-volume library in memory of her late husband, Rudy Eiler. In addition, Elsie runs a tavern in Monowi and draws regular customers from far and wide.
Have you visited any of these charming Western towns? Know of any others? Leave us a comment!