19 Jul Life’s more than a beach. Four mountain towns to visit this summer.
By Amy Tara KochJuly 19 at 6:00 AM
Splashing in the waves. Picnicking on the sand. Afternoon strolls along the shoreline.For many, nothing says summer like a beach vacation.
Others prefer to spend the season at elevation — especially with record high temperatures in the forecast.
If you balk at the notion of abandoning surf and sand, consider this itinerary: awakening to humidity-free mountain vistas, hiking and biking through a wildlife-rich wilderness and tucking into a locally sourced lunch — complete with craft beer, of course. Then, after the day’s workout, settling into an Adirondack chair to watch the sky move from pink to inky black, a backdrop for the nightly kaleidoscope of constellations. Sound appealing? We thought so.
Here are four U.S. destinations renowned for their hiking, biking, dining and bounty of mountain charm.
Park City, Utah
Once the snow melts, America’s largest ski resort shape-shifts, revealing a playground of a different sort. With 400 miles of trails, hikers can amble through mellow verdant valleys or choose from dozens of thigh-burning treks. The quality of its biking systems — panoramic loops and technically challenging downhill trails — have earned Park City the designation of Gold-Level Ride Center by the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
Navigating new terrain can be overwhelming. White Pine Touring will design biking and hiking excursions as well as bouldering outings that can include an overnight stay at a solar-powered yurt. Park City Yoga Adventures combines the practice with hiking and a stand-up paddleboard experience inside a 10,000-year-old geothermal cave filled with 96-degree mineral water.
Main Street is dynamic, with stylish shops and art galleries plus multiple live music venues. Dining veers from swanky (the Farm and Riverhorse on Main) to modern mountain-inspired fare (Handle or Firewood) along with plenty of casual cafes.
For a dose of luxury, stay at thenew Lodge at Blue Sky, a study of 21st-century cowboy cool tucked into 3,500 acres of wilderness featuring 46 expansive rooms, a cliff-top spa and activities including heli-yoga, horse riding, fly-fishing and outdoor painting. Rooms start at $770.
Alternatively, the Grand Summit Hotel, located at the base of Park City Mountain in Canyons Village, has spacious, recently upgraded rooms, a pool and is walking distance to hiking trails, with rooms starting at $141.
Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Come summer, Jackson Hole’s famously steep terrain still delivers an adrenaline jolt. This verticality is heaven for daredevil bikers — think downhill trails with jump features and rough forest paths for cross-country. Road bikers can cruise the 65-mile paved system connecting the town of Jacksonto Teton Village and Grand Teton National Park. Hikers have 3,000-plus acres at their disposal (which are in-town accessible) from relaxed wildflower-blanketed fields to switchback-filled terrain, some with alpine glacial lakes. You can also explore Grand Teton National Park, which shares a boundary with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
There’s more: Wake surfing and swimming on Lake Jackson, Class 4 white-water rafting down the Snake River (there are overnight raft trips, too) and fly-fishing. New this year is a guided rock-climbing experience (fixed to a rope so no risk of falling) inspired by bouldering in Italy’s Dolomites.
Jackson’s food scene is a big draw: Glorietta Trattoria for pasta, Bin 22 for Tuscan-esque small plates, Teton Thai for pad gar prow (basil beef) and zippy panang curry, and Persephone Bakery for a pre-hike power breakfast (bread pudding French toast, seeded avocado bowl).
If a dude ranch experience strikes your fancy, try Historic Moose Head Ranch, an all-inclusive property with unlimited horse riding, trout fishing and log cabins with unobstructed views of the Tetons. Cost is $450 per night, including meals.
Hotel Jackson, with its sleek take on the rustic Rocky Mountain aesthetic, is the perfect perch for those who like high style (reclaimed barn wood planks and quarried stone floors mixed with leather and metal accents) and insta-access to town, starting at $650.
Rooms are compact but cheerful at Mountain Modern Motel (two blocks from Jackson Town Square) a 135-room property with a pool, hot tub and wraparound deck for prime mountain viewing, starting at $269.
River Arts District! Craft breweries! Small batch food purveyors! There is so much happening in this spirited town that taking advantage of its surroundings, the Blue Ridge Mountains, can seem an afterthought. But that would be a shame. The scenic Blue Ridge Parkway leads to trailheads for every level of hiker. Wander through grassy meadows and over rocky outcrop to waterfalls, ascend through a forest of balsam firs to the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi or tackle the Appalachian Trail. For a guided experience, book acclaimed long-distance hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis (or a guide from her team at Blue Ridge Hiking Company) to custom-build a day, overnight or week-long trip. The French Broad River is another thrill. Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Maybe sign up for white-water rafting or join the locals for a mellow inner tube float.
The River Arts District is the clearest expression of Asheville’s creative soul. Its signature is exposed brick warehouses-turned art studios a la the Asheville Cotton Mill, a hub for working artists, fashion designers, a fledgling cider brewer and a ground level Guitar Bar specializing in swing and jazz standards. Around the corner is Wedge Studios, with artist workspaces and a hip boîte, and District, which traffics in hard-to-find biodynamic wines. Noted chocolatier French Broad Chocolate has its factory here (and a retail shop for bonbons and ice cream), which offers daily tours of the bean to bar facility.
Asheville’s buzzed-about food scene runs the gamut from delightful dives (Henrietta’s Poultry Shoppe, Sunny Point Cafe) and barbecue joints (12 Bones Smokehouse,) to upscale dining (Cucina 24) and plenty of eateries with edge (Aux Bar, Curate, Smoky Park Supper Club). For a sugar boost,Hole Donuts is essential.
If living history excites you, the century-old Omni Grove Park Inn (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) is an arts and crafts gem with outdoor pools, tennis courts, spa and wraparound mountain views best enjoyed over dinner from the hotel’s excellent restaurant, Sunset Terrace, with rooms starting at $250. The recently opened AC hotel has spacious, contemporary rooms and a rooftop bar, starting at $189.
Woodstock is the bohemian beating heart of Hudson Valley. Have breakfast at the Mud Club, a treehouse-like bagel shop with inventive schmear, and stroll down Tinker Street to check out the Golden Notebook bookshop, vintage stemware at Shop Little House and Three Turtle Doves for well-edited vintage fashion. Glo Spa supplies au courant pampering — think fireplace adorned treatment rooms and pelt-studded relaxation area with views of deer leaping through the surrounding prairies grass. In midafternoon, ice cream at Nancy’s of Woodstock Artisinal Creamery is an ideal pick-me-up.
There are wonderful hikes here, too, such as the 2.4-mile trek up Overlook Mountain to the colorful Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, a Tibetan monastery. One town over in Phoenicia, there are rapid elevation hikes such as Tanbark Loop and Slide Mountain Wilderness. Also in Phoenicia is a popular tubing destination, Esopus Creek.
Meals shine with locally sourced ingredients. Try Tinker Taco Lab, a creekside taqueria, or Silvia, a hot spot for upscale comfort food infused with Korean flavors. Across the street, Early Terrible, is a cool, art-filled cocktail den with exceptional playlist. While driving, keep an eye out for the farm stands peppered throughout the country roads.
It’s always wonderful to find in-the-thick-of-things lodging that feels remote. This is the case with Woodstock Way, a 13-room boutique hotel tucked behind a waterfall with cedar siding, crisp, whitewashed rooms and floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the leafy environs. Perks include creekside dinners with local chefs and easy pedestrian access to town. Rooms start at $250. Over in Hunter, Scribner’s Catskill Lodge is a 1960s motel turned perky mountain lodge with inviting, public spaces (ping-pong table, pool table, roaring fires), outdoor fire pits (s’mores anyone?)and Nordic-feeling rooms with exposed stonework. Nearby, there is an abundance of hiking (Colgate Lake, Devil’s Path and Kaaterskill Falls), though you may be tempted to stay on property to enjoy the pool and lawn games. Rooms start at $212.
This story originally ran in the Washington Post on July 19, 2019.