The summer heat can get to even those of us (like me) who revel in a good dousing of sun. If you live in a sunny summer spot, or just like keeping things cool, both Canada and the US offer fantastic mountain town getaways that are terrific to visit in the summer. A bit of altitude can keep temperatures from soaring, and the mountains provide plenty of opportunities for getting outdoors without the hassle of ice and snow. Many of these spots are cheaper in the summer than they are come winter – a value luxury bonus.
Here are some of my favorite mountain town getaways – check them out.
Park City, Utah
Park City is great any time of year, with its miles and miles of outdoor trails. The city itself has quite a few art galleries (check out the CODA Gallery for a unique collection), and there are hot air balloon rides, horse back riding, and much more. Quench your thirst at local favorite Lindzee O’ Michaels – they say Park City is more of a cocktail town, but Lindzee has you covered with an incredible beer list too. You can also spend a day or two exploring Salt Lake City, only 35 miles away.
Stay: The Newpark Resort is relatively new and is the perfect val lux stop for the night; it’s right next to lots of shops and restaurants. The Chateaux at Silver Lake is dreamy and often has fantastic packages and deals.
Taos, New Mexico
No matter how you look at it, Taos is a bit of a drive – the closest airport, in Santa Fe, is just over an hour. But you’ll want a car because there’s so much to see both in and around Taos. The Rio Grand Gorge, pueblos south of Taos, the Carson National Forest, or the famous church in Ranchos de Taos. In the city itself, you’ll find a number of great restaurants that double as art exhibitions. And for something different, consider the Taos Ski area’s Full Moon Hikes and Herbal Medicine walks.
Stay: El Monte Sagrado is a must for eco-friendly travelers; alternatively, the Historic Taos Inn is the perfect blend of history and local culture – they’ve had time to master it since opening in 1936!
Did you know that Oregon has a desert? Bend sits in a high plain, with a weather climate very different from its more damp westerly neighbors. But Bend embraces the same quirky lifestyle as Portland, with a strong emphasis on great local food, washed down with plenty of beers – or a cocktail from Bendistillery. Bend has a rather quiet, simple downtown, making it easy to wander from one pub to another, as well as tons of scenic spots for hikes like Smith Rock or along the Deschutes River. (On a clear afternoon you can see many of Oregon’s mountains, all extinct volcanoes.)
Stay: Get a great night’s sleep in the stylish, yet relaxed Oxford Hotel, right in the middle of town. Or for something a bit more rustic and romantic, check out the woodsy Five Pine Lodge in nearby Sisters.
Squamish, British Columbia
Some would say Squamish is the “value luxury” version of Whistler – it’s a lot easier on your wallet, and has many of the amenities you’d expect in Whistler, but in a perhaps more sedate version. Outdoor recreation is the name of the game in Squamish; they have everything from climbing to a simple waterside stroll. Wear some comfy shoes and hike up to Stawamus Chief, the best view in town and well worth the effort.
Stay: The Executive Suites Garibaldi Springs Resort is simply gorgeous, has high praise from guests, and has all the accoutrements you’ll need after a day out on the trails. If you’ve got nieces and nephews with you, the’ll love the pool area over at the Best Western Mountain Retreat.
Boone, North Carolina
One of the best things about Boone, North Carolina is that it’s right along the Blue Ridge Parkway, giving you ample opportunity to cruise for some great views – not that you need to, Boone has its own scenic outlook, called Howard’s Knob. Don’t miss Bald Guy Brew’s coffee, which the owner guarantees will be the best coffee you’ve ever had or he’ll give you your money back! Boone is relaxed and peaceful, which is sometimes just what a traveler needs.
Stay: Boone has tons of lovely B&Bs, inns, and nice hotels. The Lovill House Inn was built in 1875 and full of old-fashioned charms, including a filling breakfast each morning and those wonderful wide porches with rocking chairs to sit in each evening. Other slightly more upscale options are the Westglow Resort & Spa or the Green Park Inn, the last remaining Grand Manor hotel in the area.
Stowe is the highest town in Vermont and just has that “what you wanted” New England feel – forests and flowers, old world architecture (including covered bridges), but great food, great wine, and friendly people. And when I say great food, I mean it – there’s a cheese outlet, Ben and Jerry’s factory, and a mill where you can buy cider, syrup, and lots of other nice foodie souvenirs. Biking, driving, antiquing, and river canoeing are some summer favorites – there are literally a hundred miles of trails in this area.
Fort Collins, Colorado
My first experience in Fort Collins was many, many years ago – it was mostly a booze cruise through the town’s 5 local breweries. You don’t have to like beer to enjoy Ft. Collins – the many dining options (they say there are more restaurants here than in many larger cities), biking culture, and fabulous weather put the city on top of many “best places to live” lists. Take some time to relax into the Fort Collins vibe – it’s so chilled out, you will not want to go home.
Banff needs no introduction, that is, if you’ve read the tips and recommendations from one of Banff’s most famous locals. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Banff is gorgeous year-round and never has a dull moment. Spend the day hiking (or ride the gondola), then soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs afterwards. And nothing beats enjoying a cocktail at the Fairmont, before or after dinner and a night on the town.
Stay: Plan ahead and you can snag a good deal at the The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. A very comfortable and val lux alternative is the Fox Hotel & Suites. Also, consider spending a couple of days in Calgary if you’re wanting to take it easy.
Montana is a wildly popular destination these days, and Bozeman is one of the hot spots, both to live and to visit. It has an interesting collection of both modern and quirky art galleries and museums. (A computer museum? Yes, really.) And it’s hard not to eat well in this town, when you have packed microbreweries and bustling sandwich shops. Bozeman is right next to a national forest, so getting away from it all is easy.
Flickr Photo CC Credit: Artbrom,edmondo gnerre, AndrewGhayes, mariachily, olivia, ananth,dougtone, mfajardo,Trace Nietert