These 7 Incredible American Mountain Towns (and Hotels) Are Even Better in the Fall
Some of America’s best mountain towns are even better after the snow has melted—and better still when the summer crowds have gone. Autumn introduces colorful foliage, crisp temps, and unbeatable flight and hotel deals. Here, we break down some of our favorite mountain landscapes (plus where to stay) in the US…even in the off-season.
In partnership with Marriott Mountain Resorts
Long before it was an ultra-luxe winter playground, Aspen lured America’s most intrepid mountain hikers. When the snow melts, thrill seekers take to the trails once again. Miles of switchbacks lead to gorgeous blue lakes, rolling meadows, and impressive cliffs hiding tiny waterfalls. At the base of the world-renowned, eponymous Aspen Mountain sits the destination’s newest sleep, W Aspen & The Sky Residences at W Aspen, which brings a bold point of view to the iconic mountain town with year-round access to alpine adventure and stunning 360-degree mountain views. The Westin Snowmass Resort is a one-size-fits-all kind of place, where travelers of all taste levels and itineraries can find their niche. In need of a spa day followed by some bubbly and fireplace lounging? There’s a high-altitude spa for that. Looking to dig into stellar cuisine (rack of elk; ribeye) and local craft beer? Book a table at Snowmass Kitchen. If you want even more luxury, check into The St. Regis Aspen Resort. Along with the brand’s famous fleet of butlers, you’ll find spaces decked out with grand staircases and chandeliers, an award-winning Remède Spa and a heated outdoor pool with three hot tubs—the perfect complement to an energizing day on the trails. Alternatively, the low-key Element Basalt awaits in the tiny hamlet of Willits Town Center, complete with a LEED Certification and sustainable meals and design.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
If you love the landscapes of Vail but need something a little more low-key, Beaver Creek is your spot. Sure, there’s plenty of skiing in wintertime, but during the summer and fall, the place to be is McCoy Park, where 20 miles of trails are gold for mountain bikers, horseback riders (Beaver Creek Stables leads rides for ages 7 and older, while younger ones stick to the stables on ponies), and hikers of all levels. Whoever you’re traveling with—family, friends, your s.o.—there are plenty of hotels to choose from. We love the family-friendly Beaver Creek Lodge, Autograph Collection, which features spacious rooms with kitchenettes, as well as the more contemporary Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in nearby Avon, for travelers who’d rather stay outside the ski village. Otherwise, elevate your stay at The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch (a short drive north) which known for its American West-style vibes and destination restaurants.
With legendary resorts and world-class slopes, Vail is one of America’s top ski destinations, but the Rocky Mountains have plenty to offer when the snowflakes disappear. You can’t have mountains without valleys and streams, and you’ll find some incredible spots here to go whitewater rafting and fly-fishing—Vail was the host of the World Fly Fishing Championship in 2016—at both Eagle River and the Colorado River. At the base of the mountain, Vail Marriott Mountain Resort channels Europe’s legendary alpine haunts with pitched-roof chalets, a pedestrian-only inner village, and an unbeatable location near the Eagle Bahn Gondola (open year-round). Ride to the top for zip-lining, high ropes courses, and incredible views. Time your visit between June and September to catch the Vail Jazz Festival, which welcomes more than 200 musical acts, followed by Restaurant Week (September 27 through October 6).
Want to get your heart pumping? Breckenridge is the place, thanks to its summer and fall whitewater rafting, zip-lining, fly-fishing, and hiking. During autumn, there’s a festival happening every weekend: the Breckenridge Film Festival and Oktoberfest (both in September) are especially popular. But if you miss out on the weekend fun, the town’s breweries are open every day—we love Broken Compass Brewing and Breckenridge Brewery & Pub. Our hotel of choice is Residence Inn Breckenridge, just off Main Street, a modern mountain resort with families and groups in mind: the suites are pet-friendly with kitchenettes—breakfast is included in the rate—and pull-out double sofa beds, and the heated outdoor pool features one of the best views of downtown.
Lake Tahoe, Nevada/California
Bordered by the looming Sierra Nevada mountains, Lake Tahoe is one of America’s cleanest—and prettiest—bodies of water, making it an outdoor adventurer’s paradise no matter the season. In summer and fall, hikers and bikers come to tackle the 165-mile-long Tahoe Rim Trail before taking a spin via boat or kayak around the lake, while families stick to the South Shore Bike Path for its easy terrain and stellar views. At the end of the day, retreat to The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, where you can luxuriate in the eucalyptus steam room at the slope-side spa, chow down on fondue and hearty soups near the fire pit at The Living Room.
Mammoth Lakes, California
A five-hour drive north of Los Angeles leads to Mammoth Lakes, a verdant A-Lister escape famous for its winter skiing. But it’s worth making the trek in fall if you want to escape the crowds and see the Aspen trees lining the 2.4-mile-long Heart Lake Trail transform from green to gold. After stopping by the Mammoth Brewing Company to taste the signature Lair of the Bear brew, check into the The Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth, with suites and studios perfect for families and large groups thanks to its sofa beds, fireplaces, and kitchenettes (not to mention a heated outdoor pool with two hot tubs). Bonus: You’re also just an hour’s drive from the entrance to Yosemite National Park.
Deer Valley, Utah
There’s plenty to love about Deer Valley, Utah, from its prime location just a 5-minute drive from Park City to its gorgeous mountain views. In summer and fall, the lifts stay open and paddle-boarding from Pebble Beach is a favorite local pastime. Stay at The St. Regis Deer Valley, one of the area’s premier sleeps, which guests can only reach by private funicular. You don’t need a day on the slopes to find a reason to cozy up by the hotel’s many fireplaces, outdoor heated swimming pool, intimate library, or better yet, unwind with a hot stone massage and oxygen facial at the 14,000-square-foot Remède Spa, complete with its own blue mosaic whirlpool. For celeb-spotting, a meal at J&G Grill is a must. Try the black truffle pizza or Lemon Cedar Plank salmon carved tableside before stumbling back to your room.
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