With mountain towns being especially popular among skiers, there must be other reasons why people from all walks of life can be found sharing an evening at one of its local bars. Often inclusive with mountain-flowing rivers, lakes in the vicinity and a quirky vibe within, these most gorgeous mountain towns in the United States attract local and international travellers who want to conquer peaks, ski, or admire the alpine scenery.
Asheville, North Carolina
Named in 1793 but with an almost 500 years of history, Asheville is surrounded by North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains within the picturesque Appalachian Mountains known for their lush vegetation. Therefore, when visiting this charming town possessing a unique and quirky personality, one will also immerse into the most serene natural beauty. There is also a year-round opportunity to engage for the active, including hiking and biking trails, rivers for rafting, cliffs to climb, and ski runs to appreciate over and over.
Asheville has the Biltmore Estate, a grand mansion built by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s, where one can relish the antiqueness further by staying the night at The Inn on Biltmore Estate. As a prominent cultural mecca, there is also the River Arts District, which is a factory-turned-artist district, arts and music events happening throughout the year, as well as craft breweries, farm-to-table restaurants and historic buildings to marvel at. Aside from the endless galleries and boutiques, there are vintage stores specializing in clothing, books, arts and crafts, antiques, and music.
Named for the local stands of Aspen trees, and sitting at the eastern edge of the White River National Forest with elevation of 7,907 feet (2,410 metres), Aspen, a former mining town, in west-central Colorado on the Roaring Fork River, is known for being one of the most desirable and expensive ski resorts in the United States. With famous peaks exceeding 14,000 feet (4,270 metres) of the Rocky’s, such as the Capitol, Creek, Snowmass, and Maroon, and with the average snowfall of over 300 inches (760 cm) a year, it is a prestigious ski destination nationally, and on the global level.
Following the silver collapse at the end of the 19th century, the spot gained a status of a ghost town, but was revived, thanks to a Chicago industrialist, Walter Paepcke, into a recreational and cultural scene, in the 1930s. The Aspen Institute of 1950 was quickly followed by the establishment of the Aspen Music Festival and School the same year, which comprises a popular pastime today for the locals and tourists during the months of summer. The summer residency program of Utah’s Ballet West and the Aspen Theatre in the Park, together with the renowned film festival, make Aspen a vacation central for the film industry in the United States.
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Following the Oregon Treaty of 1846, which transferred the land from the British to the Americans, the town was established as a trading post for Fort Sherman (Former Fort Coeur d'Alene) in 1879 to become the second largest mining town in the United States upon the discovery of silver in 1883. The After the establishment of the railroad in 1886, it was converted into a resort town some decades later. Today, Coeur d’Alene holds one of the largest Christmas lights festivals in the nation, during the populated ski season, as well as comprises a scenic getaway through all months of the year.
The proximity of the Coeur d’Alene National Forest, and the gorgeous backdrop of mountains against the glistening waters, makes for an irresistible destination. During summer, it is an ultimate piece of haven for those looking to get away, with activities and opportunities to relax, inclusive with the 30-mile lake beach front for spectacular views of the forested mountains, the vibrant downtown art scene, Silverwood Theme Park, river cruises, and the surrounding natural beauty.
Crested Butte, Colorado
This picturesque 130-year old town is tucked within the Colorado Mountains covered in lush national forests. A former coal mining town, it became a summer resort for the Ute people in 1800s, only gaining its skiing reputation in the second half of the last century. With snow-blanket covered landscapes and mountain ranges in wintertime, glimmering lakes, and winding rivers, Crested Butte comprises a dream-like destination through all seasons. Upon flying to Gunnison and driving some thirty minutes north, one can set up camp in the town’s outskirt’s at the 11,250 feet Paradise Divide among the rich vegetation full of wildlife sightings.
Today, Crested Butte is known for cross-country skiing, extreme skiing, mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking and whitewater rafting. Situated in a cul-de-sac on high pasture and surrounded by jagged mountains, there are hundreds of auto roads, 30 miles of lift-served singletrack, as well as a14-miler from Gothic, a ghost town, climbing past Emerald Lake, and descending through wildflowers. Among its yearly festivals, is the June Crested Butte Bike Week, known for the three “b’s” of Bikes, Beers, and Bands.
Sitting within the Grand Teton and Gros Ventre Wilderness mountains, and surrounded by serene forests, Jackson, also known as the “Jackson Hole”, likely for its rather remote location, features panoramic views to all sides. Named in 1894, but discovered during the Lewis & Clark expedition in 1807 as an Old Native American village, it was initially popular among trappers and mountain explorers, during the 19th century. Less than 200 miles from Yellowstone, it is a driveable distance to the best national parks in the US, with Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park only a short ride away.
Nesting in a valley within mountains and featuring a ski resort that has one of the highest ratings in the United States, Jackson, is the place to be for the winter sport enthusiasts. At the same time, the Western vibe calls out to cowboy junkies who come together in themed bars. There is also western-style cuisine offered at the fine restaurants of the town that one can indulge in, upon picking out a complementary outfit at one of the local designer boutique stores. While the downtown booms with restaurants, shops, spas, museums, and famous ski resorts, the wilderness starts within minutes off the center.
The one- of-kind town of Leavenworth is situated in the Chelan County of Washington, just two hours away from Seattle, featuring a real Alps experience without leaving the country. European architecture of the downtown, including gingerbread house-like McDonalds and Safeway, add to the authenticity of the experience. The winter activities including skiing, ice climbing, and sleigh rides are rounded out by the most charming European Christmas, vibe.
During summer, the mountains-sourced, mellow-flowing rivers, Icicle and Wenatchee offer rafting, tubing, stand-up paddle boarding, and canoeing. Hikers and mountain climbers can conquer the peaks, followed by a relaxing evening at one of the local wineries or breweries, for the most thought-after pastime. With Bavarian cuisine on the menu, including sausages, schnitzel, sauerkraut, pastries, and authentic potato salad, one can chow down along with some real German beer, while being surrounded by the picturesque mountains.
Park City, Utah
Founded in 1848 as a silver-mining town, Park City has turned into a major skiing destination in the United States, just a 40 minute drive East from Salt Lake City. Its Victorian-styled downtown fit with a colourful Main Street glimmers within the snow blanket on a cold winter’s night, surrounded by the rugged Wasatch Range, Deer Valley Resort, and Park City Mountain Resort. History fanatics can appreciate the fact that there are over 1,000 miles of old silver mine tunnels just underneath their feet as they are plummeting down the slopes on skis, or snowshoeing, snow biking, snowmobiling, or sleighing.
Featuring vividly green golf courses and deep forests, hot springs, mountain hiking and biking trails, summertime brings around activities such as fly fishing, golfing, horseback riding, and rafting, among others. Aside from having 400 miles of loops, networks, and connector trails for hiking, trail running, and biking, it is also connected by easy-to-access trails from the Main Street to the Wasatch Range, for the luxurious ski resorts in winter. The Sundance Film Festival, the High West Distillery that is always populated, the famed by big name chef's restaurants, as well as the Park Silly Sunday Market, a place for summertime crafts, food, music, and a Bloody Mary station, all comprise a wholesome pastime.
Sitting in the nook of Mount Mansfield, the Green Mountains, and the Worchester Range, the precious town of Stowe is characterized by its European-style architecture. The white iconic church stands out romantically among the fall colors, the blooming spring, and the greens of the summer, while blending in during the winter season. The town-center is also known to be filled with a spectacle of hot-air balloons during summer. With Vermont known for its skiing season, Stowe, also a skiing mecca, offers other activities to indulge in, such as snowshoeing, snowmobiling and ice skating.
Although the natural beauty of the lush alpine vegetation cannot be underestimated in any season from admiring the changing leaves, to marvelling at the snow blanket, to hiking the woods, strolling down the streets of the eclectic and culturally vibrant town center is never off-the-table. Filled with a New England charm, it brings together museums, art galleries, shops, as well as the factory tour of a Ben & Jerry’s all days but three of the year, just down the road.
The Alaska Range surrounding the low-lying town of Talkeetna includes giants like the Foraker at 17,400 feet and Denali at 20,320 feet, the highest peak in North America. Rising above the thick fringe of spruce trees, the avid mountain climbers and peak conquerors swarm to them from all corners of the globe. Because of this, the crowds at the local pubs and restaurants resemble a mixing pot of cultures, where one can hear stories of far-away lands and notable feats.
Just like the rest of Alaska, Talkeetna experience very few hours of dark, making this spot optimal for all-nighters or camping outside, minding the chill, as well as the wildlife, with surrounding wilderness being full of bears. Located a two and a half hour drive north from Anchorage, one can also start their Alaskan venture by riding the Denali Star Train from Anchorage or Fairbanks that features a menu on board composed around local ingredients. Another unique experience would be catching a Talkeetna Air Taxi for a bird’s eye view of Denali, followed by a landing on a glacier at the base camp.
Taos, New Mexico
This otherworldly and mythical place with a deeply rooted native history sits at the foot of the 6000 feet red Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Taos is known for its Adobe architecture, which originated in the ancient Egypt and Middle East, and describes a certain brick used for building. One can reach Taos by flying flight to Santa Fe followed by an hour and a half drive up north, while stopping at the Greater World Earthships Community, to get the best taste for off-the-grid living accommodations.
The town is greatly known for its Mexican vibe when it comes to the food culture, where one can wash down grilled rattlesnake-and-rabbit sausage appetizer with a Cowboy Buddha margarita containing Cointreau, real lime juice and silver tequila. Upon hiking or trail-running the Wheeler Peak, the tallest mountain in New Mexico, a true Southwest wilderness experience, at 13,161 feet, Taos Mesa Brewing is frequented for its Frito pies and local brews. For the adrenaline junkies, a popular pastime comprises an intense Class III and IV whitewater in a narrow canyon inhabited by eagles, coyotes, and mountain lions.
Offering endless winter- and summer-time activities, mountain towns, often sitting in a serene location surrounded by lush vegetation, can comprise a getaway of a lifetime. Each with a unique cultural feel displayed in the vibrant downtown adds to their charm for an unexpected visit that will be cherished in one’s memories forever.