It’s time to live a posh life.
Mountain towns are sometimes thought of as places to go skiing in the winter, and while this is true, these places are fantastic all year round. America’s best mountain communities really are made for all four seasons, whether you’re camping and climbing as the leaves change to flaming shades of rust and orange in the fall or hiking along hillsides carpeted in wildflowers in the spring.
With Wild West saloons, historic adobe houses, and Bavarian-themed beer gardens, life here slows down or perhaps goes back in time. What’s best? Even though it may seem like you’re miles from anything spectacular, such as Yellowstone, a top-notch ski resort, or lakes that reflect the sky, you’re usually only a short drive away. Along the way, you’re also guaranteed to see stunning scenery and a fantastic brewery (or a city full of them). These 16 communities in the shadow of giants are some of our favorites.
In New Mexico, Taos
Unless you’re being very literal, Taos isn’t exactly a summertime hotspot. But Taos becomes a must-visit destination once October begins to cool the fire. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which encircle this New Mexico adventurer’s paradise, more than make up for their immensity with personality. A breathtaking mountain view is nearly always visible, regardless of what you’re doing, including fly fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, hot air ballooning, river rafting, hot springs, or llama (yes, llama) trekking. More than 80 art galleries can be found in the town, which is a haven for artists complete with the Santa Fe charm of adobe huts. However, any time of year, make plans to enjoy Tecate and shuffleboard while sipping margaritas at the lively Adobe Bar at Taos Inn.
New York’s Lake Placid
You might believe you need to work out before visiting this tranquil Adirondack town best renowned for the “Miracle on Ice” because it hosted the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Games as well as the annual Lake Placid IRONMAN triathlon. While you can use the town as a base for action-packed activities like scaling the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks or bobsledding at the Olympic Complex, no one will bother you if you just fill up your growler at Lake Placid Pub & Brewery and stroll the Mirror Lake trail. Additionally, there are other spots for lakeside dining and drinking, including The Cottage at Mirror Lake Inn, a gondola ride, and a picturesque railway.
You may experience the raw, inspiring power of mountain living by taking a stroll through this peaceful Old West town, which is perched just beneath the enormous, snow-capped San Juan peaks that rise up from its box canyon setting. While exploring the soulful peaks is a great way to spend the day, you don’t want to be soulful all the time. The Last Dollar Saloon and the rooftop of the New Sheridan Hotel are two excellent places to divert your attention. Telluride, which in our opinion is Colorado’s best small town overall, is renowned for hosting an absurd number of prestigious music and film festivals. If your night gets a little raucous, don’t bother about getting a designated driver because gondolas are the only mode of public transportation in this area.
Todd Lake in Deschutes National Forest offers stunning views of Mount Bachelor in addition to other natural features including volcanoes, waterfalls, buttes, caverns, and even rough badlands that are just waiting to be discovered. Simply said, Bend is all you would expect from Oregon, except the hipsters. The Deschutes Brewery established the groundwork for this famed beer town. Its dining and drinking culture rivals that of cities three times its size. At addition, it is a cannabis-friendly outdoor concert hotspot that is situated in a mountainous intersection between a former mill town and a contemporary Pacific Northwest city. Additionally, it serves as a gateway to surrounding destinations like Sisters, another western-inspired mountain town, if you somehow haven’t had your fill of mountain town love.
There’s a good reason why everyone in Burlington is always happy: The largest city in the Green Mountain State embodies all that is best about Vermont. A destination-worthy farmers market, some of the best and most sought-after beer in the world, impossibly delicious restaurants where almost all of the ingredients are locally sourced, easy access to a whopping six ski resorts tucked away in the nearly endless mountains, and more can all be found on dreamy Lake Champlain. Once you leave the city limits, you will find yourself surrounded by boundless countryside, red barns, general stores, and sugar shacks. You might perhaps stay inside and strike up a conversation at the nearby brewery. Most likely, that same helpful individual farmed one of the elements in your hazy IPA.
A selection of the best mountain communities would not be complete without Lake Tahoe. However, you may keep your chakras clear in the hospitable North Lake Tahoe town of Truckee rather than the congested tourist trap resorts and casinos that take a little of South Lake Tahoe’s soul. While one of the world’s top ski and snowboard destinations, Truckee’s historic downtown area is what really sets it apart as a top mountain destination. A leisurely drink at Moody’s or a meal at the Jax At The Tracks diner both provide a bird’s-eye view into the fine art of clean mountain living.
Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene
Some contend CDA isn’t sufficiently close to the hills to qualify as a true mountain town. We believe those people are only acting selfishly. This mountain/lake retreat is made to perfection by Lake Coeur d’Alene’s crystal blue waters, brilliant pine trees, beautiful sunsets, leisurely beaches, and laid-back ambiance, especially in the peaceful, relaxing bubble when summer crowds have already peaked but the weather is still lovely. You may also play golf on one of the best courses in the world with a floating green on the 14th hole, trek the Northern Idaho Centennial Trail, or eat a burger (no fries) at the famous Hudson’s Hamburgers.
In North Carolina, Asheville
This eccentric, artistic community has developed over the past several years into one of the top drinking and live music cities in the country. The Asheville Brewing Company and Wicked Weed are two of the many breweries that are now functioning in the city and throughout the surrounding area. In addition to all of that, the Blue Ridge Mountains and hip farm-to-table eateries are available. Right there, they are. As is the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the best drives in the entire country and essentially like trekking for your car.
In Montana, Livingston
This boisterous hamlet of 8,000 people is an hour’s drive from Yellowstone and sits at the confluence of the wild west mythology and artistic expression. Free spirits and nature enthusiasts congregate here due to the exceptional fly fishing, rafting, and other outdoor activities available nearby. Before visiting a densely populated array of saloons and cafes on the pedestrian-friendly Main Street, saunter up to the de facto town center—the always bustling Murray Bar. Or, go outside under the expansive sky. You might be heading to the neighboring Chico Hot Springs for a dip or to face the river and channel your inner Jim Harrison. Whatever the case, it’s likely that you’ll be back at the Murray by dusk, eager to listen to tales about the city’s turbulent past while embracing its vivacious present.
At Leavenworth’sMunchen Haus, you could actually wake up from a bender thinking you’d been kidnapped and transported to Von Trapp territory, unlike Bavarian-style communities in the South and the Midwest. Here, the snow-capped peaks enclose Bavarian structures, giving the area the appearance of a Germanic Brigadoon. This area is a center for world-class climbing, hiking, and skiing that draw climbers from all over the world. Is it a bit cliche? Yes, particularly around Christmastime when the majority of the Pacific Northwest visits to pet reindeer. However, because to its remote location in the middle of the highlands, it remains largely off the beaten tourist path throughout the year, so you can escape here with confidence that you’ll have the place to yourself for the most part.