Best Mountain Towns You Can Visit Year-Round

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For the very best in both winter and summer getaways, we scoured the Cascades, scaled the Rockies, swung by the Ozarks and beheld the Blue Ridge Mountains, all to bring you mountain towns across the country that offer year-round adventure. So decide whether to pack up your snow boots or the swimsuits and enjoy! See them all below.

1. Jackson Hole, WY

Why we love winter: A bit of the Wild West has been preserved in Wyoming’s Jackson Hole, where sport and culture roam free amidst the regal Rocky Mountains. Snow bunnies have the options of Snow King Mountain, Grand Targhee, or Jackson Hole Mountain Resorts for powder and views as epic as they get. At the latter, you won’t want to miss a ride on “Big Red,” the nickname for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s Aerial Tram, which ascends over 4,000 feet! And there’s plenty of fun to be had off the mountains as well—try out a sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge’s elk herd!

Why we love summer: The National Museum of Wildlife Art will fascinate the whole family, with plenty for the kids to make and explore, like its incredible outdoor Sculpture Trail. With Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks both within reach, you can take day tours while Jackson is your base camp. And when you’re exploring Jackson Town Square, stop under one of its Antler Arches for a popular photo opp. Each arch has over 10,000 pounds of hand-woven antlers, many comprised from those shed naturally in the National Elk Refuge and collected annually by the Jackson Hole Boy Scouts.

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2. Leavenworth, WA

Why we love winter: Wondering what you get when you cross a gingerbread village with a snow globe? The answer would look a lot like Bavarian-themed Leavenworth in the Washington Cascades, about two hours east of Seattle. There’s a ton of fun to be had in the snow, from hopping on a sleigh, dog sled, or snowmobile to hitting the slopes at Mission Ridge or Stevens Pass, both about 30 miles away. Right in town, you’ll find Leavenworth Winter Sports Club with a tubing park, ski jumps, and downhill as well as cross-country trails.

Why we love summer: And there’s just as much to do in the summer! If it’s all about the bike for your family, Leavenworth’s cycling community will welcome you with plenty of dirt trails as well as Enchantment Park’s new Bike Pump Park (it boasts the only paved track on the West Coast). There’s also stand up paddle boarding on Lake Wenatchee, rafting or kayaking the Wenatchee River, nearby Blackbird Island’s swimming beach, horseback riding, climbing, year-found festivals—the Leavenworth list goes on and on! 

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3. Boulder, CO

Why we love winter: In downtown Boulder, ice-skate and sip hot cocoa next to the Dushanbe Tea House, a gift from Boulder’s sister city in Tajikistan. Hit the local slopes at Eldora Mountain Resort just up the canyon in Nederland—its layout is family friendly and ski runs aren’t as packed as many of Colorado’s larger ski areas. And you don’t have to wait until summer to get your bike on. Valmont Bike Park is open year-round to the public and accommodates a full range of levels.

Why we love summer: Year-round, Boulder is home to remarkable public facilities loved by locals and visitors alike, such as the new interactive Grillo Center Labyrinth outside the downtown public library as well as Arapahoe Ridge Park, with real boulders the kids can climb. You’ll easily stumble upon a splash park (there is also three indoor options open year round), and the kids will love tubing down Boulder Creek. And there are over 150 miles of Open Space trails to explore. Well-known routes kick off at Chautauqua Park and its landmark Flatirons.

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4. Asheville, NC

Why we love winter: What used to be a crossroads where you might have seen Davy Crockett wander by is now a Great Smoky Mountains gem that will delight the whole family. The craft beer scene is huge here, so be sure to warm up at one of their family-friendly breweries or trendy rooftop fireplace locales. Experiencing the historic and gilded Biltmore during Christmas time is always a seasonal delight, and sports fans take note: this February, Asheville hosts the 2018 Fed Cup, the largest annual women’s team tennis tournament in the world!

Why we love summer: Take a hike! Several trails with amazing views are nearby, including Skyline Trail, made famous in The Last of the Mohicans, and which has reopened after a decade. When it’s time to cool off in the summer, definitely check out Asheville Pizza and Brewing, where you can catch an outdoor movie and hit up their vintage arcade.  Beginning in May, be sure to check out Dale Chihuly’s large-scale glass sculptures in the Biltmore’s historic gardens. In conjunction, it will be the “Summer of Glass” for Asheville this year, with local glass artists and studios joining the celebration.

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5. Nevada City, CA

Why we love winter: Downtown Nevada City is a classic California mining town in the heart of Gold Country and offers up loads of activities for kids. In town, a Victorian Christmas is hosted in December, followed by the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in January with kid-directed ecology-based movies in the theater. And, of course, renowned ski resorts are well within reach. Donner Summit is closest, but you can also get to Lake Tahoe’s north shore in about an hour.

Why we love summer: The Yuba River is downright magical, with scores of hiking trails, swimming holes, amazing rock formations, and secret beaches (on the authority of one local mama). Scotts Flat Lake offers up sailing and kayaking opportunities. And did we mention hiking trails? Many are just five minutes from downtown, or along Deer Creek, the 34-mile stream that runs from the Tahoe National forest right through town. If you visit in July, you can check out both the Children’s Festival, with sweet fairytale fare for kids (think: queens, trolls, knights), as well as the Summer Nights street festival.

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6. Jim Thorpe, PA

Why we love winter: How about a mountain getaway within reach of Philadelphia, New York City, and Baltimore? If you’re heading to this Victorian town in the Lehigh Gorge in mid-February, the Jim Thorpe Winterfest will delight with loads of family Pocono fun, including train rides (the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway is a historic attraction), and a Mug Walk, where you can fill up on goodies at local shops. If you miss the Mug Walk, Rainbows End can satisfy sweet teeth year round.

Why we love summer: Fancy a ghost tour? Jim Thorpe is the place. On Summer Saturday nights beginning in mid-May, meet outside the Inn at Jim Thorpe at 8:45 p.m. to hear the local legends when it comes to hauntings and folklore. Reservations encouraged. And history buffs are in luck—2018 marks the Mauch Chunk Bicentennial. And if Mauch Chunk doesn’t ring a bell, the museum will fill you in!

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7. Cook County, MN

Why we love winter: Mountains in Minnesota? You bet. In Cook County, you’ll find the Lutsen Mountains as well as the largest ski resort in the Midwest with 95 runs and the most snow days in the region. Check out the harbor town of Grand Marias for a packed annual calendar of events, like open skating at the Cook County Community Center and “Friday Night Reels.” Hop on a traditional dog sled or a snowmobile for a ride through the powdered forests of a spot said to remind you of Narnia. Keep your eye out for major natural ice sculptures along the way, and don't forget the Northern Lights!

Why we love summer: Two words: Lake Superior! The largest fresh-water lake in the world awaits, making Cook County a true year-round playground for beach days and water sports. There’s also the Grand Portage waterfall to see (Minnesota’s highest) and Eagle Mountain to climb (Minnesota’s tallest). Minnesota’s oldest art colony is also in Grand Marias, and budding artists can even take a class in traditional Northern crafts at North House Folk School.

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8. Red Lodge, MT

Why we love winter: Red Lodge’s historic downtown charms with that funky feel of the old west. For snow sports, a terrain park offers free events all season. Learn about Red Lodge’s rodeo and ranching history at the Carbon County Historical Museum. If you’re in town on Mar. 3, be sure to check out the Winter Carnival for the typical carnival fare like music and costumes (this year’s theme is Superheroes!) and the not so typical, like “feats of daring,” a torchlight parade, and fireworks right over the mountain. As for grub, Bogarts is a staple.

Why we love summer: Known as “the base camp to the Beartooths,” Red Lodge is nestled in the midst of Montana’s highest peaks, offering all the beauty of a scenic mountain town without crowds or pretension. From riding a bike to a horse to a whitewater raft to an ATV, you can do it all from Red Lodge. If you have any mountain climbers in the family, develop some vertical skills. Beartooth Mountain Guides, for instance, will supply all the gear for basic and intermediate “rock craft.” If hiking is more your speed, there are tons of options from the top of Beartooth Pass. Stay in town for the skate park, pig races (yes, you read that right) every summer weekend at the Bear Creek Saloon, and a Fourth of July rodeo. Finally, if Yellowstone is on the list, just head southwest on the famed Beartooth Highway, which ends at Red Lodge.

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9. Santa Fe, NM

Why we love winter: Thanks to its high elevation and over 300 days of sunshine, year-round fun in the sun awaits. Be sure to include the view from 12,000 feet at the Santa Fe Ski Basin, 20 miles up the mountain. A major winter highlight is Christmas Eve on Canyon Road in the historic Gallery District, lit with luminaries and warmed with Mexican hot chocolate and churros. Famous for its art scene, make time for the Museum of International Folk Art, which comes highly recommended for kids.

Why we love summer: In the summer the Santa Fe Ski Basin is a hiking trail paradise, rich in Aspens and wildflowers, which peak in July and August. River rafters can take on the Rio Grande, and you’ll want to visit a local pueblo to better understand 600 years of local history as well as contemporary customs. For a family-friendly lunch spot, Cowgirl has a big back lot just for the kids. But if the regional flavors—a one-of-a-kind combination of native American, Spanish, Mexican and pueblo food—strike your fancy, consider a family cooking class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. In August, don't miss the Santa Fe Summer Indian Market, the largest Native arts festival in the world. 

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10. Ellicottville, NY

Why we love winter: Ellicottville, nestled in the Adirondack Mountains, is also known as the “Aspen of the East,” with several slopes within reach for skiing and snowboarding, including the state’s biggest, Holimot. Nearby Holiday Valley Lodge has awesome night skiing (there’s a mountain coaster!) and a 20+ lane tubing park. If you’re in town for the holidays, Christmas in Ellicottville is a must as the town decks its halls, while the Ellicottville Winter Carnival runs Mar. 9-11 this year.

Why we love summer: Outdoor enthusiasts can take their pick of mountain biking, hiking, fishing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, and golf, too. The village has shops and restaurants to explore. And summertime is chock-full of festivals, with the Holiday Valley Mudslide and Summer Music Festival kicking off in June and A Taste of Ellicottville in August for any foodie families. Speaking of, don’t miss some samples from Ellicottville Cheese Company either!

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11. Roanoke, VA

Why we love winter: Craft beer is also making a big name for itself in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Star Hill Pilot Brewery and Side Stage, for one, regularly hosts live music and food trucks. The kids will love ice-skating at Elmwood Park downtown. And “Dickens of a Christmas,” complete with a winter festival, Christmas Parade, and pet costume contest, goes off each December!

Why we love summer: McAfee’s Knob is the Appalachian Trail’s most photographed point and is right in Roanoke County, making a hike up Catawba Mountain well worth that postcard view. The summer also hosts a slew of festivals, with FloydFest at the end of July a must for music lovers. Locals also head to Smith Mountain Lake for wakeboarding, horseback riding, and good old-fashioned beaching.

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12. McCall, ID

Why we love winter: Brundage Resort is nearby (and topped our list of The BEST Ski Resorts for Beginners by the way), as is gorgeous Payette Lake with bordering Ponderosa State Park for lake-view Nordic trails. Meanwhile, Little Ski Hill has night skiing and Tamarack Resort nearly 3,000 feet of vertical. McCall’s Winter Carnival is so amazing they post the dates three years in advance for the 60,000 visitors who flock every year for two weeks of festivities, including Mardi Gras Parades, ice sculptures, snowbike races, and Monster Dog Pull.

Why we love summer: Payette Lake turns into a summer wonderland for just about any water sport you can think of, from sailing to jet skiing, making it a hot tourist spot. The area also has 300 other alpine lakes to visit! And the Payette River Basin Water Trails make it easy for recreational travel by canoe, kayak, or raft (Idaho is the “Whitewater State” after all).

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13. Eureka Springs, AR

Why we love winter: Eureka Springs, a Victorian Village and oasis in the Ozarks, is a mid-America charmer. Accommodations of every variety abound, including an impressive selection of treehouses! Challenge the kids to find a statue of Humpty Dumpty sitting atop one of its walls, too.

Why we love summer: Take it all in from above with a zip line tour right through the Ozark Mountain forest or head underground and explore Onyx Cave, which has been attracting tourists to Eureka Springs since 1891. There’s also a wildlife refuge to check out and 100+ shops and galleries to explore downtown. They put on a pretty classic Fourth of July parade, too.

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14. Midway, UT

Why we love winter: Utah is certainly a skiing or snowboarding family’s delight. Midway in the Heber Valley is only 20 miles south of Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Ski Resort’s epic slopes and should absolutely be on your radar. In winter, take a warm dip in Homestead Crater, where it’s always 94 degrees! Touring the factory at Heber Valley Artisan Cheese or selecting a shake from some 60 flavors at Home on the Train make for tasty indoor treats, too. And be sure to plan ahead to book a ticket to Midway’s Ice Castles! Even Queen Elsa would be most impressed. 

Why we love summer: Settled by the Swiss, you too may be reminded of the Alps in this verdant landscape, where fly-fishing and hiking abound (we recommend Cascade Springs in Wasatch Mountain State Park). The kids will love the historical train ride (the only one in the state)—be sure to check the calendar to see if your trip aligns with Star Wars or Princess and Pirate Train days.

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— Jennifer Massoni Pardini

Do you live in a mountain town? Rave about it in our comments! 


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