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Though travel plans are impacted right now, small towns tucked into the mountains with populations of thousands or fewer are ideal places to be this year. Here we've compiled a list of the best small mountain towns that offer you scenic adventures while keeping you safe.
Harpers Ferry, a small town of roughly 300 people, sits where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet within the Appalachian Mountains. Within its National Historical Park, you can enjoy the historic town's 19th-century architecture. The small mountain town also boasts river rafting and hiking trails.
The Rocky Mountains in Colorado are dotted with quaint mountain towns that welcome summer hikers and winter skiers. A mining town in the Victorian era, Telluride is now home to the Telluride Mountain Film Fest, the Telluride Jazz Fest, and the Telluride Bluegrass Fest. Strolling down its streets conjures up images of life over 100 years ago in the West.
Nestled at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains, the charming town of Gatlinburg is your entryway to the 520,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With its miles of traits and incredible mountain views, the park is one of America's most-visited natural attractions. Gatlinburg offers a perfect basecamp for your adventures.
Nestled in the Wood River Valley, the tranquil downtown of Ketchum beckons both locals and tourists alike to take to the Bald Mountains for its amazing views. During warm days, plenty of hiking and biking trails are open to hikers from around the world, while on snow days, the mountain turns into a paradise for skiers.
Bryson City in North Carolina is another gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. The locals are lucky to have the mountains surrounding them and the Tuckasegee River for fishing, rafting, and kayaking. The picturesque town offers access to the Appalachian trails to scenic spots, refreshing waterfalls, and beautiful wildflowers, making it an outdoor paradise.
Known as the "Apple Capital of Georgia," Ellijay, at the southernmost end of the Appalachian Trail, draws countless visitors every fall, especially during the annual Georgia Apple Festival in October. The small town of fewer than 2,000 people offers natural beauty for hiking and biking. What's more, there are also plenty of antique stores and restaurants for shopping and eating out.
Sitting above natural hot springs in Bath County, Warm Springs is famous for its bathhouses known as the Jefferson Pools. The springs are rich in minerals, and the third US President would enjoy soaking here from time to time. Surrounding the small town is the George Washington National Forest on the Allegheny Mountains. There are also many historic accommodation choices for visitors to enjoy.
Bounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos is known for its adobe pueblo-style buildings, which lend a unique backdrop to your vacation photos. As a longtime artistic retreat, the small town is lined with galleries and museums showcasing regional artwork. In winter, the mountain town becomes a quiet ski destination.
A visit to Eureka Springs will allow you to enjoy the Ozark Mountains and the preserved Victorian buildings within its Historic District. Like Warm Springs, this Arkansas mountain town also features bathhouses that allow you to soak in the region's natural hot springs.
Framed by the Wasatch Range, Park City is famous as a high-end skiing destination and hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. The modern luxury Main Street in the town is lined with shops housed within buildings from the Victorian mining days. The intimate mountain town also draws visitors worldwide for its festivals and Michelin style dining.
Lying at the mouth of the Copper River, Cordova stands at an elevation of only 82 feet. The small town is surrounded by the Chugach Mountains and overlooks the Prince William Sound. Alaska's bohemian lifestyle also carries into the town, and you can enjoy a handful of outdoor activities here.
Part of the Greater Greenville area, Travelers Rest was and still is a rest stop for travelers, just as its name implies. Visitors to the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains often enjoy a rest at this stopping point. The town also offers a 22-mile bikeway as well as rafting and hiking places for you to enjoy in addition to its Southern charm.
Named after the Blowing Rock peaks of the Grandfather Mountain, the small town boasts sweeping views of forests. Resting on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock has trails, waterfalls, and gardens to explore. The nearby Grandfather Mountain is one of the most beloved hiking spots in North Carolina.
Nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains' Tenmile Range, the former Gold Rush town is famous for its ski resort and year-round alpine activities. Breckenridge's Victorian core has been preserved by the National Historic District, which runs along Main Street and is lined with colorfully painted buildings from the 19th century.
Dahlonega in the North Georgia mountains is also a gold mining town, and there is actually still gold in these mountains. But the Appalachian town's real treasure today is its waterfalls, including Amicalola Falls, the tallest in the East Mississippi. Within the town, there are tasting rooms of regional wineries, Dahlonega Gold Museum, restaurants, and shops - all utterly charming.
Girdwood is a small resort town of around 2,000 people, resting in the Chugach Mountain Range and surrounded by seven glaciers. Once called Glacier City, the mountain town is the only year-round resort, featuring dog mushing, biking, hiking, river rafting, fishing, and skiing at Alyeska Resort.
Lying in a valley known as Wear Cove that runs parallel to the Great Smoky Mountains, Wears Valley is the true Tennessee gateway to the national park. More peaceful than its counterparts like Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, the beautiful town is described as the "Jewel of the Smokies." You can find various wood cabins and pet-friendly properties to stay in.
With its high elevation of 8,676 feet and location within the 480,000-acre Lincoln National Forest, Cloudland stays cool during the summer months, making it an ideal getaway for visitors and residents alike. The Old West town of roughly 700 people was named by Fodor as the Number 3 "Most Overlooked and Underrated Destination Spot" in 2002.
Tucked into the Green Mountains in Vermont, Chester is one of New England's best antique towns. The historic town is also on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to its Stone Village Historic District and Main Street. Besides, its mountain location makes the town an entryway to slopes in Stratton, Killington, Okemo, and Mount Snow.
Founded just outside of Lexington, Irvine features the Lily Mountain Nature Preserve that offers 350 acres of hiking trails. Other popular attractions near this small town are the Daniel Boone National Forest and the 150-year-old Fitchburg Furnace, the world's largest charcoal iron furnace. Stay in a farmhouse or a log cabin, and you'll enjoy the true Appalachian serenity.
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