5 U.S. towns with mountain views, from Montana to Maine

Stanley, Idaho, is located in the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, the first spot in the U.S. to receive the highest status from the International Dark Sky Association due to its amazing stargazing.

Beach vacations and theme park trips are fun, but perhaps consider switching your destination to a charming mountain town with majestic views of nature’s splendor plus outdoor exploration opportunities.

“America the Beautiful” is true to the song’s title and these five U.S. mountain towns offer breathtaking vista views, a plethora of outdoor activities and wonderful culinary scenes.

Here are five all-season destinations ready to be enjoyed and explored.

Stanley, Idaho

It doesn’t get more mountain-y than Stanley, Idaho, which is located about three hours northeast of Boise. Stanley is surrounded by the Sawtooth, White Cloud and Lost River mountain ranges, and this trifecta is an adventure haven for hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and rock climbing.

While Stanley is gorgeous during the daylight hours the town really shines when the sun sets. Stanley is located in the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, the first-ever Gold Tier dark sky reserve in the United States and the 12th in the world. Gold tier Gold-tier status is reserved for the areas with the most visible sky phenomenons and the least light pollution. That means stargazers will have amazing views of the Milky Way, meteors and several planets as well as other astronomical events.

► The night sky:  10 great places to go stargazing in the U.S.

Stand up paddle boarding is one of the activities you can try at  Idaho's Redfish Lake.

Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate that Stanley is home to Redfish Lake, an alpine lake situated at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains, where you can rent a boat, kayak or paddle board and enjoy this beautiful lake.

If you want Instagram-worthy images, book a stay at the Mountain Village Resort which offers private, natural hot springs piped into a man-made pool. 

Bethel, Maine

Grafton Notch State Park offers hikes with stunning views of the Mahoosuc Range, a northern extension of the White Mountains.

A classic New England village, Bethel is a storybook setting, with a walkable downtown and cozy lodging and dining options nestled in Maine’s Lakes & Mountains region.

The town of Bethel, Maine offers New England charm and stunning outdoor activities.

With the White Mountain National Forest at the village’s doorstep, plan to enjoy hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing or Nordic skiing, and you can access the mountains all year long.  Also, carve out time for Grafton Notch State Park, which offers hikes with stunning views of the Mahoosuc Range, a northern extension of the White Mountains. 

Beyond the views, Bethel features various shops which sell crafty Maine-made merchandise. Dining in Bethel is also noteworthy with roadside gems like Smokin’ Good BBQ  to fine dining at  Brian’s,  or a freshly brewed beer from the Sunday River Brewing Company.

After a day of enjoying the town, settle in at the Bethel Inn Resort, which offers a golf course in the summer and a cross-country ski center in winter. 

Bryson City, North Carolina

A view of Bryson City, North Carolina, looking north toward the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

If you’re looking for laid-back and non-touristy town with view of mountains, consider a visit to Bryson City, which borders the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Western North Carolina.

Bryson City is about an hour west of the North Carolina tourist town of Asheville,  a little more than two hours from Knoxville, Tennessee, and Spartanburg, South Carolina and roughly three hours from Chattanooga, Tennessee; Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina.

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