The Best Mountain Towns in the Rockies Worth Visiting

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The Rocky Mountains, sometimes called the Backbone of America, form the Continental Divide, which separates the Pacific and Atlantic watersheds in North America. Technically, the Rockies run from Alberta in Canada to northern New Mexico, but in reality, they’re part of a continuous chain of mountain ranges stretching from Alaska down to Patagonia in the southern tip of South America.

For those who don’t share my passion for a nomadic lifestyle, sleeping in a car, and being in a different place every night, you’ll probably appreciate suggestions for where to stay when you visit the Rockies. My favorite mountain towns offer the dual benefits of seclusion and convenience: they’re less crowded, mostly free of traffic lights, boast reasonable accommodation rates, and provide easy access to breathtaking mountain landscapes.

1. East Glacier Park, Montana

East Glacier Park, Montana
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Development has really grown between Kalispell and West Glacier on the western side of Glacier National Park, but the same isn’t true on the east side. East Glacier Park has a quieter, cozier feel, it’s the site of the historic Glacier Park Lodge, and it’s just minutes from the park’s Two Medicine entrance.

2. Choteau, Montana

Choteau, Montana, USA
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Technically, Choteau is out on the plains, but this small town that a lot of people rush through between Glacier National Park and Great Falls is the main gateway town for the spectacular mountains that rise to the west. Those peaks make up the Rocky Mountain Front, one of the major ranges in the massive Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.

3. Seeley Lake, Montana

Seeley Lake, Montana
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This small town of only 1,682 in the 2020 Census sits alongside its namesake lake. It makes a great base for people exploring the western side of “The Bob” and wanting to access the Mission Mountains without the red tape involved on their other side.

4. Darby, Montana

lake como in darby montana
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Hamilton is the biggest town in the Bitterroot Valley, but it’s seen so much growth that it’s lost much of its old-time charm. Not far south of it is Darby, where you can find more of that charm in the shadow of Trapper Peak, the highpoint of the Bitterroots.

5. Red Lodge, Montana

Red Lodge, Montana
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Red Lodge is at one end of the famous and spectacular Beartooth Highway. It’s a fun town that draws a lot of hikers, anglers, climbers, and winter sports enthusiasts. Even better, it’s only about a 90-minute drive from Billings, so you can fly in and then quickly be in the mountains.

6. Cooke City, Montana

Cooke City, Montana
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At the other end of the Beartooth Highway is tiny Cooke City, a gateway to northeastern Yellowstone. With tall, dark peaks rising all around it, it’s one of the most scenic mountain towns in the country, and it’s my favorite mountain town of them all. People who enjoy exploring old mining ruins will find even more to love about the area.

7. Salmon, Idaho

The Salmon River, Idaho
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Salmon has pretty mountains around it, but the mountains aren’t really what draw people to this town. Instead, it’s the rivers, as some of the best whitewater rafting in the country is close by.

8. Stanley, Idaho

Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Stanley, Idaho
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Stanley may be little, but it has big recreational opportunities. That’s because it’s in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area with two beautiful mountain ranges close by: the Sawtooths and the White Clouds. Farther south are the Boulder and the Smoky Mountains.

9. Alpine, Wyoming

Snake River canyon near Jackson Hole, Wyoming USA
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At the western edge of Wyoming where the Greys River meets the Snake River, Alpine is nicely removed from the bustle and congestion of the Jackson area. It’s at the western end of Snake River Canyon, one of the best whitewater runs in the country, and the beautiful Greys River Road departs south from town on a journey of 60 miles through a valley flanked by the Salt River Rane and the Wyoming Range. My first time driving that road was a revelation I’ll never forget, and just about nobody outside the region knows it exists.

10. Pinedale, Wyoming

Fremont Lake in Pinedale, Wyoming
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Pinedale is in the western shadow of the Wind River Range, Wyoming’s highest mountains. The mountains and nearby lakes attract outdoor enthusiasts, and it’s an important stop for people heading into the mountains for days at a time. Last summer, I discovered the benefits of the Jackalope Motor Lodge, which has bunk-style dorm rooms that are way cheaper to stay in than the hotels in town.

11. Dubois, Wyoming

Scenic Overlook in Dubois Wyoming
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Dubois is smaller and less busy than Pinedale, and it has a real cowboy and Old West feel to it. Mountains surround it, and it’s a key gateway for backpacking trips in the northern Wind River Range and the Absaroka Range. There’s also plenty to do if you just want to go out for the day, and I’ve always found the area to be a great alternative to the crowds in Grand Teton National Park.

12. Lander, Wyoming

Sinks Canyon State Park near Lander, Wyoming
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It takes about 90 minutes to drive from Dubois to Lander, which is near the southern end of the Wind River Range and therefore a key means of access to it. Lander also attracts a lot of rock climbers who come for Sinks Canyon, which has some of the best and most challenging limestone rock climbing in the country.

13. Ten Sleep, Wyoming

Bighorn National Forest near Ten Sleep, Wyoming
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If you’re a climber and Sinks Canyon leaves you craving more limestone, head out to the Bighorn Mountains. Ten Sleep Canyon is a popular climbing destination, and the town itself is a destination for hikers and backpackers driving through the canyon on their way to trailheads for the Cloud Peak Wilderness.

14. Kamas, Utah

Kamas Lake, Mirror Lake Scenic Byway, Utah
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The Mirror Lake Scenic Byway winds through the Uintas, Utah’s highest mountain range. Kamas is at the southern end of the byway, and it’s the last place to stock up or sleep on a mattress if you’re heading into the mountains from the Salt Lake area.

15. Estes Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain, Estes Park in Colorado
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It’s just about always busy in Estes Park, and it’s usually expensive, but you can’t beat the location. The town is just outside the eastern entrances to Rocky Mountain National Park, and the scenery is spectacular anywhere you are.

16. Crested Butte, Colorado

Crested Butte, Colorado
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Colorado’s mountain towns can get really crowded, especially the ones right off or near the interstates. What I like about Crested Butte is that in addition to great scenery, it has a very remote feel for Colorado since there are no major highways to and through it, only mountain roads.

17. Ouray, Colorado

Ouray, Colorado
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If I could pick one mountain town in Colorado to live in, it would probably be Ouray, and it would be all about the location. Sure, the main strip through town gets really congested, but the town has enough goods and services available while also being so close to so many great outdoor recreational opportunities all year long.

18. Silverton, Colorado

Silverton, Colorado
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Silverton is south of Ouray and separated from it by two high mountain passes. It has a rich history as a mining town, and although it’s quite small, it’s in a beautiful setting and much less crowded than Ouray is.

19. Telluride, Colorado

Mount Wilson near Telluride Colorado
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Telluride is on the other side of the San Juan Range from Ouray, and because it’s tucked into a valley reached by a spur road, it isn’t as busy as Ouray, but it still gets a lot of visitation in the summer and winter months. Nearby is Wilson Peak, one of Colorado’s most iconic peaks and the one you see on Coors Light cans.

20. Taos, New Mexico

Wheeler Peak, New Mexico
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Taos is perhaps best known for its arts community and the nearby ski village. Don’t let that keep you from visiting at any time of year, though, especially in summer when you can hike trails to alpine lakes and to the summit of Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest.

The World’s Most Beautiful Mountain Ranges

woman sitting on mountain top
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For as long as humans have existed, mountains have inspired and daunted us. They’re the basis for countless legends, and although they can be deadly, have an irresistible pull on us, drawing millions of sightseers, hikers, climbers, skiers, and other outdoor enthusiasts every year. Making a definitive list of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world is subjective, but the ones here are certainly strong contenders.

The World’s Most Beautiful Mountain Ranges

Best Gas Stations in America Worth Stopping For

Bucees gas station red truck
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Gas stations are typically nothing more than mere pit stops during long journeys, serving the functional purpose of refueling vehicles. However, there are some exceptional gas stations across America that go beyond the ordinary, offering unique experiences and amenities that make them destinations in their own right! 

Best Gas Stations in America Worth Stopping For

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Robert Sihler is an educator, freelance writer, and rock climbing guide and instructor living with his family in Driftwood, Texas. In his spare time, he enjoys reading fiction, streaming films, completing crossword puzzles, and rock climbing. When he goes on vacation, he likes to visit the mountains of the West and climb remote, obscure peaks that have seen few or no prior ascents.