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There’s nothing quite like escaping the pace of day-to-day life and breathing in the fresh air of your favorite mountain retreat. If the mountains are your happy place, then you’re not alone: Median home sale prices in Rocky Mountain counties increased 20% during the pandemic, signaling increased demand.
If you’re ready to make the move to a mountain town (or you’re simply fantasizing about your next vacation), our guide will help you choose the perfect destination. We’ve analyzed 118 mountain towns in the United States based on key factors, including weather data, accessibility, and location, and we’ve highlighted the best ones below.
- Red Lodge, Montana, ranked as our top mountain town of 2023.
- Colorado stood out as the best state for mountain retreats, boasting nine towns in the top 50.
- The West took the lead with 27 of the top 50 mountain towns.
- The median home value in the top 50 mountain towns was $607,217.
Top 10 Places to Own a Mountain Home
We determined the top mountain towns in which to own a home based on seasonal temperatures and snowfall, number of extreme weather events, distance to an airport, air quality, number of ski resorts, and available entertainment and dining options.
Every mountain town we analyzed has unique qualities that make it a great place to live, but the following locales comprise the top 10.
1. Red Lodge, Montana
The picturesque mountain views and friendly community make Red Lodge, Montana, an ideal place to purchase a home. Red Lodge is a short drive to Yellowstone National Park’s northeastern entrance and the scenic Beartooth Highway. There’s also plenty of shopping, restaurants, and nightlife in the historic downtown area.
Snow sports are popular among residents. Red Lodge Mountain is the town’s ski resort, but you can enjoy just about any outdoor activity here, including rock climbing, horseback riding, rafting, and golfing. The town’s mild summers and snowy winters allow for seasonal outdoor recreation year-round.
Visitors can fly directly into Red Lodge Airport, making travel in and out of the town a breeze.
2. Telluride, Colorado
There’s never a dull moment in Telluride, Colorado. The town’s dynamic arts and culture scene means something is happening year-round. In the warmer months, unique events and festivals take place nearly every weekend, including the Telluride Hot Air Balloon Festival, Yoga Festival, Mushroom Festival, and more.
In the fall, Telluride’s already stunning mountain views become even more spectacular with vibrant fall foliage. Horror film fanatics can check out the Telluride Horror Show, which its website dubs “Colorado’s first and largest horror film festival.”
You can breathe in the fresh mountain air and appreciate the snowy winter weather at Telluride Ski Resort. Visitors can fly into and out of the Telluride Regional Airport, just six miles from downtown.
3. Lake Placid, New York
Nestled in the sloping Adirondack Mountains, Lake Placid, New York, has hosted the Olympic Winter Games twice. Whether you’re an amateur or expert winter sportsperson, Lake Placid’s state-of-the-art winter sports facilities offer ample opportunities to develop your skills.
4. Thomas, West Virginia
With a population of just over 500, Thomas, West Virginia, is a quaint mountain escape with historic charm. Although the town is small, its nearby ski resorts—Sunrise Park Resort and Canaan Valley Ski Resort—are major draws to the community.
Nearby, Blackwater Falls State Park has stunning waterfalls along its hiking trails. The town’s music venue, the Purple Fiddle, hosts live performances by folk, indie, and bluegrass bands.
5. Joseph, Oregon
In Joseph, Oregon, the Wallowa Mountains reflect pristinely onto Wallowa Lake, where visitors can boat, fish, hike, and cycle. This quiet Oregon town boasts the natural beauty of snow-capped mountains, rolling hills, and rich blue skies. Joseph is the perfect spot if you’re looking to settle down or vacation in a quiet area with plenty of scenery, art, and recreation. Joseph also has a history of bronze sculpture casting, with more than a dozen bronze monuments on Main Street.
6. Aspen, Colorado
Aspen is the most recognizable mountain town on our list, and it’s also the most expensive, with median home prices of $3.37 million. This sought-after area features luxury shopping, fine dining, and world-class ski resorts, including Aspen Snowmass and Aspen Highlands.
With an annual average of 192 inches of snowfall, Aspen is a natural choice for a ski destination and an ideal spot for high-end home buyers.
7. Ketchum, Idaho
Like several other towns on our list, Ketchum, Idaho, is an artistic and creative hub. It’s home to cultural events such as the Sun Valley Film Festival and the Sun Valley Center Arts and Crafts Festival. You can also find art galleries and studios displaying or selling art.
Bald Mountain at Sun Valley Ski Resort offers skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating. Its challenging courses appeal to advanced skiers, but Sun Valley also offers lessons for beginners.
8. Stowe, Vermont
Stowe, Vermont, is home to the state’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield, which offers skiing at the popular Stowe Mountain Resort. Although Stowe has a population of just over 800, it has made a name for itself thanks to its picturesque views and abundance of craft breweries and distilleries.
9. Thermopolis, Wyoming
Its sloping, red mountains make Thermopolis, Wyoming, look different from other mountain towns, but it still has a lot to offer residents. Thermopolis is home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs, Hot Springs State Park, where tourists and residents can visit year-round free of charge. The park is also home to a herd of bison that have lived there since 1916.
Although the town does not have a ski resort, it averages 66 inches of snow annually. Visitors can fly in and out of Hot Springs Country Airport, which is only 1.5 miles from downtown Thermopolis.
10. Camden, Maine
Camden, Maine, has something no other mountain town in the top 10 has: the beach. Camden residents enjoy the best of both worlds with sloping mountains and coastal charm. Residents can climb Mount Battie or Mount Megunticook’s hiking trails for views of the city and ocean. Boating and sailing are also popular activities.
The 50 Best Mountain Towns, Ranked
Of the 118 mountain towns in the United States we ranked based on climate, entertainment, recreation, and more, the following made our top 50:
Colorado featured the most high-ranking destinations, with nine mountain towns in the top 50. Vermont and Wyoming weren’t far behind, with six and five top-rated mountain towns, respectively.
Hidden Gem Mountain Towns
Do you dream of living in a town with a lower cost of living and fewer crowds? A hidden gem mountain town might be what you’re looking for.
We dug up these charming retreat towns by incorporating median home prices and property taxes into our overall mountain town rankings and evaluations. Therefore, most of these cities are more affordable than our overall top picks but still have abundant recreation options and favorable climates.
Some of our hidden gems also made our overall list, including Red Lodge, Montana, and Thomas, West Virginia. West Virginia was the most popular state for these quaint havens, featuring three.
Our hidden gem towns had significantly fewer dining and entertainment options per 10,000 residents compared to our overall top picks, which had more than three times as many entertainment options and nearly double the restaurant options.
And while towns off the beaten path might be quieter, they offer great access to national parks and outdoor recreation. They also ranked similarly in air quality and number of winter weather events as our top 10. Ultimately, your personal preferences will determine your choice between a more popular mountain town destination and a hidden gem.
What to Consider When Buying a Mountain Home
There are dozens of factors to look at before purchasing a home. The top three we considered to determine the best mountain towns in which to buy a home included weather, location, and accessibility.
What constitutes “good” weather is subjective. More snow is desirable if you love skiing, but could be a disadvantage if you prefer other outdoor activities, such as rock climbing, or don’t feel comfortable driving in snowy conditions. On the other hand, If you’re purchasing a mountain home to escape the summer heat, average annual snowfall is a less important consideration overall.
Extreme weather events, such as blizzards or ice storms, can restrict travel and pose a threat to you and your property. Consider the likelihood of these events during each season and how to plan ahead.
Anyone who has bought a house knows that location is everything when selecting a property, as it will determine the crowds, traffic, cost of living, and accessibility to recreation and entertainment options. Everyone has different priorities and values. Some homebuyers want a secluded getaway for their mountain home, while others prefer a vibrant social scene. Ultimately, budget and preferences are the top considerations when choosing your mountain home’s location.
Although snow is great for skiing and snowboarding, it can pose a danger when traveling. Icy, winding roads can make travel difficult. When choosing a mountain town to live in, consider the following: How far will you have to drive to an airport, hospital, or grocery store? Will the roads in your mountain town be accessible during a winter weather event? Does the town have snow plowing? And, just as importantly, is your vehicle equipped to navigate snowy conditions?
Assessing your risk tolerance and accessibility to basic amenities in the winter is a major consideration when choosing your mountain home.
Our top-rated mountain towns in which to own a home include Red Lodge, Montana; Telluride, Colorado; and Lake Placid, New York.
We based our recommendations for the best mountain towns on factors including recreation and dining options, weather conditions, average temperatures, air quality, and more. Our recommendations are not definitive, as everyone’s priorities are different.
Before investing in a mountain home, consider your priorities and weigh your options. Speaking with local realtors can be a good starting point when choosing where to put down roots and the best time to move. Local realtors are familiar with the real estate market in the area and what it’s like to live there.
How We Chose
To determine the best places to buy a mountain house, our research team analyzed 118 mountain towns across the United States. We compared the towns across these eight metrics:
- Average inches of snowfall per year: Because snow sports, such as skiing, and winter scenery are major draws to mountain towns, those with higher average annual snowfall scored higher. We sourced average snowfall data from the National Weather Service.
- Average number of extreme weather events: Extreme weather events are classified as storms or other weather phenomena that can cause significant damage to life or property. Towns with fewer extreme weather events scored higher. We sourced weather event data from the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).
- Distance to airport: We used the number of miles from an airport as a high-level metric to determine a town’s accessibility for travelers. We sourced airport location data from Google Maps.
- Average summer temperature: Towns with temperate summer weather (closest to 65 degrees Fahrenheit) earned the highest scores. Average temperature data was sourced from the NCEI.
- Entertainment establishments per 10,000 people: We counted the number of performing arts venues, sports establishments, museums, and other entertainment options in each town. The more establishments per 10,000 people, the higher a town scored. We sourced this data from the 2021 County Business Patterns Survey.
- Restaurants per 10,000 people: The more restaurants per 10,000 people living in a town, the higher the town scored. We sourced this data from the 2021 County Business Patterns Survey.
- Air quality: Lower average daily particular matter (PM2.5) readings indicated higher air quality in a town. We sourced this data from the 2023 County Health Rankings.
- Number of ski resorts: Towns with ski resorts, a major draw for tourists and homeowners to mountain towns, earned more points. We sourced ski resort data from onthesnow.com.
We calculated an average ranking by weighting the eight metrics above equally. The best mountain town scored 100, and the worst received a 4.9. Average and typical home prices did not influence a town’s ranking.
Questions about our study? Please contact the Reviews’ Public Relations manager at [email protected].
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