The glorious Rocky Mountains, or the Rockies, stretch from northern British Columbia in Canada in a southern direction to New Mexico in the US. This vast mountain range is home to some of the most popular national parks in the US, including the infamous Yellowstone and Banff. Great opportunities for hiking, skiing, and camping, the geothermal features like Old Faithful, and the several historical sites make the Rockies a prime destination. And the best places to start exploring these towering mountains are in the stunning towns in the mountain region. Enjoy this virtual journey through some of the most gorgeous Rocky Mountain towns. May you be inspired to add one or all to your next road trip before 2023 bows out.
The town of Ouray in Colorado, known as the Switzerland of America, was once a bustling and thriving mining town. Today it retains its 1800s Victorian charm with stunning historical buildings and sites. Visiting Ouray means dipping a toe into the natural hot springs at Ouray Hot Springs Pool and Fitness Center before taking a scenic drive along the Million Dollar Highway with its spectacular mountain views. Rounding out this small-town visit is The Bon Ton, a historic restaurant where you'll find an ambiance like nowhere else and classic American food.
At the other end of the Million Dollar Highway, you'll find Silverton, where you can choose between taking your food to go or sitting down at The Pickle Barrel and enjoying freshly made sandwiches and homemade soup. Silverton is a tiny but gorgeous Rocky Mountain mining town that once boomed in the late 1800s. Its charming Victorian architecture and fantastic train rides on the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad are just a taste of the awesomeness you'll experience here. When you've explored the surroundings through the train windows, you can get up close to nature by hiking in the San Juan Mountains.
Red Lodge, Montana
Red Lodge in Montana has a lot in common with Silverton. Here you'll find home-style American comfort food at Foster & Logan's Pub and Grill, a cold beer, and fascinating insight into the town's coal mining history. The mining industry shaped the town's character and architecture, and the entire place is hugged by the incredibly beautiful Beartooth Mountains. Enjoy outdoor adventures like hiking and wildlife watching in the nearby Custer Gallatin National Forest or ski to your heart's content at the Red Lodge Mountain Resort during the winter months.
Another gorgeous Rocky Mountain town that offers several outdoor activities is the 6,000-foot elevated Driggs in Idaho. Emerging as a farming community in the late 1800s, this delightful town attracts visitors with the nearby Grand Targhee Resort for skiing and mountain biking. The friendly locals will tell you about the Teton Valley Museum, where you can learn about the history of Driggs and Teton Valley. For a deliciously satisfying meal, head to Forage Bistro & Lounge, where you'll find a farm-to-table dining experience for the ages.
Another unique dining experience awaits you at the historic Alpine Lodge & Restaurant in Westcliffe, Colorado. This eatery serves mouthwatering meals in a cozy setting and will have you staying longer to experience the excellent desserts. If you're into stargazing, you'll love Westcliffe's Dark Skies of the Wet Mountain Valley, which provides unmatched night sky views. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains also offer the opportunity to take in the daytime views while hiking or horseback riding. Westcliffe is a quintessential Rocky Mountain town dating to the late 1800s and will charm you with its scenic beauty and incredible mining heritage.
When it comes to sheer natural beauty, Gardiner in Montana may have one up over Westcliffe. Gardiner, situated in Paradise Valley, is the original entrance town to the infamous Yellowstone National Park and has a rich history tied to the park's creation. From here, you can explore the multiple wonders of Yellowstone, including the iconic Roosevelt Arch, Mammoth Hot Springs, and the Yellowstone River. When you're done gaping at the natural surroundings, grab a bite to eat at Wonderland Café & Lodge, a local favorite known for its delicious burgers and wonderful service.
Another gorgeous mountain range forming part of the Rockies is the Wind River Mountains that stretches along Dubois in Wyoming. The Wind River Range is fantastic for backpacking and is home to seven of the largest glaciers in the Rockies. Dubois is also the place you'll find the National Bighorn Sheep Center, recalling the town's history in the fur trade. The downtown Dubois area boasts striking Western-style buildings and takes the cowboy theme even further at the Cowboy Café, which serves hearty breakfasts, cowboy style.
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
While you may not find cowboy cuisine in Pagosa Springs, you can indulge in authentic Mexican cuisine at Tequilas or satisfy your baked goods craving at Pagosa Baking Company. Pagosa Springs isn't only known for its great food; this small town has been attracting visitors for centuries because of its geothermal hot springs. Soak in the famous Pagosa Hot Springs and cap off your visit with a hike to Treasure Falls, where you'll be rewarded with stunning views.
Getting back to Western heritage, Meeker's roots lie deep in the cattle industry and is celebrated through annual events and festivals. When visiting this town, you simply must experience at least one outdoor adventure in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area and visit the White River Museum. Chances are, all the outdoor activities will put your appetite into overdrive, but fear not. Ma Famiglia offers Italian-inspired dishes and warm hospitality to locals and tourists looking for delicious food.
Now that your sights are set on these small Rocky Mountain towns, prepare yourself for an unforgettable journey through some of the most beautiful places in the US. Embrace the magic of the Rockies and the towns that run through them like a golden thread. Your next adventure awaits!