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The 10 Best Mountain Towns

Here are the best mountain towns across the U.S., each with incredible views and outdoor adventures. We’ve selected towns on the east and west coasts to give a range of options. Check out this list of our ten favorite mountain towns. 

What Makes for a “Best” Mountain Town?

The mountain towns listed below are the best in the country because of their natural beauty and endless recreational activities.

Rushing rivers, ski trails and much more feature in this guide to the best mountain towns. 

The 10 Best Mountain Towns

#1: Mammoth Lakes, California

Mammoth Lakes is an idyllic haven nestled in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. In springtime, anglers fish in sparkling lakes; in summer, adventurers windsurf in Mammoth’s Lakes Basin.

During autumn, the leaves of aspen trees in Mammoth Creek Park turn to a burnished gold color; come winter, skiers and snowboarders take to the slopes.

Snowshoers also trek around the Mammoth Lakes Basin, where ice-cold water reflects frosted peaks. 

Check out the Mammoth Lodging Collection for the best resorts close to the Mammoth Mountain ski area. 

#2: Lake Tahoe, California

Lake Tahoe’s turquoise water is strikingly clear, reflecting the trees surrounding the lake.

Each year, millions of visitors flock to this well-known destination located on the border between California and Nevada to go water skiing, snorkeling and kayaking.

Annual summer concerts and the shops of the Heavenly Village await on Lake Tahoe’s South Shore. 

Here are great lodging options in the Tahoe area. 

#3: Bend, Oregon

This Oregon city east of the Cascade Range lies on the Deschutes River, where frothy white currents swirl atop blue water.

Bend is a mountain town with winter adventures like fat biking on mixed snow and ice and dogsled riding; summer activities include ziplining and disc golfing.

You can also visit Tumalo Falls, where water thunders down the mountainside and rushes through a tree-lined canyon. The fee is $5 per vehicle per day, which you can pay on-site to get a recreation pass

Here are the best places to stay in Bend. 

#4: Stanley, Idaho

The beauty of Stanley, a mountain town in Idaho’s Sawtooth National Recreation Area, lies in its lush green fields and winding blue Salmon River.

The Sawtooth recreation area is a sprawling 756,000-acre spread with soaring peaks and alpine lakes, and Stanley is its crown jewel.

For an adventurous trek, hike to Sawtooth Lake via the Iron Creek Stanley Lake Trail, a 9.6-mile out and back route that winds through the Sawtooth Mountains. 

Here are Stanley’s best cabins and campgrounds.

#5: Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Jackson Hole, the gateway to the Grand Teton Mountains, is a 50-mile long valley in Wyoming home to still, mirror-like lakes.

Whether you ice skate with the backdrop of the Teton peaks or soak in thermal hot springs, there are endless ways to have a memorable time at Jackson Hole.

Explore the area via a 2-hour float trip down the Snake River Corridor, where rafting guides explain Jackson Hole’s wildlife, geology and history. 

Check out Jackson Hole Chamber’s suggestions for the best places to stay in the valley. 

#6: Whitefish, Montana

In Whitefish, a ski town at the base of the Rockies in northwestern Montana, a cluster of trees encircles the aquamarine Whitefish Lake in the shadow of the towering Big Mountain.

This picturesque town includes the Whitefish Lake State Park — where stand-up paddleboarding opportunities abound — and the Whitefish Mountain Resort.

During summer, tackle the resort’s ropes course, zipline high above ski slopes and roam the hills in search of fresh huckleberries.

In winter, go night skiing under the lights before warming up at a bonfire. 

Here are other great lodging options near Whitefish. 

#7: Vail, Colorado 

Home to the largest ski mountain in Colorado, Vail is a winter destination located at the base of snowy slopes.

The mountain’s seven back bowls are home to 47 trails and over 2,700 skiable acres.

From tree skiing at Sun Up Bowl to braving the steep vertical drops of Siberia Bowl, skiers of all e levels can hone their skills on the slopes.

For cross-country and backcountry ski tours, check out the Vail Resort.

If you forgo staying at the Vail Resort, here are other popular places to stay

#8: Gatlinburg, Tennessee 

Wisps of fog wreathe the rolling blue peaks beyond Gatlinburg, a town known as the “gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains.”

After paddling down rapids in the Pigeon River, take an aerial tramway from downtown Gatlinburg to the Ober Mountain Adventure Park, where mountain biking and tubing await.

The community’s roller coaster, laser tag and ropes course make it the perfect family destination.

Here’s a list of Gatlinburg’s best cottages, condos and chalets.

#9: Asheville, North Carolina

In autumn, the forested hillsides alongside Asheville’s curving mountain highways turn bright red and vibrant gold.

The city of Asheville , tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is home to destinations like the 8,000-acre Biltmore country estate and the Basilica of Saint Lawrence, a cathedral built in 1905.

After touring these landmarks, head to Asheville’s Adventure Center for zip lining and e-mountain bike riding at the Adventure Center’s Kolo Bike Park. 

Here are the best mountain homes to rent during your stay in Asheville. 

#10: Girdwood, Alaska

Girdwood, a resort town 25 miles south of Anchorage, is a recreational haven in Alaska’s Chugach Mountains.

Check out Girdwood’s glaciers, mines and trails throughout the year and take a backcountry snowmobile tour in winter.

For a spectacular view, visit Girdwood’s Alyeska Resort between August and April to watch the northern lights bathe the Alaskan sky in mesmerizing swirls of green. 

Here are the best places to stay in Girdwood. 

The Bottom Line: the Best Mountain Towns

As you prepare for your next mountain vacation, consider which of these towns you’d like to visit first.

Decide where you’d like to stay and what activities you want to try before selecting your next destination. Enjoy the timeless wonder of these alpine destinations.


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