20 Mountain Towns That Look Straight from a Storybook
There's something magical about mountain towns in winter. Main streets become lantern-lit trails, fresh mountain air and high-altitude views make you want to throw on your layers and get outdoors, and restaurants turn into cozy places to escape the cold.
Estes Park, Colorado
This idyllic town is nestled in the valley between two incredible mountain ranges so no matter where you look, you’ll find magical views. Estes Park borders both Rocky Mountain National Park and Roosevelt National Forest which means over 300 trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, skiing, snowshoeing, and more. Estes Park also has a booming brewery and winery scene, which is great no matter what season. Estes Park is also one of the best-kept family vacation destinations in the United States.
John Steinbeck once wrote, “I am in love with Montana. For other states, I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love,” and after taking a look at Missoula, Montana, we can see his point. Whether you’re looking for solitude or a group adventure, you’ll find it here. In addition to the outdoor adventures you’ll find in most mountain towns, Missoula also hosts a thriving arts and culture scene with museums, art galleries, theaters, and music.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The historic Victorian homes that line the streets of this adorable mountain town make this place completely unique. Eureka Springs is in the heart of the Ozarks and not only will you find incredible mountains and that small-town charm, but the waterways here also offer great fishing and water sport opportunities. In love with the views but not a “nature” person at heart? Don’t worry, this mountain town also has plenty of spas, shops, and galleries that everyone will love. If you love these photos, you’ll be blown away by these stunning photos of national parks in full bloom.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Surrounded by the Great Smokey Mountains, Pigeon Forge isn’t just a picturesque mountain town, it’s also a huge tourist attraction. Pigeon Forge is home to the famed Dollywood theme park, which offers rides, a full water park, and, of course, a museum dedicated to Dolly Parton. If you’re not a fan of country music don’t worry—this town has a lot more to offer, with fun for the whole family from white water rafting and fun parks to hiking and luxurious spas.
Cordova is truly breathtaking. Given its remote location, it’s well off the beaten path. This mountain town barely has 2,000 residents. Not only is Cordova a beautiful place for mountain lovers, but this coastal town is a hardworking fishing community that is ripe with adventures of all sorts. Want someplace even more remote? Check out this Alaskan town that’s 250 miles away from the nearest stoplight.
Ridgway and it’s twin town Ouray has a rustic feel that will make you feel like a part of history. Ridgway may look familiar to visitors who have seen 1961 classic How the West Was Won or the 1969 version of True Grit as much of both movies were filmed there. While modern conveniences are available for everyone, it wouldn’t take much imagination to look down the street and imagine you were a part of the wild west.
You can explore Durango and the surrounding San Juan National Forest by train, horseback, foot, jeep, bike, and even on a raft! This destination is popular among all sorts of outdoor adventurers and hosts great fishing, trails, and guided adventures of all sorts. Durango is also a popular pick on our list of small towns that are even more enchanting in the winter.
Park City, Utah
Just a 30-minute drive from Salt Lake City, Park City is a completely charming mountain town that celebrates its mining history and balances old mining cabins with a gorgeous Victorian style downtown area. Park City also is very involved in the arts, sports, and outdoor adventuring and is billed as “the perfect mountain town” for locals and visitors alike.
Aspen may not be a small town—in population or stature as Aspen rests at 8,000 feet above sea level!—but this striking destination city is a huge attraction for a reason. It may be known for attracting the rich and the famous, but Aspen, Colorado, is a scenic must-see for everyone. Winter skiing is a popular ticket in Aspen, but you’ll also find breathtaking hiking trails, local legends like the Independence ghost town, the Aspen art museum, and the John Denver Sanctuary, all of which are completely free for visitors. Aspen is also home to one of the most photographed mountains in America.
If you haven’t seen the Laurel Highlands, put Ligonier, Pennsylvania on your list. Ligonier isn’t just your classic charming mountain town. It’s also the location of Fort Ligonier, an 18th-century historic site and UNESCO heritage site, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house. With French, British, and Native American roots, as well as a strong bluegrass presence, this town is truly unique.
Cooper Landing, Alaska
Alaska certainly hosts some of the most unique mountain towns on this list and Cooper Landing is no exception. In the heart of the Kenai Peninsula, this small town was founded when a 19th-century prospector struck gold. Visitors to this beautiful town find the historic charm prevalent on every street corner, despite the fact that only about 300 people call Cooper Landing home on a permanent basis. Somehow that’s still hundreds more than the smallest towns in America.
Carrabassett Valley, Maine
Located in the shadow of famed Sugarloaf Mountain, this New England destination takes outdoor mountain sports to the next level. Explore winter mountain terrain like never before with cat skiing (which is both more exciting yet less adorable than that sounds) and SnoGo Skibiking. If outdoor sports aren’t your thing, you’ll still find an incredibly picturesque downtown with lots to do and breathtaking views. We definitely want to add Carrabassett Valley to the list of the most majestic mountain towns in America.
Burnsville, North Carolina
Burnsville, North Carolina, is known for its thriving art scene and as a haven for high caliber artists. This town offers incredible vistas and tons of natural inspiration. The charismatic town square and adjoining park offer classic local cuisine, antiquers sanctuary in Menagerie Mercantile, and a plethora of art galleries. Burnsville has had a few major changes lately. Yancey County, where Burnsville is located, was one of the last dry counties in North Carolina until they voted to allow alcohol in 2010.
The 200-year-old village is set against the state’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield. Stowe’s brick and clapboard homes only look prettier when peeking out from layers of glittering snowflakes, while charming selections of restaurants and specialty shops will reel you in. Stowe is a quintessential skiers’ paradise, but locals also love the snowshoe tour with Stoweflake, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and the trails along the Westbranch River.
You’ve probably already heard of the largest ski mountain in Colorado, but Vail is also one of those mountain towns that will take your breath away no matter what season it is. No, literally. The base elevation is 8,022-feet! The town’s two main villages, Vail Village and Lionshead are pedestrian-only, so it really feels like you’re taking a step back in time. The food scene in Vail is also to die for ranging from classic Colorado cuisine to French and Italian inspired bistros. Check out these 40 stunning photos of national parks covered in snow.
Nestled in the San Jacinto mountains, Idyllwild has the quintessential small-town atmosphere. From the locally owned shops and restaurants tucked beneath tall pines and legendary rocks, it’s charming to say the least. With woodsy cabins, winter skiing, and a dog-friendly downtown, Idyllwild has the distinct feel of stepping right into a Hallmark movie
Situated on Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint offers world-class recreational opportunities in a breathtakingly beautiful environment. From the historic downtown to the Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort, there is plenty to see and do. Winter means ice fishing on Lake Pend Oreille for trout and rainbow fish or skiing and snowboarding on resort slopes, but the warmer weather brings excellent hiking, horseback riding, and unique festivals that will remind you of the best small-t0wn festival in your own state.
Residing in the Jackson Hole Valley of Teton County, Jackson is one of America’s most authentic western destinations, featuring adorable mom-and-pop shops and motels, locals adorning cowboy boots as they strut down the streets, and an incredibly picturesque view of the Grand Tetons. Experts have flocked here for decades for its notorious reputation as being a “skier’s mountain,” for its hardcore terrain. This tiny town is located right in the heart of Grand Teton National Park where wolves, coyotes, elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and moose all call this incredible small-town home. Don’t miss these incredible photos of National Parks on starry nights.
North Conway, New Hampshire
You may not associate New England with stunning mountain ranges, but this tiny town is thrilled to prove you wrong. Situated in the heart of Mt. Washington Valley near the White Mountains National Forest, this is surely one of the prettiest mountain towns New England has to offer. The picture-perfect village of North Conway will sweep you off your feet—and hopefully onto the mountain! Everything here is just oozing with old-time charm. Cranmore Mountain Resort is located in the heart of the village and offers 56 trails. For more of a challenge, head to Attitash Mountain Resort which offers 68 trails and 11 lifts across two big, connected mountains (Attitash & Bear peak).
Red River, New Mexico
Situated northeast of Taos in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this is the mountain town Texans take off to for a local ski resort that features a laid-back vibe. Though it’s small in stature, it’s grandiose in charm. The town features just one funky road, where a mix of alpine-style restaurants, bohemian shops, and a whole lot of Texan twang provides some eclecticism. From skiing, to bar hopping, to a guided snowmobile tour with Bobcat Pass Wilderness Adventures in the Kit Carlson National Forest, with miles of trails crossed by elk, mountain lions, and bobcats, everyone can find something they love about this beautiful mountain escape. Of course, Red River is just one of many when it comes to America’s prettiest winter towns.