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13 Great Last-Minute Mountain Escapes

Head outdoors and enjoy the last of your last summer vacation at one of these exciting mountain getaways.

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Trillium Lake and Mount Hood Oregon USA at sunsetbenedek/Getty Images

Head to the mountains

Celebrate the last days of summer with an escape to higher elevations. These 13 mountain destinations offer cooler temperatures, outdoor adventure, relaxation, extraordinary beauty, and wide-open spaces. With their small-town vibe, historic districts, dynamic arts and culture, and/or proximity to national parks and forests, each of these resort towns and resorts offer a unique experience. Many also have outstanding culinary and beverage scenes. Depending on when and where you want to go, you might even be able to hit the ski slopes for a late summer/early fall run down the mountain. From ranch-style resorts in the west to college towns in the Midwest or an eclectic, artsy destination in the South, you’re sure to find the perfect escape to end your summer vacation.

saratoga WYCourtesy Brush Creek Luxury Ranch Collection

Saratoga, Wyoming

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Saratoga is located in the Platte Valley in southeast Wyoming, picturesquely surrounded by the Elk, Green, Snowy Range, and Sierra Madre mountains. This small town is known for its mineral hot springs, more than 100 miles of rivers with some of the best trout fishing in the United States, and hundreds of miles of trails in the Medicine Bow Routt National Forest with beginner and advanced routes for the avid hiker. After a full day outdoors, head to Firewater Public House for small-batch whiskeys and delicious casual specialties prepared in house. For accommodations, splurge on a stay at The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, a 30,000-acre working cattle ranch, where you can spend time fly fishing, horseback riding, learning archery, or relaxing at the spa. The Farm at Brush Creek also offers an immersive culinary adventure featuring epicurean offerings with visits to their greenhouse, creamery, brewery, distillery, wine cellar, and more. Check out some of these mountain towns that look like they’re straight out of a storybook.

ashville north carolineCourtesy exploreashville.com

Asheville, North Carolina

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Western North Carolina’s Asheville boasts a vibrant cultural, culinary, and brewery scene. The surrounding Appalachian Mountains and Pisgah National Forest are also a draw for outdoor adventure. Plan to stay downtown at Kimpton Hotel Arras where you can walk to many restaurants and breweries and browse local artisan boutiques. Book a walking tour with Asheville by Foot to learn the city’s history and, at night, check out the views from some of the city’s top spots with Asheville Rooftop Bar Tours. Plan a day at historic Biltmore Estate where you can reserve their “Exclusive Experience,” which includes perks like a behind-the-scenes tour of the house and the Downtown Abbey exhibit. While there, you can also go horseback riding on the grounds or try your hand at Falconry, the Sport of Kings. The dining scene in Asheville is top-notch. One evening, check-out Forestry Camp Bar and Restaurant and don’t miss a local favorite, Benne on Eagle in The Foundry Hotel.

mcall idahoCourtesy Shore Lodge

McCall, Idaho

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This lively resort town sits approximately 100 miles north of Boise in Western Idaho at 5,000 feet elevation. Reserve accommodations at McCall’s Shore Lodge, situated on the pristine glacial waters of Payette Lake and surrounded by the Salmon River Mountains. The historic property has been welcoming guests since 1948. Spend active days outdoors rafting the rapids or head off-road with an ATV. You can also go climbing, hiking, biking, paddle-boarding, play 18 holes of golf, or fish in some of the best waters in Idaho for Chinook salmon, rainbow trout, and smallmouth bass. If you prefer time to unwind, book a signature spa treatment at The Cove, and relax in their private hot springs or two heated saltwater pools. Dining venues include dinner with a view at The Narrows Steakhouse or The Cutwater on Payette Lake. For a casual night out, head into town for pub fare and handcrafted ales at McCall Brewing Company. Discover more of the most charming mountain towns in the country.

Black Hills landscape with a lake; South DakotaKubrak78/Getty Images

Hill City, South Dakota

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Located 26 miles southwest of Rapid City in the Black Hills of South Dakota, this small western-style town is known as the “Heart of the Hills.” Hill City offers an eclectic mix of art galleries, culinary options, outdoor activities, and museums. The Museum @ Black Hills Institute has an impressive collection of prehistoric animals, including STAN, the second largest and most complete T. Rex skeleton ever found. Spend a day exploring the scenic 109-mile long George S. Mickelson Trail by bike, horseback, or on foot, where Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane used to roam. Dine on European-inspired specialties at Alpine Inn and sample award-winning wines and casual bites at Prairie Berry Winery & Miner Brewing. Plan to stay at the High Country Guest Ranch, where you can view the backcountry by UTV or horseback and corral in the evening for a chuckwagon dinner. For another excursion, Mount Rushmore is approximately 13 miles from town—find out about the hidden room inside it before you go.

Wild Goose Island in MorningHaizhanZheng/Getty Images

Whitefish, Montana

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The resort town of Whitefish is located 27 miles from Glacier National Park in the Northern Rocky Mountains of Montana. Outdoor activities are abundant, from boating on Flathead Lake and skydiving in the summer to dog sledding, sleigh rides, and skiing in the winter. This region is also home to some of the best rivers in North America, where fly fishing enthusiasts can book a guided tour in search of several trout species. Reserve accommodations at The Firebrand Hotel, which is close to many restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques. Also, the property features a rooftop deck and spa. What’s more, Whitefish has an exciting culinary scene. Arrange for a picnic lunch from Swift Creek Café for a day in Glacier National Park. For a special celebration, dine at Café Kandahar or enjoy dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients, including from their farm, at The Farmhouse Inn & Kitchen.

Ridgedale, MOCourtesy Big Cedar Lodge

Ridgedale, Missouri

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Escape to the rugged natural beauty of Missouri’s Ozark Mountains with a getaway to Big Cedar Lodge. This impressive wilderness resort sits tucked away on 4,600 acres surrounding 43,000-acre Table Rock Lake with its towering bluffs, ancient caves, and spring-fed creeks. Spend the days hiking, biking, or golfing on five world-class golf courses. You can also take a guided fishing excursion or marvel at the cotton candy sunsets during a sunset cruise on Table Rock Lake. Nearby Dogwood Canyon Nature Park offers more outdoor activities, including Segway excursions and a two-hour wildlife tram tour, which boasts encounters with bison, elk, Texas longhorn, and whitetail deer. When it comes to dining, there’s a wide range of options, from casual snacks outdoors to elegant mountaintop dining at Osage Restaurant. Both families and couples will appreciate the privacy while staying at the resort’s private log cabins and lakeside cottages, or glamping at the Camp Long Creek glampsite. If that sounds appealing, check out these 27 other luxury camping adventures.

 

 

Griffin Hall, Williams College campus...John Greim/Getty Images

Williamstown, Massachusetts

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Located in the Northern Berkshires in the northwest corner of Massachusetts, this charming New England town is home to Williams College and a prestigious arts and theater community. It’s also an excellent location for outdoor adventure nestled between Vermont’s Green Mountains and Mount Greylock, the highest point in the state at 3,491 feet. Plan to stay at The Williams Inn, where you can walk to museums such as Clark Art Institute, MASS MoCA, and the Williams College Museum of Art. It’s also the perfect location for attending the annual summer Williamstown Theatre Festival. Dine at the hotel’s Barn Kitchen & Bar, which works closely with farmers to source local ingredients for their dishes. Other favorites include Mezze, which also sources fresh, organic ingredients, or Pera for Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. Here are 17 virtual museums and concerts you can now see online.

timberline lodgeCourtesy Timberline Lodge and Ski Area

Timberline Lodge, Oregon

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An iconic symbol of the Pacific Northwest, Timberline Lodge sits picturesquely perched on the south slope of Mt. Hood. The historic resort was built in 1937 and is one of Oregon’s top tourist attractions. The lodge’s alpine elevation is 6,000 feet with the snow-capped peak of Mt. Hood rising to 11,250 feet in the backdrop. Ski and snowboard enthusiasts can even hit the slopes in the summertime. Other activities offered include a classic Timberline hiking or snowshoe experience with one of the property’s St. Bernard mascots and handler, complete with doggie treats, trail mix, and water. You can also take a ride to 7,000 feet on the Magic Mile Chair Lift, which affords unforgettable views of Mt. Hood, Palmer Snowfield and, nearby Mt. Jefferson. For casual fare overlooking Mt. Hood, grab lunch at Y’Bar or head down the mountain to Mt. Hood Brewing Co. in Government Camp for microbrews and Oregon-inspired comfort food. Discover more of the best ski resorts in the U.S.

Kaaterskill waterfall in the upstate New YorkSharan Singh/Getty Images

Hunter, New York

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The mountain town of Hunter is located in New York’s Great Northern Catskills, approximately 128 miles north of New York City. Hunter Mountain is the highest peak in Greene County at 4,040 feet and the second-highest peak in the Catskill Mountains. Outdoor activities are abundant at the region’s 700,000-acre Catskill Park where you can camp, hike, fish, bike, and view the local wildlife from a distance, such as bears and coyotes. The family-friendly Hunter Mountain Resort features a scenic sky ride and, for the more adventurous, take a trip on the highest, longest, and fastest zipline canopy tour in North America. Plan to stay slopeside at the Kaatskill Mountain Club at Hunter Mountain, which features ski-in, ski-out rooms in season. One evening for dinner, head to Jagerberg Beer Hall & Alpine Tavern for hearty German specialties such as house-made Braunschweiger, Curry Wurst, and Apple Strudel and a Dinkelacker Pilsener beer.

marquette MICourtesy Aaron Peterson

Marquette, Michigan

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The largest city in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is also an outdoor lover’s paradise. Explore the waterfalls on foot, go mountain biking on renowned trails, or visit historic lighthouses, one of which is also a bed and breakfast. Nearby Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is not-to-be-missed. Situated along the shoreline of Lake Superior, the unique coastal ecosystem features towering sandstone cliffs, inland lakes, pristine beaches, and serene northern woodlands. Adventure seekers will also want to experience a local favorite: taking the leap from the Blackrocks at Presque Isle Park. Back in the city, Marquette is a college town that’s known for its arts, brewery, and food scene. Plan to stay at the historic Landmark Inn overlooking Lake Superior, just not in the Lilac Room, which is rumored to be haunted. Dining options include hearty Marquette-style breakfasts at Donckers, casual food and brews at Blackrocks Brewery, or local food sourced and prepared from scratch dishes at BODEGA. Find out 26 more of our favorite lakes for swimming in the United States.

 

Scenic View Of Mountains Against SkyRichard Parks / EyeEm/Getty Images

Dahlonega, Georgia

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Located 65 miles north of Atlanta in the Blue Ridge Mountain’s foothills, Dahlonega is the perfect weekend getaway from the city. This quaint mountain destination is known for its scenic views, streams and waterfalls, unique boutiques and galleries, and a vibrant theater and arts community. The town is also at the center of Georgia’s growing wine country. There are several small inns and B&Bs, and you can even reserve a room in a vineyard, but, for something different, why not spend your weekend in a renovated container at Barefoot Hills Hotel. This experiential boutique property is close to Springer Mountain, the beginning point of the Appalachian Trail, so it’s the perfect location for hikers, cyclists, and outdoor enthusiasts. Spend one day visiting the wineries along the Dahlonega Wine Trail, have lunch at Wolf Mountain Vineyard’s café, and view the scenic mountain vistas from Montaluce Winery & Restaurant. These 20 photos of the world’s most gorgeous wineries will inspire you to book your trip.

Granite Basin Lake, AZGemma/Getty Images

Prescott, Arizona

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Prescott is nestled in one of the most extensive ponderosa pine forests in the U.S. At 5,200 feet above sea level; the scenery is spectacular. Imagine rolling meadows, lakes and streams, and majestic granite mountains. Outdoor activities are abundant with kayaking, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, camping, golfing, and horseback riding. In town, visit Whiskey Row, which, in its heyday, was lined with saloons catering to cowboys, outlaws, and Old West legends like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Today’s Whiskey Row is home to the historic Hotel St. Michael, known for its paranormal sightings. There are also shops, restaurants, and the Jersey Lilly Saloon, overlooking Courthouse Square from the second story of the Palace Historical Building. Make reservations at Hassayampa Inn, a restored 1927 boutique hotel in the center of town. Splurge on dinner at the property’s Peacock Room. Other dining options include casual fare at The Barley Hound, a gastropub, or sample award-winning brews and bites at Prescott Brewing Company. Prescott looks like it’s frozen in time, just like these 20 other towns.

 

Scenic View Of Mountains Against SkyMichael Sitzberger / EyeEm/Getty Images

North Conway, New Hampshire

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The quintessential New England town of North Conway is surrounded by over 700,000 acres of Protected White Mountain National Forest and lays claim to the tallest peak in the Northeast: Mt. Washington, at 6,288 feet. Outdoor activities in the warmer months include canoeing, rafting, fishing, and horseback riding. The busy winter season attracts avid skiers and snowboarders, and those just wanting to enjoy a little après-ski. While in town, take a scenic road trip to Bath along the Kancamagus Highway, dash down the mountain on one of the longest alpine slides in North America, or take a vintage-style train ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad. Weather geeks will also appreciate a visit to Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center. Plan to grab a bite at May Kelly’s Cottage, an authentic Irish pub. Then, unwind at the White Mountain Hotel & Resort. This property is located 2 ½ miles from town with rooms featuring mountain or cliff views. Find out the best national park road trips to take all year long.

 

Gwen Pratesi
James Beard Award Finalist in Journalism and award-winning food and travel writer, blogger, book author, social media expert, and culinary travel business owner that is pursuing her passion for food, travel, and experiencing world cultures by working with and sharing the stories of extraordinary destinations and unique culinary artisans around the world.