Looking for that perfect outdoor destination — where skies are blue, the air is fresh and the mountain breezes blow just a little cooler? Summer is the perfect time to head for the hills on an outdoor adventure, and these up-and-coming mountain towns are the perfect destinations for getting outside. Whether you want to fish a mountain stream, hike a summit, or pitch your tent under a star-filled sky, check out these eight towns this summer.
Known as the Gateway to Glacier National Park in Montana, Whitefish is a small resort town with a talent for attracting hikers, paddlers and families in both summer and winter. A hardy winter crowd comes here to ski at Whitefish Mountain Resort, but summer visitors won’t be disappointed with the resort’s offerings. From ziplines and an aerial adventure park, to alpine slides and summer tubing, the resort is an adrenaline lover's dream.
If you’re longing to get on the water, you definitely won’t want to miss a day on Whitefish Lake, which is 5.2 square miles and surrounded by jagged peaks. It’s the perfect spot for paddling, fishing or honing your SUP skills. Downtown Whitefish is a lovely mix of mountain charm and tourist attractions, and you’ll find no shortage of eateries, boutique shopping, outfitters and live music. Be sure to fuel up your day at Montana Coffee Traders and your nights at the Great Northern Brewing Company.
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia, Roanoke is the biggest metropolitan area on the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. While this is a bustling city of almost 100,000 people, Roanoke emits chill mountain vibes and wholeheartedly embraces an outdoor lifestyle. With more than a thousand miles of public trails, the Roanoke area has earned the title of America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital.
Roanoke’s sprawling parks are world-class, providing ample opportunities for exhilarating adventures, mellow meanderings or complete relaxation. A day spent outside should always be followed up with a frosty beverage, and Roanoke does not disappoint, with dozens of unique craft breweries, wineries and distilleries along Virginia’s Blue Ridge Cheers Trail.
Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia
Step back in time this summer with a visit to historic Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia. Located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, Harper’s Ferry was a strategic location during the Civil War and the whole town has been designated a National Historic District. You can delve into the town’s captivating past at the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, where you’ll find hiking trails, weekend reenactments and historic trades workshops. Harper’s Ferry is the halfway point on the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail, and while hiking may be the main attraction, you’ll also discover countless ways to get out on the water, from paddling and swimming, to tubing and waterskiing.
Just a stone’s throw from Lake Tahoe’s north shore, Truckee is a quintessential mountain town and a perfect home base for your next adventurous vacation. Lake Tahoe is obviously a must-see destination, but I’d also recommend the smaller and less crowded Donner Lake for paddling, swimming or fishing. Whichever lake you choose, be prepared for icy water, even during the warmest summer months. In Truckee, there’s a trail for everyone, whether you want a paved riding experience, world-class single-track or a grueling mountain summit. After a day in the mountains, check out historic downtown Truckee, which includes several blocks of art galleries and shops, plus more than a dozen eateries of every persuasion.
Lincoln, New Hampshire
If you’re looking for a beautiful road trip, complete with scenic vistas, cascading waterfalls and endless opportunities for hiking and swimming, you can’t beat a summer drive on the renowned Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The unassuming mountain town of Lincoln is the western terminus of the “Kanc,” as it’s affectionately known, and is also the gateway to the massive and much loved Franconia Notch State Park.
Lincoln may be small, but it’s got everything you need for a summer vacation in the mountains — a bustling craft brewery scene, live music and theater, homemade ice cream and one of the most scenic mini golf courses around. If the mountains of New Hampshire are calling your name this summer, make Lincoln your home-away-from-home. You won’t regret it.
Surrounded by the sea and snow-capped peaks, the city of Homer, Alaska embraces extreme adventures like glacier hiking, kite surfing and bear watching. It’s also a great home base for unbelievable fishing — Homer is the halibut fishing capital of the world. For visitors who want less heart-pumping action, the town also provides beautiful beaches, jaw-dropping scenery and some pretty fantastic seafood.
Alaska’s first state park, Kachemak Bay State Park, is located right across the bay, and while there are no roads into the park, there are water taxis that leave from Homer on a regular basis. The park is an awesome spot to hike glaciers, camp and watch wildlife, and its remote location means you’ll be guaranteed a crowd-free vacation.
Twin Falls, Idaho
Twin Falls is a bit of a drive-by town, popular as most visitors head straight to the Snake River Canyon and the amazing Shoshone Falls, which plunges 213-feet into the snake river. Give this beautiful town a chance, though, and you’ll find a lot more than waterfalls. After you’ve taken in the obligatory view of the the falls, head to the Twin Falls Visitor Center for a short hike on the Snake River Canyon Rim Trail. Next, make your way to Elevation 486 for Happy Hour or dinner with the best view in town.
If you are a fan of stand-up-paddling or kayaking, you have a ton of choices in Twin Falls. You can paddle through the canyon on the Snake River or head to Dierkes Lake for more peaceful paddling. Finally, be sure to meander around downtown Twin Falls, which has plenty of great dining and drinking options, as well as public art installations, and independent shopping.
Midway is just a short drive from Salt Lake City, Utah in the Herber Valley near the Wasatch Mountains. It’s most well known for the Homestead Crater, a privately-owned geothermal spring on the grounds of the Homestead Resort. The mineral waters range from 90 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit, a perfect temperature for a relaxing soak. Wasatch Mountain State Park is an adventure-lover's dream, with miles and miles of trails, a 36-hole golf course, and a sprawling campground. Downtown Midway has a fun shopping scene, with boutiques, antique shops, and some great eateries.