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8 Adventure-Filled Mountain Towns to Visit This Summer

8/5/17 by Emma Walker

You’ve heard John Muir’s most-quoted phrase plenty of times: "The mountains are calling, and I must go." There’s a reason it’s printed on every souvenir imaginable and used as a caption for everyone’s best mountain photos. Rugged mountains are the beloved playground of outdoorsy types year-round, and summer is an especially appealing season. Snow has melted, revealing landscapes that beckon with trails, wildflowers, and alpine lakes; it’s much cooler than at lower elevations; and you’re almost guaranteed to feel rejuvenated after a visit. And the fun doesn’t end there: Mountain towns are always full of fellow outdoor lovers, as well as awesome places for a beer and a bite after your adventure.

For your next mountain outing, make a summer trip of it at one of these incredible towns. Each spot has its own special flavor, but they all have big-time adventure potential and plenty of ways to relax afterward.

1. Bend, Oregon

Bend is brimming with awesome hikes, like this one to the South Sister volcano.
Bend is brimming with awesome hikes, like this one to the South Sister volcano. Loren Kerns

Once a quiet logging town, Bend has proven itself a serious destination for outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes. Whether you’re in the market for mountain biking, hiking, climbing, paddling, or just about any other activity you can think of, Bend has you covered. Head just east into the Cascade Range to climb one of the famous Three Sisters volcanoes, hike or play disc golf at nearby Mount Bachelor, or raft the mighty Deschutes River. When you’re ready to unwind, get ready to follow the Bend Ale Trail: Bend has more microbreweries per capita than any other town in Oregon.

2. Truckee, California

Lake Tahoe is about a 20-minute trip from the charming mountain town of Truckee.
Lake Tahoe is about a 20-minute trip from the charming mountain town of Truckee. Mitchel Jones

This northern California mountain hideaway is not to be missed. A quick drive from Lake Tahoe, Truckee is far more than a stopover on the way to the famous alpine lake. Head to Truckee River Canyon for phenomenal moderate sport climbing (there’s also tons of climbing off the Donner Pass Road), lounge on the beaches or paddle on Lake Tahoe, or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, hike or backpack a section of the Pacific Crest Trail or the Tahoe Rim Trail, both of which are easily accessible from Truckee. Finish each day by exploring Truckee’s chill vibe at Tunnel Creek Cafe or Moody’s Bistro.

3. Jackson, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park is full of epic hikes to be explored in the summer.
Grand Teton National Park is full of epic hikes to be explored in the summer. Adam Fagen

This picture-perfect town in the foothills of the Teton Range provides some of the best mountain access you’ll find anywhere in the West. Just a few miles down the road from Grand Teton National Park (and not much farther from Yellowstone National Park), Jackson is the ideal place to spend an adventure-filled weekend. Head out on iconic hikes like Garnet Canyon (the climbers’ approach to the Grand Teton, among others), paddle a kayak on Jenny Lake, or road bike through through the two national parks. On your way back to town, make a stop at Dornan’s for its famous pizza, then spend the evening wandering the shops and restaurants of historic downtown Jackson.

4. Park City, Utah

Soak up waterfalls like this one, Bridal Veil Falls, on one of many hikes around Park City.
Soak up waterfalls like this one, Bridal Veil Falls, on one of many hikes around Park City. Alex Marinenko

With easy access to the rugged Wasatch Range, Park City is the place to beat Utah’s summer heat—it’s often up to 20 degrees cooler than the Wasatch Front. Many nearby ski areas offer adventure-friendly summer activities, too, and as the headquarters of the iconic Sundance Film Festival every January, the town is a year-round draw for movie buffs. Head into the Wasatch to climb giants like Mount Timpanogos and Cascade Mountain, drive breathtaking scenic byways to check out landmarks like Timpanogos Cave National Monument and Bridal Veil Falls, or raft the Provo River; it’s all accessible from Park City. Get a taste of winter despite the warm weather with a visit to the skiers’ favorite, the Silver Star Cafe.

5. Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Strawberry Hot Springs is just the spot to unwind after a day of adventure at Steamboat Springs.
Strawberry Hot Springs is just the spot to unwind after a day of adventure at Steamboat Springs. Eli Duke

Steamboat may be best known for its ski area, but in-the-know adventurers head there in the summer to take advantage of fewer crowds and outdoor fun galore. It’s a mecca for biking, with 200 miles and counting of high-quality mountain bike trails, much of it beginner/intermediate level. Just up the road is the Upper Colorado River, where you’ll find everything from gnarly class V whitewater in Gore Canyon to mellow flatwater paddling a little farther downstream. Whatever adventure you choose, don’t miss winding down at Strawberry Park Hot Springs: The natural springs mineral pools are the perfect antidote to sore muscles.

6. Stowe, Vermont

Smugglers’ Notch State Park offers a stunning natural setting just outside Stowe.
Smugglers’ Notch State Park offers a stunning natural setting just outside Stowe. Rain0975

Known for its fantastic autumn foliage, Stowe has a few tricks up its sleeve in the summertime, too. Make the Trapp Family Lodge your adventure headquarters to keep the alpine feel alive, then head out to hike in Smugglers’ Notch State Park and nearby Moss Glen Falls. (For more ambitious adventures, you’re also quite close to the Long Trail, the oldest long-distance trail in the country; even doing a few of its 272 miles is a noteworthy hike.) Stowe is also a popular hot air ballooning destination, with a three-day festival held each July. Sticking closer to the ground? Rent bikes at Pinnacle Ski & Sports, then check out the Stowe Recreation Path or the Trapp lodge’s many miles of trails.

7. Whistler, British Columbia

A close neighbor to Whistler, Squamish boasts world-class climbing.
A close neighbor to Whistler, Squamish boasts world-class climbing. Eric Fjellanger

Nestled in the Pacific Ranges of British Columbia’s Coast Mountains, Whistler, the largest ski resort in North America with a whopping 8,171 acres, is known for its epic skiing and snowboarding. But in the summer, its sprawling terrain transforms into the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, a burly mecca for mountain bikers, with 70 trails across four mountain zones that draw the most hardcore riders in the sport. Every summer, Whistler hosts Crankworx, described as the Super Bowl of mountain biking. Meanwhile, a massive trail network extends throughout town and beyond, offering myriad routes for more leisurely rides. There are trails galore, too: Check out scenic Lost Lake, or to cool off, head to Blackcomb Glacier Provincial Park. And, for the climbing set, Whistler is also just 45 minutes up the road from Squamish, a world-class trad climbing destination.

8. Snowshoe, West Virginia

In the summer, Snowshoe draws mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
In the summer, Snowshoe draws mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Alexander Hawn

This tiny town in the Allegheny Mountains draws huge crowds each winter for its skiing, but don’t let its name fool you: There’s more than enough to keep busy in Pocahontas County once the snow melts, too. Snowshoe Mountain Resort’s extensive downhill mountain biking trail system is a great way to get the adrenaline pumping. For a more relaxed outing, rent a canoe or SUP and paddle around Shavers Lake. When night falls, head to the 485-foot Green Bank Telescope, the largest fully steerable radio telescope in the world.

Originally written by RootsRated for Marmot.