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There’s something about the mountains that brings a smile to people’s faces. Maybe it’s the fresh, crisp air of a higher elevation. Or perhaps it’s the feeling of being a million miles away from your everyday routine. Either way, those elevated peaks stretch our mouths from ear to ear.

And since the season is beginning to make its transition from fall to winter, we thought we’d put together a premier list of mountain enclaves we think are worth the drive up. The following 21 mountain towns have everything you need for a proper adventure from skiing and snowboarding to hiking. Pack up the car, map out an itinerary, and head into the snow-capped peaks of the 21 best American mountain towns.

 

South Lake Tahoe, California

Fun fact: How old is Lake Tahoe? It’s considered one of the 20 oldest lakes in the world.

Where to play: This place is a winter wonderland, so when snow has freshly fallen, make your way to Adventure Mountain. The kids will love flying down the slopes on a traditional sled or inner tube. Trust us, it’ll be easy to see why this is one of the best mountain towns to visit in America.

What to eat: Romping around in the snow for hours will get your appetite going and you better not ignore it. Take a seat at Evans American Gourmet Café, order the rosemary and garlic marinated rack of lamb, and laugh at how good it is.

Where to stay: Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel. This is the perfect place to relax after a long day on the slopes. Enjoy the indoor heated pool, the in-suite spa services, and plenty of other fantastic amenities.

 

Ketchum, Idaho

Fun fact: Nearby Sun Valley Resort was the first ski resort to build a chairlift.

Where to play: When you want to experience some of the best skiing in America, the slopes at Sun Valley Resort (which include Bald and Dollar Mountains) will do the trick. There are 121 runs spread out over 2,154 acres, so you have heaps of options for exploring.

Where to eat: A long day on the slopes calls for a nice steak dinner. Head on over to the Pioneer Saloon, where you can order a 20-ounce bone-in prime rib with a baked Idaho potato side that’s the size of Volkswagen.

Where to stay: The Sun Valley Lodge has everything you need when it comes to a home away from home in the mountains. Cozy up by the fireplace in one of their Lodge Terrace Suites or treat yourself to a day of pampering at the spa.

 

Granby, Colorado

Fun fact: The town was named after Granby Hillyer, a Denver lawyer who served as United States Attorney for Colorado.

Where to play: You’re in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, so wax those skis of yours and drive over to Granby Ranch. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced big mountain rider, the trails and slopes here will suit you and yours just fine.

Where to eat: When you get a hankering for a big, juicy burger, the Jim Bridger’s Beast from Maverick’s Grille will do the trick. It’s a regular patty topped with grilled elk sausage and BBQ sauce. Yes, it’s that good.

Where to stay: The Inn at Silver Creek is where the day begins and ends. The facilities at The Inn include a fitness center, game room, and cozy common areas. The resort also offers an array of fun activities.

 

Whitefish, Montana

Fun fact: The town is home to the annual World Indoor Golf Championships.

Where to play: Want to wander through the woods like Robert Frost? Strap on a pair of snowshoes and set off down the Whitefish Trail. The scenery is beautiful, so don’t forget your camera.

Where to eat: You’ll feel like royalty when you sign up for the chef’s tasting menu at Café Kandahar. Wine. Foie gras. Molten chocolate cake. What more could you want?

Where to stay: Rooms with lake views? Check. Amenities like full-service spa and fine-dining establishment? Check. Yoga classes? Double check. This is what you’ll be treated to when you stay at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

 

Delta, Colorado

Fun fact: Delta was originally built as a trading post for the Ute people.

Where to play: Fine art takes on a new meaning when you’re sipping wine. Located about a half-hour away, Azura Cellars is an art gallery that doubles as a winery. What’s better than sipping a 2015 merlot while trying to interpret the meaning of an intricate iron sculpture? Nothing, we say.

Where to eat: All of this gallivanting about town is certain to get that appetite of yours cranking. Grab a table at Starvin’ Arvin’s and splurge on a freshly baked cinnamon roll. That said, you might not be able to drive after so full a belly.

Where to stay: When it comes to quaint bed and breakfast places, The Fairlamb House Bed & Breakfast is one of the quaintest places to stay in Delta.

 

North Bend, Washington

Fun fact: North Bend was the setting for the iconic 80s television show “Twin Peaks.”

Where to play: It’s always good to learn the history of the place you’re vacationing in, so head over to the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum. You’ll be a local historian in no time.

Where to eat: Where should you go to mingle with the locals? To North Bend Bar and Grill, of course. The BBQ pork sandwich pairs perfectly with a cold beer.

Where to stay: Sleeping in the canopy of a Pacific Northwest forest may seem like a far-off fantasy, but it’s not. Book a stay at Treehouse Point and enjoy your time in one of the many treehouse lodging options. This place may be the coolest place you stay in for a while.

 

Girdwood, Alaska

Fun fact: In 1985, the biggest king salmon on record was caught in the nearby Kenai River. The monster weighed 97 pounds.

Where to play: Bundle up in a thick neoprene wetsuit and set off on an unforgettable jet ski ride with Glacier Jet Ski Adventures in nearby Whittier. You won’t believe how big some of these massive ice cubes are. Plus, you might catch sight of a few whales.

Where to eat: What should you order at Jack Sprat Restaurant? Start off with an appetizer of Fanny Bay clams. Then, move onto an entrée of Alaskan bouillabaisse—it’s a smorgasbord of king crab, prawns, blue mussels, clams, and seasonal fish. Finally, finish up with a cappuccino.

Where to stay: In the middle of the gorgeous Chugach mountain range is the lovely Alyeska Resort. You can walk to the ski lifts during the winter months and then enjoy a Thai Bolus Treatment after a long day on the slopes. It’s a massage that involves marine oil, salt crystals, and lavender buds. They’re all pressed on your most aching of joints.

 

North Conway, New Hampshire

Fun fact: North Conway is known as “the birthplace of American skiing”.

Where to play: Since this is the birthplace of American skiing, make your way to Cranmore Mountain Resort. Take easy with the blue runs or test your skills on some black diamonds. Whether you’re at the summit or making your way down, it’s easy to see why this is one of the most beautiful places to visit in winter.

Where to eat: The Flatbread Company downtown has taken traditional flatbreads and given them their own twist. Head to the islands with the Mopsy’s Kalua Pie or make your way to the Mediterranean with the Punctuated Equilibrium. Both are ridiculously tasty.

Where to stay: Roadside motels are cute and fun, but you deserve something more elegant. The North Conway Grand Hotel is the best place to stay in Conway and we think it will suit you just fine. Relax by the lobby fire place with a cup of hot chocolate as you ponder the epic day you just had.

 

Bryson City, North Carolina

Fun fact: This town is home to the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians.

Where to play: Japan may have bullet trains, but the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad still rolls with old fashioned steam engines. Sign up for one of their amazing packages like the rail & trail or a private caboose ride to take in the beautiful mountain scenery.

Where to eat: The Bistro at The Everett Hotel is where you’ll be able to fill your belly with all sorts of goodies. Get yourself some crepes for breakfast or come back for lunch and dig into the pimento cheese BLT.

Where to stay: Don’t just eat at The Everett, book a room there, too. If you want to splurge, reserve one of their two luxury suites on the rooftop terrace level.

 

Driggs, Idaho

Fun fact: The Teton Valley was discovered by a fellow named John Colter. He was an original member of the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition.  

Where to play: If taking in the beautiful landscape from a hot air balloon is right up your alley, then book a flight with Teton Balloon Flights. It’s the best way to see the lush area.

Where to eat: Lisa and Christian Hanley decided to purchase Forage Bistro & Lounge in 2015 and thank God they did. The creations coming out of this kitchen truly are spectacular. Try the butternut squash ravioli; it’s mind blowing.

Where to stay: Sure, hotels are fine, but how about getting a private cabin? Teton Valley Cabins are the perfect places to enjoy some peace and quiet during your time in the Teton Valley.

 

Ely, Minnesota

Fun fact: Ely is the entry point for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Where to play: If you want to step away from human interaction for an afternoon, check out the International Wolf Center. You’ll come face-to-face with some of the most majestic creatures on earth.

Where to eat: At Gator’s Grilled Cheese Emporium, they make a sandwich called The Mutt! And it might be the best thing ever created. A fried egg, smoked bacon, and mac and cheese are just of few of the items that are piled high on this tasty creation.

Where to stay: Head to the shores of Shagawa Lake and put your feet up at the Grand Ely Lodge and Resort. Spend your day canoeing around the lake, fishing for Minnesota walleye, or fat biking the 4-mile Trezona Trail.

 

Middlebury, Vermont

Fun fact: The town is home to Middlebury College, the first functional college in the state.

Where to play: You’ll know more about Vermont’s history than any of your friends when you spend a few hours wandering through the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History. Fun fact about the Sheldon: it’s the oldest community-based museum in the nation.

Where to eat: The weekend brunch at The Lobby is something you must take part in. The mimosas are made with the freshest orange juice and the Bloody Marys have a shrimp skewer in them. Plus, the food is truly amazing.

Where to stay: Since 1827, the Middlebury Inn has providing guests with the best in New England hospitality. And with its location in the center of town, you’re only a short walk or drive from a plethora of fun mountain activities.

 

Killington, Vermont

Fun fact: Killington Resort is nicknamed “The Beast.”

Where to play: The slopes of “The Beast” are perfect for pointing your ski tips downhill and going as fast as possible. With six mountains under the Killington Resort umbrella, you won’t have an issue finding open terrain.

Where to eat: Want good eats? Make your way to The Foundry at Summit Pond. Sit on the deck and enjoy a good meal while the sun sets over the sparkling lake waters.

Where to stay: If you don’t mind staying outside of town, make the short 17-mile drive to the scenic Mountain Top Inn & Resort. Its hilltop location next to the Chittenden Reservoir makes it one of the more picturesque resorts in Vermont.

 

Red Lodge, Montana

Fun fact: A fellow by the name of John “Liver-Eating” Johnston was the first marshal of Red Lodge back in 1888.

Where to play: There are all sorts of outdoor activities to take part in, but the biggie is skiing at Red Lodge Mountain. Remember to keep your tips up.

Where to eat: You were born with sharp teeth for a reason, so put them to use at Carbon County Steakhouse. The bone-in ribeye is something to die for.

Where to stay: The Pollard Hotel in downtown Red Lodge is a throwback to the time when cowboys hitched their steeds out front. You may even hear the clinking of ghostly boot spurs while resting in your room at night.

 

Talkeetna, Alaska

Fun fact: From 1997 to 2017, the honorary mayor of Talkeetna was Stubbs. Stubbs was an orange cat and a state-wide celebrity.

Where to play: When you’re in Alaska, do as the Alaskans do and that means learning about dog sledding. Sun Dog Kennels offers you the opportunity take a tour of the kennels that breed and train some of the top dogs that participate in the Iditarod Race.

Where to eat: What’s a more refreshing breakfast than a nutmeg donut muffin and a cup of organic roasted coffee? If you answered nothing, than be sure to stop off at the Flying Squirrel Bakery Café before setting off for the day.

Where to stay: The Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. Take your pick from a standard double room or one of their multi-room suites that offers incredible views of the surrounding forests. Explore the nearby hiking trails before retiring to the deck for happy hour.

 

Lake Placid, New York

Fun fact: Lake Placid is one of only three places on the globe that has hosted the Winter Olympics twice. We dare say that makes it one of the best mountain cities in the U.S.

Where to play: The activities list at Whiteface Mountain seems endless. You can take laps at the ice rink, go for a heart-stopping bobsled ride, and take a scenic gondola ride.

Where to eat: When your appetite becomes too strong to ignore, make the 3-mile drive to the Whiteface Lodge, where your dining options are plentiful. You’ve got the KANU dining room for fine-dining. The KANU Lounge for more casual vibes. And last, but not least, the Old Fashion Ice Cream Parlor.

Where to stay: Located in a 1912 Victorian home, the Interlaken Inn is the perfect place for rest and relaxation. It offers a delicious on-site restaurant, great ambiance, and is a short walk from the quaint shops of downtown.

 

Ligonier, Pennsylvania

Fun fact: Ligonier is located in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania. It was here, at a McDonald’s in the Laurel Highlands, where the first Big Mac was created.

Where to play: Fort Ligonier is an old British fortification that dates back to the French and Indian War. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon with the kiddos.

Where to eat: Table 105. This place boasts a casual atmosphere with a fine-dining menu. Not only are dishes like the goat cheese medallions and lamb lollipops amazing, but you can bring your own bottle of wine if you’d like.

Where to stay: Are you looking for a cute boutique hotel to stay at? Look no further than Thistledown at Seger House. The charming rooms and relaxed atmosphere make this a perfect place to call it a day.

 

Greer, Arizona

Fun fact: Greer is sometimes called the town on “The Road to Nowhere” because it is at the end of the 5-mile long highway 373.

Where to play: Test out your riding skills at X Diamond Ranch, where you’ll be taken on rides through the surrounding wilderness. There’s even the option of going on a cattle drive if you’re feeling really adventurous.

Where to eat: The Molly Butler Lodge Restaurant will satisfy all of your hunger needs. And you will be mighty hungry once you climb off the back of your trusty steed.

Where to stay: If you want a little privacy for you and yours, the Greer Lodge offers private cabins for you to settle into. They even have dog-friendly ones available upon request in case Fido is tagging along.

 

Bridgton, Maine

Fun fact: The Stephen King novella “The Mist” is set in Bridgton, Maine.

Where to play: Shawnee Peak Ski Area is perfect for all levels of skier. They even offer night skiing in case you want to hit the slopes under the stars.

Where to eat: After a long day on the slopes, there’s nothing better than a basket of chicken wings and a cold beer. Welcome to The Black Horse Tavern, where you’ll find both, plus much more.

Where to stay: Sitting a few hundred yards from Highland Lake is the Tarry A While Resort. This joint offers its guests comfortable accommodations in the beautiful Maine countryside.

 

Waterford, Vermont

Fun fact: The film “State and Main” was set in Waterford.

Where to play: The Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium. You’ll be parent of the year in the eyes of your kids after taking them to this extraordinary place.

Where to eat: When dinner time rolls around, hop in the car and head 7 miles north to the town of St. Johnsbury, where the tasty food at Bailiwicks On Mill is waiting. Nothing says a good meal like a filet mignon and a martini.

Where to stay: If you looked up a list of cutest B&Bs in the world, The Rabbit Hill Inn might be at the top of the list. Their luxurious and superior rooms are so cozy and comfortable, you may never want to leave.

 

Bend, Oregon

Fun fact: Bend is home to Deschutes Brewery, the eighth largest craft brewery on earth.

Where to play: Wanderlust Tours offers you plenty of options for fun. There’s snowshoe brew tours in the winter and lava tube cave tours in the summer. Basically, Bend is the ultimate mountain town to visit in summer, winter, or any time of year!

Where to eat: If you’re looking for a rich porter beer to pair with a bowl of pub-style mac and cheese, stop in Deschutes Brewery Bend Public House. There’s just something about cold beer and hot macaroni and cheese that soothes the soul.

Where to stay: Located upriver from the downtown district, the Riverhouse on the Deschutes is the perfect basecamp for your time in Bend. Go for a serenity-filled walk along the river or take a dip in the indoor heated pool.

 

Tips for Driving in the Snow

Snow looks beautiful and is fun to play in, but can make driving a little tricky. Here are some of our best tips for driving in the mountains or through a winter wonderland.

1. Rent a car with snow tires. You’ll be amazed at the difference snow tires will make when you’re rounding an icy curve.
2. Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Doing both of these will help you gain and keep traction so you’re not sliding out of control.
3. Never stop while going up a hill. There’s nothing more terrifying than sliding backwards down a hill in a snowstorm.