If you’re like us, you know that cooler weather means crisp morning air, beautiful color tours by bike or car, and the debate of how long to wear your Chacos (hint: for a bit longer, it’s time to break out your Sockos). While our home state of Michigan has some of the best fall colors in the country, our Colorado roots mean that we love mountain life, too. So here are our top 5 picks of mountain towns to explore this fall.
Originally a wild west mining town, Durango has managed to maintain its rugged looks without the rowdy population of miners. Sporting one of the most impressive mountain skylines on our list, it’s tucked away in a box canyon 6 hours southwest of Denver. Most of these mountain towns show off scenic drives and stellar fall foliage, but none like Durango, home of the San Juan Skyway. Sporting serpentine roads and stunning views, this drive is regarded by many as one of the best in the country.
Things can get a bit unpredictable in the mountains, with some spots already getting snow in early September. Be sure to come prepped with the boots that will give you grip or the booties that will keep you cozy for that long drive.
Perched at 10,150 feet, Leadville definitely earns its title as a mountain town, and is also the highest incorporated city in the country. Originally a mining town like Durango, Leadville was once the second-largest city in the state, although today its home to a mere 2,600 residents. Can you say quiet getaway?
The town also hosts the Leadville Trail 100, an annual “Race Across the Sky.” Thanks to this, there are plenty of trails for running, hiking, and mountain biking. Whether you are planning a multi-day trek on these trails or crave a quick stroll in the foothills, a stop at Melanaza Clothing is a must. Their shelves are packed with everything you need from performance fabrics to comfy hoodies.
Boone, North Carolina
Just because its a mountain town doesn’t mean you need to risk September snowfall. Boone is a great pick for our friends in the southeast who still crave some elevated fall views. Tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains, Boone is perched on another famous scenic drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway. This route will guide you through old-growth forests and the slopes of a gentler mountain range, with stops like Asheville and Great Smoky National Forest.
If you do drive the Parkway and pull off in Asheville, be sure to check out our Asheville City Guide.
Less popular than the “Ski Capital of the East,” Stowe, Ludlow sits at the base of Okemo Mountain. It’s a gorgeous spot to hike, bike, climb, and run to take in the vibrant foliage. When you’re done, downtown Ludlow features quaint shops, a gorgeous hostel, and playful New England architecture that you’d expect in the Northeast.
In the mood for a premium bite during your travels? Be sure to check out the farm to table fare of the Downtown Grocery, and don’t forget our leather styles if you need something a touch dressier than your Z/Sandals.
While it’s not your traditional mountain town, we’d be remised if we didn’t mention the outdoor paradise of Houghton, perched at the top of our home state. Sitting at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula, this town is home to the legendary Michigan fall colors we mentioned earlier. And we promise, there are in fact mountains up here!
Further north, Copper Harbor sports some of the best mountain biking in the Midwest, second only to the flow tracks of Marquette, 1.5 hours away. Houghton is also the only town on our list that’s on the water, with the shoreline of massive Lake Superior. A great opportunity to bust out your Z/Sandals. What’s more, September is when the water is the warmest – a great excuse to take a dip mid-exploration.
We hope you’ve found this guide of mountain towns to explore this fall helpful. And the best part? All of these spots are ranked as some of the most affordable mountain towns in the country. Because we’re always looking out for #ChacoNation. So pack up the car and head to the spot nearest you. You won’t regret it.
Be sure to take us along by tagging #ChacoNation when sharing about your adventure!