There is just something about a small mountain town. Not only are they are surrounded by mountains, but they offer endless trees and sweeping vistas. The views are to die for, and the fresh, crisp mountain air fills your lungs. On top of that, the towns themselves are generally charming. Strolling the main streets allows you to visit cute shops and cafes. It is a slower pace of life. And you can usually fill your days with a variety of activities and relax at top-notch accommodations. If this sounds like a great trip to you, here are four amazing small mountain towns to visit.
Small towns make up millions of map dots across the US. They are everywhere! But mountain towns have a uniqueness all their own. People tend to only venture to major cities or beaches for vacation are missing out on what these gems have to offer! Each of the four amazing small mountain towns featured on this list can be found in the stunning Rocky Mountain region of the United States!
Estes Park, Colorado
Estes Park is fantastic! There is simply no other way to describe this town! Estes, as it’s known, is high in the mountains above Loveland and Fort Collins, Colorado (north of Denver). It is also the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park! The population of Estes is about 6,500.
Visitors here can expect plenty of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, fishing, golfing, and more. Estes is also known for the massive elk which come into town, but make sure to admire them at a safe distance. They also have a seasonal aerial tramway that takes guests up to the top of Prospect Mountain for sweeping 360-degree views. Lake Estes is also a great spot for a variety of outdoor activities at any skill level. For a scarier activity, check out the Stanley Hotel – made famous by inspiring Stephen King’s classic horror, The Shining!
If you love food, be sure to check out the downtown area for great restaurants like Slab! The town also has multiple breweries and their own winery! The downtown area is also filled with fun shops where you can pick up souvenirs, old time candy, and more!
Not sure where to stay? We recommend The Estes Park Resort, which is directly on Lake Estes. If you want a more secluded stay, we also recommend renting a condo at Fall River Village Resort. This is within walking distance, winding along the river, to downtown Estes Park.
Read more about Estes Park HERE!
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Traveling further into the heart of Colorado, along I-70, the landscape’s colors shift to vibrant red earth. Before long, the small mountain town of Glenwood Springs can be found, nestled in a lovely valley. You may have guessed it… this town, with a population of around 10,000, is famous for its hot springs!
Much like Estes Park, visitors here can expect ample outdoor activities. In addition to those mentioned previously, Glenwood Springs offers float trips down the river. This little town even has its own mountain-top amusement park. But, perhaps the most popular thing to do here is soak away the day (as well as any aches and pains) in one of the town’s hot springs. We also enjoyed hiking on some of the nearby trails. The golfing in Glenwood Springs is also quite enjoyable!
Glenwood Springs also has one of the most unique downtown areas we have seen. Making use of the main road’s underpass, visitors can bounce back and forth between restaurants, breweries, shops, and more – all in a pedestrian-only setting. The restaurants that comprise Restaurant Row are top notch. There really wasn’t enough time in our trip to enjoy everything here.
Not sure where to stay? We recommend getting a room at the Glenwood Springs Resort. The location is ideal. Not only is it located within walking distance of downtown as well as the train station, but guests here receive unlimited acess to Glenwood Hot Springs – the largest hot springs pool in the world!
Read more about Glenwood Springs HERE!Each of the four amazing small mountain towns featured on this list can be found in the stunning Rocky Mountain region of the US! Click To Tweet
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Okay, okay… we know everyone knows about the small mountain town Jackson Hole. Years ago, it was a lot sleepier of a mountain town. A lot more quiet. But within the last decade or two, that has really changed. Located in the Northwest corner of Wyoming, Jackson is a gateway city to both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. It is also home to world class skiing! With a population also around 10,000, this town truly is in a world of its own compared to the rest of Wyoming.
As you can imagine, there are also ample outdoor activities here of the same nature. In addition to that, many visitors flock north to Yellowstone National Park to experience the natural glory offered here. And, admittedly, I’m not sure there’s a more breathtaking mountain range in the United States than that of the Grand Tetons.
Downtown Jackson is the only place in the United States where you can find the town square uniquely flanked with elk antler arches. Like all other towns featured, you can shop, sip, and eat. The summer months also bring crowds to watch the nightly shootout at the square. This reenactment is the longest running Western-style shootout in the country. There are also summer activities like the alpine slide down Snow King Mountain.
Not sure where to stay? We recommend the Snow King Resort for those seeking a slope side resort experience in town. If you want to stay at a nice hotel that is a bit away from the action, we recommend the Lodge at Jackson Hole.
Jackson has great restaurant, a popular brewery, arts, and more! No wonder it is such a popular tourist spot!
Read more about Jackson Hole HERE!
Park City, Utah
Park City is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from rapidly growing Salt Lake City. But, the Europeanesque charm of this ski town feels worlds away from it! Everywhere you look, Park City is surrounded by ski lifts and runs, as well as luxurious lodging. Park City has a population of around 8,400.
While this is primarily a downhill skier’s town, there is the same variety of outdoor activities available. But, Park City offers something unique. Something no other town on this list has. Park City is home to the Park City Olympic Park! This park is a great use of space for the site of the 2002 winter Olympic Games. So, if you enjoy a few thrills, make sure to plan a day here.
Downtown Park City will get you a bit of additional exercise. Main Street, where you can find the bulk of the restaurants and shops is long and works its way up and down a gradual incline. But, as you work your way around the area, you will notice all the great art galleries and sculptures along the way. Be sure to keep your eye out too as downtown Park City is home to surprising works by Banksy, the infamous street artist!
Not sure where to stay? We recommend the Club Wyndham Park City. This hotel is located a bit north of the main core, but still near one of the area’s top ski resorts. We loved that all rooms were suites complete with a full kitchen and in-room washer/dryer. Plus, this property was very quiet during the off-season which is great for relaxing by the pool!
Small Mountain Town Considerations
These four amazing small mountain towns have many things in common. Not only are the activities and downtown areas similar, but they are also in beautiful mountainous areas. However, there are a few additional considerations for planning your visit.
Estes Park, Glenwood Springs, Jackson Hole, and Park City are all tourist towns and have a distinct peak season (or two) as well as an off-season or shoulder season. Depending on the nature of your visit, you may want to schedule your trip during the slower season if possible. Not only will it mean less crowds and cheaper prices for you, but it will also help lessen the negative impacts of your visit.
These small towns (especially Jackson) tend to deal with overtourism and don’t have the same resources and infrastructure to handle the large influx of visitors in peak-season. Plus, if you can plan your visit in the off-season, you might help bring money into the community during slower times.
Because of their natural surroundings, there are many opportunities to encounter wildlife in any of these mountain towns. We urge you to be responsible with your visits — Drive slowly and with caution. Do not approach wildlife. Too often there is a bad outcome related to inappropriate interactions from tourists. Follow all local rules and regulations. Respect the environment in and around small mountain towns.
Be sure to bring your wallet too! While the small populations and nature-centric activities in these towns might fool you into thinking they’re more affordable than their major-metropolitan counterparts, that is absolutely not true! Their remote, mountainous locations and extreme popularity means prices are at a premium. You can expect to pay more for everything – hotels, food, parking, gas, and activities. An ample budget is a necessity!
Armed with this information, we hope you’re inspired to plan a trip to one (or all) of these amazing small mountain towns!
Each town sounds like a great place to visit and relax. Love the picture of the two buffalo! Enjoyed yet another of your great posts – Thank You!
You picked some great mountain towns! We have been to (and loved) 3 of these towns. We still need to make it to Jackson Hole!
I love that you got to visit Colorado. Having visited all four destinations in the Rocky mountains, I can attest that they are great towns for a weekend getaway.
I’d like to visit all four of these mountain towns. Your photos are lovely. There is nothing that compares to spending time in nature.
What a great collection of towns! Have only been to Estes Park (which I also highly recommend). The biggest “lesson learned” for us was that altitude sickness is a real thing :/ Thanks for sharing your other recommendations!
All four of these small mountain towns are great travel destinations! I especially want to visit Utah as it keeps calling my name.
Such lovely suggestions here.
I love visiting mountain towns, so this is right up my alley. Thanks for sharing!
I can’t believe I haven’t been to any of these destinations! I would love to get to Jackson Hole and Estes Park one of these days. Thanks for sharing!
I’ve been to two of those towns and someday would love to do a road trip to visit the other two. I do love visiting small towns on road trips, they make it so fascinating and colorful
Which two have you visited!?
Love your list. I keep meaning to take Darcee to Estes Park because she has always wanted to stay at the Stanley Hotel and I would love to play around all of the parks and mountains!
But can I offer you 1 swap.
Dont get me wrong Jackson is cool and the Tetons alone are perhaps one of the greatest sights in America! But with Darcee being from Wyoming we have explored it pretty extensively & if you are looking for a really wonderful Small Town Experience with Mountains, head to the other side of Wyoming to Sheridan.
There you can swing by Devil’s Tower & fall in love with not only the Black Hills but the Hiking in the Big Horns that shadow that area are mind blowing! Plus it doesnt cost as much as Jackson and it has a ton of History with Wild Bill Cody & It was one of Hemingway’s favorite towns in all of America!
I think I remember that one of your is from Wyoming. We are too! I would definitely add Sheridan or Devil’s Tower (or many other places in WY) to this list, but omitted them since I was focusing on small towns that are in the mountains (not just near them). I lived in Jackson for awhile and I definitely have some opinions about it 😉. Are you guys still in WY?!
I love mountain towns and these all look so amazing.
They are all pretty great!
As I love hiking, I love visiting small mountain towns with charm and great atmospheres. Estes Park in Colorado is one of my favorites, as it’s an excellent base for exploring the Rocky Mountains. Still, also the town offers lots of activities and has excellent restaurants. But I haven’t been to Park City yet. It seems a perfect place for me as I love works by Banksy.
Park City is great! I was thrilled to see Banksy’s art here!
While I’ve been to Jackson and Park City, I soooooo need to spend more time in Colorado and check out these two additional amazing small mountain towns. Especially because it’s just left of me here in Kansas. Great list!
Come on out our way!
I am a huge fan of visiting mountain towns on the East Coast of the USA, esp Western NC. Loved the writeup.
Jackson hole sounds so much fun. Thank you for sharing this.