Where Europe has alpine villages, the United States has mountain towns. Most of these mountain towns can be found high up in the Colorado Rockies or in the Pacific Coast Ranges of California, Washington, or Oregon. With a combination of rugged peaks and American cowboy culture, these mountain towns are the best places to soak up the high altitude air. These are the 25 most breathtaking mountain towns In The United States.
Mammoth Lakes, California
As one of California’s premier alpine resorts, Mammoth Lakes provides a great jumping off point for skiers, climbers, and hikers. It has one of the longest snow seasons on the continent with slopes sometimes staying open for more than 10 months out of the year.
South Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America and South Lake Tahoe is the largest city on the lake. With miles of beaches surrounded by the high Sierra Nevadas, there is perhaps no better place for outdoor enthusiasts.
Jackson’s location right up against the Teton Range provides some striking background scenery for residents.
Located on a high meadow surrounded by mountains, Allenspark is a good place to soak in the alpine vistas, snow capped peaks, and glacial basins.
Grand Lake, Colorado
Found on the shores of Grand Lake, the largest natural body of water in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain National Park surrounds the lake and town on three sides.
Receiving high rankings in health, quality of life, and education, Boulder is just north of Colorado where the Rocky Mountains run into the Great Plains.
Cooke City, Montana
Found on the border of Montana and Wyoming, Cooke City boasts an average July temperature of 13 C (56 F). Given that only a few of the roads leading into town are open year round, you can see why snowmobiling is such a popular pasttime here.
Park City, Utah
The town is spread out over an altitude differential of 530 meters (1740 feet) and is famous for hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics Games. Also, there are a number of festivals held here through the year including the well known Sundance Film Festival.
Due to its proximity to Vail, Breckenridge, and Keystone, Frisco is a popular jumping off point for skiers visiting the Rockies.
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Rated the 5th best place to live in America by Outside Magazine and “Most Fun Town in America” by USA Today, Glenwood Springs is up and coming. Half way between Vail and Aspen, Glenwood Springs serves as a jumping off point to explore the Rocky Mountains. It’s also easy to reach by train (Amtrak) from Denver.
Located less than an hour outside of Denver, Georgetown is one of the first mountain villages you will come across as you enter the Rockies.
Crested Butte, Colorado
The large amount of challenging terrain around Crested Butte has attracted the US Extreme Skiing Championships as well as the X-Games. In the summer, however, wildflowers are in full bloom which has led to the town calling itself the Wildflower Capital of Colorado.
Located in the extremely rugged Northern Cascades, Leavenworth has been modelled after a Bavarian village. It even hosts an annual Oktoberfest celebration!
Estes Park, Colorado
Just north of Denver, Estes Park is known as the Gateway to the Rockies!
Quickly turning into much more than just a ski town, Aspen has started attracting people from all over the world with its upscale shopping, cultural offerings, outdoor activities, and educational institutions (e.g. Aspen Center for Physics)
Possibly the most famous and well known mountain resort in the United States, Vail is the quintessential North American ski town.
Although not as big as some other towns on our list, Creede boasts some rough terrain just outside the city limits. You’ll need a 4WD to fully enjoy this place.
Located in the shadow of Bald Mountain, Ketchum has been attracting people from all over the world for quite some time now. In fact, Ernest Hemingway spent his last days here and is buried in the town.
The first of a few towns on our list that are found high up in the San Juan Mountains, Silverton is known for its subarctic climate and incredible skiing terrain. Keep in mind, however, that there are no beginner slopes or trails. This is North America’s highest and most rugged skiing.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Famous for turning down the 1976 Winter Olympics, Beaver Creek regularly hosts Alpine Ski World Cup events.
Possibly one of the most famous towns in southwestern Colorado, Telluride has a free gondola that connects it to its sister town of Mountain Village. And although Telluride is not as well known as some other Colorado ski towns, the Rocky Mountains in this portion of the state (San Juan Mountains) are much more reminiscent of the European Alps with their jagged topography, lush valleys, and rocky peaks.
Hood River, Oregon
Surrounded by orchards, vineyards, and waterfalls, Hood River is located in the shadow of the snowcapped Cascades. In summer, the wind in the river valley makes Hood River a great place to watch windsurfers down by the marina.
Durango is the largest population center in southwestern Colorado. If you like hiking, there are regular train rides up into the San Juan Mountains where you can try to summit the very aptly named “Needles”. Of course, the train ride itself is quite nice with incredible views.
Labeled “Oregon’s Little Switzerland”, Joseph even features an annual Alpenfest with yodeling and alphorns.
An old mining town nestled into the San Juan Mountains, Ouray is known as the ice-climbing capital of the United States.
Image Credits: 1. Shutterstock, 2. Sam Beebe via commons.wikimedia.org CC BY 2.0, 3. Steven Smith via Flickr CC BY 2.0, 4. Sam Beebe via Flickr CC BY 2.0, 5. Shutterstock, 6. Mick Chester via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0, 7. Alex Reinhart via commons.wikimedia.org CC BY-SA 3.0, 8. Sam Beebe via Flickr CC BY 2.0, 9. Jeffrey Beall via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0, 10. Public Domain, 11. Aspen Snowmass via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0, 12. Shutterstock, 13. Joe Mabel via Commons.wikimedia.org CC BY-SA 3.0, 14. Crested Butte Ski Area via commons.wikimedia.org CC BY 2.0, 15. Mitch Bennett via Flickr CC BY 2.0, 16. Don Graham via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0, 17. Rudi Riet via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0, 18. Joseph De Palma via Flickr CC BY 2.0, 19. Pattys-photos via Flickr CC BY 2.0, 20. Ken Kinder via commons.wikimedia.org CC BY-SA 3.0, 21. David Fulmer via Flickr CC BY 2.0, 22-23. Public Domain, 24. Reno Tahoe Territory via Flickr CC BY 2.0, 25. Public Domain.