Bucket List November 16, 2021
These 19 Marvelous Mountain Towns Across The Country Are Calling Your Name
While we love a good
coastal vacation or lakeside getaway, there’s nothing that quite compares to a mountain retreat. The crisp, fresh mountain air; the unbelievably beautiful scenery of snow-capped peaks and fir-covered knobs; the inherently charming and festive feel of the town itself — there’s something that’s simply magical about the mountains. And the U.S. is one wondrous, mountainous region: the West is known for its Rockies and Tetons; the mid-Atlantic has the Smokies and Blue Mountains; the Pacific Northwest, the Cascades and Olympic Mountains; the East Coast is home to the Adirondacks and Berkshires, while the Midwest has the Ouachitas and Appalachians. And, let us not forget our outlier to the North, with its majestic Alaska Range. The mountains are calling your name; the only question is: which of these marvelous mountain towns across the U.S. will you visit first?
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
Up in the Last Frontier, there's a mountain town that's quite possibly the most breathtakingly beautiful in the United States. The small town of
is located on the southern coast of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, which is one of the bustling regions of the state. Despite its size, Homer maintains a distinct small-town vibe; its quaint downtown features art galleries, a museum, numerous eateries, and even a few lodging options, making it a desirable destination in the state. Plus, visitors can head to the Homer Spit -- a nearly five-mile-long area that extends into Kachemak Bay -- for a range of only-in-Alaska adventures, including fishing charters, kayaking excursions, and more. And, of course, the nearby Kenai Fjords National Park provides some of the best glacier and wildlife viewing in the state, making Homer the perfect base camp for your epic Alaskan adventures.
Leavenworth, WA 98826, USA
You'll feel as though you've been whisked away to the German Alps when you visit
, one of the most enchanting towns in the Pacific Northwest. While outdoor options abound in this part of the country, Leavenworth really is a cultural hub for those looking for the perfect
experience. Here you'll find German specialties, including sausages, schnitzel, sauerkraut, pastries, potato salad, and of course, plenty of beer. During the winter, visitors can enjoy skiing, ice climbing, sleigh rides, and more; but don't discount Leavenworth in the warmer months, as the town has access to incredible rafting, river tubing, and hiking.
Hood River, Oregon
Hood River, OR 97031, USA
With its majestic mountains, lush forests, and sublime shoreline, Oregon is Pacific Northwest living at its best. While Portland is easily the most well-known city in the state, and the Oregon Coast is, well, the Oregon Coast, if it's a
you're seeking, escape to
. This mid-sized mountain town is home to some of the region's best outdoor recreation, breweries and wineries, and farm-to-table dining, offering guests the best of the PNW in a picture-perfect package. In terms of lodging, the Columbia Cliff Villas boast some of the best views in Oregon, from the majestic mountains to the mighty Columbia River.
Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley, ID 83353, USA
Don't overlook Idaho's mountainous prowess; people travel from all over the country to ski at the superlative Sun Valley. This famous mountain town in central Idaho is legendary; it's where the world's first chairlifts were installed in 1936, helping to cement its status as a modern ski resort destination. (In fact, the
oldest resort in America
is in Sun Valley!) Here you'll find an abundance of winter activities to enjoy, from skiing and snowboarding to even sleigh rides and ice skating during the holidays. If you visit during the warmer months, there are myriad outdoor activities to enjoy, too, from hiking and horseback riding to fly-fishing and golf, making Sun Valley an all-around appealing destination anytime of the year.
Situated near Yellowstone National Park
Big Sky Resort,
is the perfect home base for your adventure in Big Sky Country. When you're not trekking through the iconic national park or hitting the nearby ski slopes, you'll want to spend time downtown, which is home to numerous restaurants, attractions, and accommodations that truly offer something for everyone. The Main Street Historic District is so picturesque, it looks like the setting for a movie; and in fact, parts of "A River Runs Through It" were filmed in this marvelous Montana mountain town.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming 83001, USA
Jackson, Wyoming, is located in one of the most resplendent regions of the country, surrounded by mountains and expansive national park land.
During the winter
, this area truly comes alive; skiing at the world-famous Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is something that belongs on any outdoor enthusiast's bucket list. Of course, that's not to discount Jackson during the warmer months; in the summer, visitors can soak up the fresh mountain air at nearby Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, two more must-visit destinations for your bucket list, in fact!
Mammoth Lakes, California
This scenic Northern California town sits within the Sierra Nevada mountain range and offers a near-endless array of activities and outdoor recreation for visitors of all ages. Vacationers flock here to traverse
Mammoth Mountain's 150 ski trails
and take advantage of its cross-country skiing paths, tubing park, and snowmobiling excursions. Mammoth Lakes is also a popular summertime vacation destination for those wishing to explore Yosemite National Park, as it's a quick drive from the park's east entrance. In addition, warm-weather visitors can go rock climbing, hiking, swimming, boating, and kayaking at the town's beautiful mountains and lakes, making Mammoth Lakes a perfect mountain escape for year-round fun and adventure.
Park City, Utah
It doesn't get more
iconic American mountain town
than Park City, Utah. Known as one of the
top ski destinations in the country
, Park City is a veritable playground for winter sports enthusiasts. But this world-renowned acclaim comes with a tradeoff; more than three million people visit this quaint little mountain town annually, making it a hub of activity year-round. The energy in this mountain town is infectious, however, and once you visit and see the lights of Park City illuminated against the grandeur of its surrounding ranges, you'll fall head-over-heels for this enchanting and very special place.
A place of sublime natural beauty, Telluride is a serene Old West town that's sure to capture your heart. From its historic downtown, the massive, snow-capped San Juan peaks seem to rise up into the clouds; these mountains
Telluride. Winter recreation aside (and it's epic, by the way), visitors can't help but want to spend their time strolling through the streets of downtown Telluride, with the legendary Last Dollar Saloon and New Sheridan Hotel must-visits in town. Oh, and Telluride's public transit system is a gondola, putting the charm quotient for this
Colorado mountain town
completely over the top.
A trip to Vail, Colorado, will make you swear you've left the states and been transported to a quaint European town. Founded as the base village for Vail Ski Resort in 1966, this Colorado locale is peak
, with beautiful lodges, world-class attractions, and an amazing district of shops and restaurants. But Vail is so much more than a wintertime retreat; this Colorado mountain town has broken free from the ski town stereotypes, hosting unique festivals, building a vibrant business district, and positioning itself as a
superlative, year-round destination in the U.S.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Lauded as one of the
top vacation cities in the world
, New Mexico's state capital is a place of immense beauty and history. Santa Fe was founded in 1609, making it one of the oldest towns in the country. It's an open (history) book for visitors; Santa Fe is home to both the oldest house and oldest church in the U.S. In addition to its fascinating history, the town is one of the most beautiful the West. Surrounded by colorful, beautiful mountains, Santa Fe offers visitors an abundance of year-round adventures, from skiing (of course!) and snowboarding to rock climbing, hiking, and wildlife viewing.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
With its iconic Victorian architecture and winding streets, you'd be hard-pressed to find a town as incredibly charming as this Natural State gem. The
entire city of Eureka Springs is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
, making this mountain town a favorite for historians, too. Of course, that's not to discount the outdoor recreation in this area; Eureka Springs has everything from zip lining, cave tours, and boat excursions to scenic hikes and adventures in the awe-inspiring Arkansas Ozarks.
Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA
One of the most visited and
iconic mountain towns in America
, Gatlinburg is a place that needs no introduction. So instead allow us to wax poetic about this Tennessee treasure. A massive aquarium, mountain coaster, and abundance of attractions and restaurants make Gatlinburg one of the country's most unique and family-friendly destinations. And in terms of mountains, Gatlinburg sits beside the world-famous Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so needless to say, outdoor activities abound. The Smokies are a wonderland of hiking trails, waterfalls, and wildlife; however, if you're not a hiker, the Ober Gatlinburg Tramway is an exciting and accessible way revel in the majestic mountain scenery.
Helen is perhaps the most surprising of America's mountain towns; this charming little locale feels much more
. With just a small population of fewer than 1,000 residents, Helen offers a small-town experience that feels, quite literally, worlds away from everything. In this charming mountain town, you'll discover classic Bavarian architecture and restaurants serving German favorites like schnitzel, soft pretzels, and, of course, great beer. Kids are sure to enjoy the town's mountain coaster, water park and riverfront beaches, while adults will enjoy hiking in beautiful spots such as Raven Cliffs Wilderness Area and Smithgall Woods State Park. Of course, we wouldn't blame you if you simply want to revel in Helen's delightful downtown, which is so charming, it served as the setting for a
Lifetime Channel Christmas movie
Asheville, North Carolina
Surrounded by the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville, North Carolina, combines epic outdoor adventure with mountain town charm. The city boasts a vibrant arts scene and delightful mix of quirky eateries and acclaimed restaurants; the region is also home to beautiful wineries and world-renowned attractions (see:
). Of course, the area's
is in a league all its own, with the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding Asheville and offering visitors unparalleled outdoor recreation, adventure, and scenery.
Harpers Ferry - West Virginia
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425, USA
Known as the Mountain State, West Virginia is home to some of the most charming mountain towns in the country; and
is quite possibly the Platonic ideal of mountain towns. The site of John Brown's Raid, a key event in the prelude to the Civil War, Harpers Ferry is home to a historic district with 100 buildings dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. When you're finished your historical tour of Harpers Ferry, it's time to revel in the town's abundant outdoor attractions. The options here are endless: go hiking, fishing, or whitewater rafting at the 3,660-acre Harpers Ferry National Park, located in the Blue Ridge of the sprawling Appalachian Mountains. Regardless of how you choose to experience Harpers Ferry, this unassuming West Virginia town will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression.
Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid, NY 12946, USA
Upstate New York is full of charming accommodations in the midst of beautiful landscapes, but it’s hard to top Lake Placid. Full of top-tier amenities and surrounded by spectacular views, it’s one of the best places in the Empire State to visit if you’re looking for a stellar family vacation or romantic weekend in the mountains. No matter when you visit, you'll be positively enchanted: Lake Placid is a snowy wonderland in the winter and a picturesque outdoorsy escape in the summer. For a truly bucket-list experience in Lake Placid, check into
Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa
. The epitome of luxurious mountain getaways, this resort features a private beach, complimentary boats, world-class spas, top-rated restaurants, and Insta-worthy accommodations, all in one of the most resplendent regions of the country.
picturesque Vermont mountain town
is a vision, and while the fall foliage tends to steal the seasonal spotlight, Stowe is truly beautiful all year long. This gorgeous mountain town is rife with opportunities for outdoor activities like skiing and ice skating in the winter, hiking in the summer, and epic leaf peeping in the fall. If you're seeking a classic mountain town experience, Stowe Mountain Resort offers some of the best skiing and riding on the East Coast. You'll find a great selection of varied terrain, parks, glades, and state-of-the-art facilities, including their elegant ski village, for an experience of Stowe that's truly bucket-list level.
Bar Harbor, Maine
quaint mountain town on Maine's iconic coast
is nothing short of magical. Known primarily as the gateway to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor is a delightful destination in its own right. The idyllic town boasts an abundance of bed-and-breakfast accommodations, charming local shops, and a plethora of fresh seafood restaurants -- many of which overlook the ocean. Visitors to this Maine village will also enjoy wandering along Frenchman Bay, admiring classic lighthouses, and exploring the area via the land or water. Of course, with regard to Acadia, the park's unique mountain attractions -- such as an overlook at Cadillac Mountain where you can be among the first in the country to watch the sun rise -- are truly bucket-list worthy, and all the more reason to make Bar Harbor, Maine, your next mountain town getaway.
Life can be such a hectic, busy blur. A trip to the mountains is a grounding and life-affirming experience sure to leave you refreshed and rejuvenated. And these bucket-list-worthy mountain towns across the U.S. offer the most breathtaking scenery, epic attractions, and luxurious lodging accommodations — so what are you waiting for? The mountains are beckoning…
Address: Park City, UT, USA Address: Vail, CO 81657, USA Address: Leavenworth, WA 98826, USA Address: Stowe, VT 05672, USA Address: Jackson Hole, Wyoming 83001, USA Address: Bozeman, MT, USA Address: Lake Placid, NY 12946, USA Address: Asheville, NC, USA Address: Hood River, OR 97031, USA Address: Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA Address: Eureka Springs, AR, USA Address: Telluride, CO 81435, USA Address: Helen, GA 30545, USA Address: Sun Valley, ID 83353, USA Address: Bar Harbor, ME, USA Address: Santa Fe, NM, USA Address: Harpers Ferry, WV 25425, USA