When we think mountain towns, we tend to think of the big ones: Denver, Boulder, even Seattle. And while these spots are great, you’ll do yourself a big disservice if you assume that they’re the only mountain towns in the U.S. worth a visit. For a mountain retreat that’s a little quieter, we recommend checking out one of the following cities.
Our first town is known as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. Situated on the eastern edge of Tennessee, Gatlinburg is one of the premier vacation destinations for those who want to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But that’s not all this city has to offer. Gatlinburg is a hotbed of outdoor activity, featuring all sorts of attractions that take advantage of the hilly terrain: downhill skiing, whitewater rafting, and when you enter the National Park, over 600 miles of hiking trails. If you’re on the East Coast and want to get a feel for a true mountain experience, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Lead, South Dakota
Pronounced “Leed,” this sleepy South Dakota town has a population of only 3,082—which is exactly the way the locals like it. The City of Lead was first settled in 1876 during the famous Black Hills Gold Rush, and since then, it’s maintained a reputation as the hidden gem of western South Dakota.
Yes, it’s only an hour’s drive to Mount Rushmore, but don’t be too quick to pass through. Lead makes great use of the Black Hills, offering great trails, hunting ranges, ski slopes, ice fishing fields, and automobile tours. If you want a taste of mountain life without making a pilgrimage to the Rockies, Lead might be for you.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Fort Collins isn’t exactly hidden, but given that it’s only an hour away from Denver, it tends to get overlooked in favor of its larger cousin. Which is a real shame, because Fort Collins is one of the best hideaways you’ll visit in Colorado.
Situated right on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, Fort Collins is known for two things: bikes and beer. And if you visit, you’ll see plenty of both. The city has been dubbed the “craft beer capital of Colorado,” and it regularly tops the lists as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the United States.
When we think of California, most of us imagine sun-kissed beaches before towering mountains, but locals know the truth. California is home to some stunning mountain ranges that put other states to shame. Just look at the mountain town of Truckee for an example.
Situated in northeast California on the edge of the Truckee mountain range, this sleepy city is brimming with history. Known for its Old West aesthetic, Truckee is a beacon of cultural expression that blends its rustic charm with a growing population of artisans and creators. Whether you’re interested in exploring the North Shore or you’re just looking for the very best that California’s mountains have to offer, this stop might be for you.
Did you know that Georgia has mountains? Neither did anyone who isn’t from Georgia. Nevertheless, there they are, popping right out of the ground in northern Georgia near the town of Ellijay. And as it turns out, Ellijay itself boasts some impressive attractions. Known as the “Apple Capital of Georgia,” Ellijay holds an apple festival every year that draws in residents from around the state as well as a nice selection of local vineyards, breweries, heirloom orchards, and antique shops. As you head north, you’ll start entering the mountain terrain, complete with hiking trails, scenic winding rivers, and rustic log cabins—perfect for a quiet getaway.
With a population just barely scraping 2,600 people, Leadville might never cross your mind as a destination. But don’t be fooled by its small size! There’s plenty to do in Leadville, particularly for those seeking outdoor adventure. Due to its being in the heart of the Rockies, there are plenty of nearby ski resorts, cycling trails, mountain climbing routes, and boating docks.
Just make sure you give yourself time to adjust when you arrive! Leadville is the highest altitude city in the U.S., which means your body will need to adapt to the thinner atmosphere before you can really get busy with outdoor activities.
While the Rockies and the Appalachians get most of the attention when it come to U.S. mountains, we hope this list gives you some idea of the other amazing mountain ranges that exist in these United States. Give one of them a try the next time you plan a vacation!