Downtown Banff Alberta Canada, via benedek /

6 Friendliest Towns to Visit in the Rockies in 2024

The Rocky Mountains are home to some of the friendliest towns in North America, each offering a unique blend of outdoor adventure, rich history, and vibrant local culture. From the old-meets-new charm of Kimberley, British Columbia, to the geothermal wonders of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, these towns provide a warm welcome and an array of attractions. Whether it's the stunning national parks surrounding Banff, Alberta, the cultural richness of Taos, New Mexico, or the lively year-round resorts in Park City, Utah, and Jackson, Wyoming, these small towns are perfect for exploring the scenic beauty and inviting spirit of the Rockies.

Kimberley, British Columbia

Aerial view of Kimberley, British Columbia
Aerial view of Kimberley, British Columbia, via Kimberley Daily Bulletin by Paul Rodgers

Named after the famous South African Kimberley diamond mine, Kimberley has a rich mining history. The discovery of lead and silver in the area led to the creation of the Sullivan Mine, once the world’s largest and most productive lead-zinc mine, until it closed in 2001. Today, visitors can explore the Kimberley Underground Mining Railway from the Downtown Station and learn about the history of the Sullivan Mine as they travel through the Mill Creek Valley, past the Train Shop and Powerhouse, before heading underground into the mine. The nearby Cominco Gardens is a 5-hectare property that boasts over 45,000 flowers annually and has an interesting connection to the Sullivan Mine. For more history of the area and occasional tales of epic adventures and rogue exploits, visit the Kimberley Heritage Museum.

During the '70s and '80s, the town was known as the “Bavarian City of the Rockies,” joining the ranks of similar Bavarian-themed towns like Leavenworth, Washington, Helen, Georgia, and Frankenmuth, Michigan, but has moved slightly away from the theme in recent years in a bid to attract new residents and embrace the old and new. The friendly town still has Bavarian-styled buildings, cafés, and unique shops in the town’s pedestrian-only shopping area, the Platzl, where the 22-foot-tall Happy Hans Cuckoo Clock still sits and yodels. The town is now a place where the old world meets the new, with shops like Kamu Sauna for an authentic Finnish sauna experience and the Bavarian Home Hardware, next to the Healing Hollow Essential Oil Co. and Moody Bee lip balms.

Banff, Alberta

Scenic street view of Banff with cars and Cascade Shops Shopping Mall
Scenic street view of Banff with cars and Cascade Shops Shopping Mall, via Nick Fox /

Over 4 million tourists visit Banff annually, making it one of Canada’s most popular national parks. The small town of just over 10,000 full-time residents is within Banff National Park, home to numerous top tourist attractions showcasing its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. For a spectacular view of six mountain ranges, the Bow Valley, and the town, book a ride on the Banff Gondola to the summit of Sulphur Mountain. At the top, enjoy interactive exhibits with the kids, a multi-sensory theater, dinner at the Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen, or drinks on the Peak Patio.

Banff is a hiker’s paradise, and there are so many trails to choose from, including low-elevation strolls along boardwalks to the heart-pumping 4-hour round-trip hike to the summit of Sulphur Mountain and the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site and the 1903 Weather Observatory. After the hike, soak in the mineral waters of the Banff Upper Hot Springs before heading to downtown Banff for a little retail therapy at shops like the Rocky Mountain Soap Company and the Fudgery, or pick up a few Canadian souvenirs at Duck, Duck Moose or the Bare Moose. Be sure to visit the lobby of the famous “Castle in the Rockies,” the Banff Springs Hotel.

Park City, Utah

Park Silly Sunday Market in Park City, Utah, an eco-friendly open air market, street festival & community forum
Park Silly Sunday Market in Park City, Utah, an eco-friendly open air market, street festival & community forum, via Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Park City is home to one of the largest ski areas in the United States. In the winter, there is excellent skiing and snowboarding; in the summer, there is hiking and mountain biking for all experience levels. Spread over six mountains, Deer Valley Resort has over 60 miles of mountain bike trails, easily accessible by three chairlifts. Moreover, they make it easy for beginners or advanced riders by offering experienced bike coaches to point out the fundamentals, pick out the right bike to rent, and choose the suitable trails. From June 18 to August 20, 2024, they even offer a Twilight Ride Series so visitors can explore the trails as the sun sets. Still, there’s always something happening on the mountain: from weekly Mountaintop Brews and Tunes to cooking and mixology classes to the 20th annual Deer Valley Music Festival from July 5 through August 9, 2024.

Discover historic downtown Park City at the Park City Museum on Main Street, and stop by the Meyer Gallery or the Old Towne Gallery to admire works by Picasso, Chagall, Warhol, and more. Support the local economy by purchasing souvenirs to take home from unique shops like Hemped Park City, Flight Boutique for cutting-edge fashion exclusive to Utah, or eco-friendly Cotopaxi for outdoor clothing and cool gear. End a jam-packed day in Park City by indulging in live music and a signature cocktail made for local spirits at the Spur Bar & Grill, or enjoy upscale dining in its sister location next door, 350 Main.

Taos, New Mexico

Buildings in Taos, New Mexico.
Buildings in Taos, New Mexico. Image credit Sopotnicki via Shutterstock

Although slightly outside the typical Rockies region, Taos offers a friendly atmosphere, rich cultural heritage, and stunning mountain scenery. The Taos Ski Valley is a premier ski resort that offers world-class skiing and snowboarding in winter and hiking, biking, rafting, and horseback riding in the summer. It also hosts events, like a weekly Farmer’s Market, yoga classes, and the Taos Ski Valley Arts Festival from July 20 to July 21, 2024.

The Taos Plaza is the center of downtown Taos, surrounded by shops, restaurants, and world-renowned art galleries, including the Harwood Museum of Arts, showcasing a diverse collection of Southwestern art and works by Georgia O'Keeffe; the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House—former home of Russian-American painter Nicolai Fechin; and the Kit Carson Home and Museum built in 1825 and once the former home of legendary frontiersman Kit Carson. Finally, Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage site, showcases adobe dwellings that have been occupied for over 1,000 years.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado

The town of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, in summer.
The town of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, in summer.

Once famous for gambling dens, saloons, and brothels, Glenwood Springs is now a picturesque railroad town in the heart of Colorado’s majestic Rocky Mountains. It has a thriving tourist industry and is renowned for its geothermal baths, world-class breweries, and Old West charm. Don’t miss the historic Hotel Colorado, an iconic landmark built in 1893 that was once a favorite retreat of President Theodore Roosevelt, which overlooks the geothermal hot springs at the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. The resort has more than seven pools, including the original historic pool, the “world’s largest hot springs pool.” Other nearby hot springs include the Iron Mountain Hot Springs and the Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves. One of the town’s most unusual attractions, hot mineral waters flow through the Vapor Caves at 125 degrees Fahrenheit, creating natural geothermal steam.

After a few hours of relaxation, visit the taproom at Casey Brewery in downtown Glenwood Springs for an award-winning sour ale brewed with locally grown berries and stone fruit. For thrill-seekers, the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park—a mountaintop theme park—is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2024, so why not try out their new Defiance Roller Coaster, featuring a record-breaking 102.3-degree freefall in just 56 seconds? For a challenging 1.2-mile hike with a steep 1,000 feet of elevation gain, check out the trail to the stunning turquoise-colored Hanging Lake and waterfalls.

Jackson, Wyoming

Downtown Jackson, Wyoming
Downtown Jackson, Wyoming. Image credit EQRoy via

Jackson is famous for its hospitality and stunning mountain views. It is also a gateway to Grand Teton National Park, which boasts 310,000 acres of alpine lakes, mountain meadows, and the majestic peaks of the Grand Teton Mountain Range—the highest of which is the Grand Teton at 13,775 feet (4,199 meters) in elevation. The perfect location for outdoor lovers and adventurers, visitors to the park can explore hiking, boating, wildlife tours, and rock climbing, but there’s no better way to spend a few hours than booking a float trip down the scenic Snake River. Several outfitters offer scenic raft trips and guided fishing trips down the river, like the 10-mile, 3-hour round trip from Deadman’s Bar to Moose from Triangle X and National Park Float Trips. They also offer evening dinner float trips.

Jackson’s Town Square is renowned for its iconic elk antler arches and is surrounded by one-of-a-kind shops, galleries, and restaurants. Wyoming’s 1937 landmark watering hole, The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, is on the square and is internationally known for its live entertainment and western dancing. A music lover’s town, Jackson also hosts the renowned Grand Teton Music Festival for eight weeks every summer, and this year’s 63rd season runs from June 17 - August 17. 2024.

The Takeaway

Visitors to these friendly Rocky Mountain towns can expect unparalleled outdoor adventures amidst breathtaking landscapes, from mountain biking and hiking in Park City and Taos to exploring national parks in Banff and Jackson. Relaxation comes naturally with soothing hot springs in Glenwood Springs and Banff. Each town offers unique attractions, ensuring every visitor finds something memorable, whether exploring historic sites, indulging in local cuisine, or simply enjoying the warm hospitality that defines these mountain communities.

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