Do you imagine waking up to a mountain vista, skiing down pristine slopes, trekking tree-lined trails, or simply people-watching in charming villages? Leave your low-altitude lodgings for a weekend road trip or holiday vacation in one of these beautiful American mountain towns.
At the end of the nineteenth century, this former mining town had more horses than people. Ouray now has about 1,000 residents and a sizable tourist population. They can frequently be found cruising down Black Bear Road, relaxing at the world’s first ice climbing park, or frolicking on Main Street, a National Historic District brimming with historic structures. The scenic setting in the San Juan Mountains, which has earned Ouray the nickname “Switzerland of America,” is one of the town’s most endearing features.
Gatlinburg is a must-stop on any road trip through the American South because it is home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When you’re not exploring the park trails, visit Ripley’s Aquarium, the Hollywood Star Cars Museum, or go downtown. From November to February each year, the bustling district, which is filled with mountain-themed specialty shops, comes alive for the not-to-be-missed annual Winterfest Celebration.
In Vermont, Stowe
This small town in northern Vermont is nestled in a valley at the foot of Mount Mansfield, the state’s highest peak. Drive along the steep and winding toll road to “the nose” of the mountain, then trek to “the chin,” or summit, for the best views of the 4,393-foot summit. If hiking isn’t your thing, try skiing at Stowe Mountain Resort, seeing a play at the Stowe Theater Guild, or admiring the colorful craft at the annual summer balloon festival.
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Colorado’s Crested Butte
Do you wish for a white winter? Crested Butte is the place to be. During the winter months, the town transforms into a true winter wonderland, complete with picturesque cottages, ski resorts, and ski trails, earning it the moniker “the last great Colorado ski town.”
Virginia’s Shenandoah County
The location of the Battle of New Market during the Civil War, Shenandoah County is a picturesque territory wedged between Massanutten Mountain and George Washington National Forest. The natural wonders to be discovered on a mile-long guided tour of Shenandoah Cavern will astound outdoor enthusiasts. If you prefer to soak up local color and history, visit the beer and wine trails, or travel back in time on the Civil War trails.
West Virginia’s Harpers Ferry
Take an hour and a half drive northwest of Washington, DC, and you’ll arrive in the historic West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry. Harpers Ferry, the site of John Brown’s Raid, a key event in the prelude to the Civil War, has a historic district with approximately 100 buildings dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. After you’ve finished exploring the past, go hiking, fishing, or white-water rafting at the 3,660-acre Harpers Ferry National Park, which is located in the Appalachian Mountains’ Blue Ridge.
Skiers from all over the world travel to Frisco to visit the must-see quad of ski resorts: Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, and Keystone. Main Street, which lives up to its moniker of “Main Street of the Rockies,” occupies a sizable portion of the tiny 1.7-square-mile town. From the tubing hill at the Frisco Nordic Center and Adventure Park to the Frisco Historic Park and Museum, the bustling district is brimming with restaurants and family-friendly activities.
With just one look at Jackson Town Square and its four arches made entirely of elk antlers (thousands of them! ), tourists know this is a place where they can satisfy their craving for the great outdoors.Visitors will find an elk refuge, a wildlife art museum, three prominent ski resorts, and two national parks, including the world-famous Yellowstone National Park. The Teton and Gros Ventre mountain ranges surround the city, providing visitors with a spectacular view as they hike the park’s trails.
While skiers hail Breckenridge as one of the best ski towns in the country, art lovers know it as the site of the International Snow Sculpture Championships, where the world’s most skilled artists gather to carve cool creations out of blocks of snow. Visitors hike the local trails during the warm months to get a rare bird’s-eye view of the colorful Colorado town.
Both Ernest Hemingway and Tom Hanks have lived in Ketchum over the years, but the town’s most famous resident is Bald Mountain, affectionately known as “Baldy” by locals. The 9,150-foot mountain has excellent skiing slopes, but Trail Creek, Big Wood River, and Main Street near the town center are equally appealing for hiking, fishing, or shopping.