10 Small Mountain Towns to Escape to This Fall
Into the woods! Into the woods! (This is an "Into the Woods" reference)!
After “getting away from it all” in your apartment in the city for six months because…*gestures to literally everything*, take a break by “getting away from it all”…in the woods. Traveling has become trickier, and traveling to places with fewer crowds has become imperative. This is why the mountains are truly your best bet. Get yourself outside and see some nature (great for social distancing) and then hide away at night in your own cozy little room. Regardless, it’s time to get out of the city and escape into the mountains (safely).
Rebecca Rimmer Photography
Big Bear Lake
Big Bear is one of the best/quickest/most popular ways to get to a mountain outside of Los Angeles. You’ve got plenty of options for your stay—bed and breakfasts, resort cabins, motels and hotels, plus many Airbnb options (seriously, they are always available). There are mountain trails in the San Bernardino National Forest surrounding the city—Castle Rock Trail is a good and approachable one, as it’s just a couple miles long (but includes a 500-foot initial elevation hike—exercise!). And, of course, what you will mostly be wanting to do is lounge around by the big boy of this getaway to-do list: the lake, itself. It’s certainly big enough for social distancing.
Pine Mountain Club
Live in Los Angeles but simply do not want to take the I-10 out of the city to Big Bear because it takes two hours just to get past West Covina? Enter Pine Mountain Club, California—a lovely little town in the other direction that only takes 90 minutes to get to (yes, that’s right). Pine Mountain Club is an unincorporated private community in Kern County, making it slightly under-the-radar and less crowded than the more “popular” Los Angeles mountain getaway locations. Stays are available at the Pine Mountain Village Hotel and the cozy Pine Mountain Inn, or find your own private vacation rental via Airbnb.
Ellijay and the Blue Ridge Mountains
Ellijay, Georgia, is a special place—it’s got a small-town vibe with a bunch of things to do. Plus, there are gorgeous scenic routes through the North Georgia Mountains for solitary mountain-time away from the crowds. Hike to the top of Amicalola Falls, the tallest cascading waterfall in the area—you have to climb a trail of 600 steps to get to the top, but the views are worth the trek. Oh, you can also drive, if you’re like, “600 steps? No.” Carter’s Lake, near the Blue Ridge Mountains, is also nearby, for all your beach needs—that’s right, mountains and a beach. You can truly have it all in Ellijay.
Prescott is located in central Arizona—and as a native Arizonan, I like to call it Baby Flagstaff, as it takes slightly less time to get there from Phoenix but still gives you the mountain getaway you deserve. Book a stay at the Apple Creek Cottages, located a-mile-and-a-half outside of downtown Prescott, where you’ll get a whole cottage to yourself—and they offer long-term rentals, if you’re looking to stay awhile. Two lakes, Watson Lake and Lynx Lake, are nearby, should you want to lounge about by the water. There are hiking trails aplenty, and should you want to venture into town (eek, crowds) downtown Prescott is home to the famous Whiskey Row; however, that may be an event worth saving for 2021.
WHERE: New Hampshire
How about a log cabin in the forest? Does that sound nice to you? Well, that’s just what you’ll get when you visit the Rustic Log Cabins, a 3-star hotel in Lisbon, New Hampshire. Located along Salmon Hole Brook right in the heart of the White Mountains, these cabins are an authentic way to experience some time away from crowds (and with only six cabins over 16 acres, you won’t have to see anyone at all). Every room looks out onto the nearby babbling brook and they have their own hiking trail. The lodge is open and has plenty of COVID-19 restrictions in place to keep you as safe as possible during your stay. In fact, they’ve had new rules in place since March—you are no longer personally-greeted, but will receive a welcome bag with your cabin’s key, a booklet, and kindling, right there on the office porch with your name on it.
AlexiusHoratius(CC BY-SA 3.0)/WikimediaCommons
WHERE: New York
This lovely mountain town is perfect for walking trails, relaxing outside, grabbing a beer at a brewery, or, if you’re into athletics, climbing the steep peaks of the Adirondacks. Even better (and not as athletic) is spending time walking around Mirror Lake, which has a trail right along the shoreline. There are plenty of restaurants and breweries to enjoy, as Lake Placid is currently in Phase Four of reopening, with many places offering indoor and outdoor dining, as well as takeout. Take that food out and sit by the lake. Lodges and resorts are available, but the fanciest place to take your mountain getaway would be Lake Placid Lodge, a 5-star hotel right on the lake that offers secluded cabins.
For a bit more extravagant of a venture, why not stay in a treehouse? And not just any treehouse—a luxury treehouse. Located 80 miles out of Portland, Oregon, is the historic area of White Salmon, Washington, a quieter and less-traveled alternative to its nearby counterpart of Hood River, which is much more bustling and touristy. This particular treehouse is at the foot of Mount Adams and will give you the ultimate glamping experience in the woods, far away from everyone. White Salmon is also good for outdoorsy folks, with options for hiking, biking, rafting, and kayaking.
Jeffhollett(CC BY-SA 4.0)/WikimediaCommons
Bend is a great home base for an Oregon mountain getaway. Located on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains, it’s known for its volcanic landscapes—Newberry National Volcanic Monument and Lava River Cave would be a great place to start for these. Next up for your volcano needs is Pilot Butte, but prepare to turn around if it’s crowded—no crowds allowed here. Another place to visit is Tumalo Falls, a 97-foot-high waterfall 14 miles west of Bend, which is great for hiking, picnics, and lounging around in nature. Stay at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes for a luxurious experience surrounded by gorgeous scenic views.
WHERE: North Carolina
Located on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Blowing Rock, North Carolina, is small but, oh, is it mighty—there is a ton for you to do in this tiny mountain town. While the shopping and dining options may not be on the table (right now, anyway), the outdoor activities certainly are, and you will find plenty of rafting, horseback riding, and fishing opportunities here. Cabin rentals are available and you are oh-so-close to the Appalachian Ski Mountain.
Normally I would tell you that you absolutely must visit the big attraction of the city (Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park), but unfortunately, we’re not quite there yet, so a nice and quiet mountain getaway will simply have to do. OK? OK. You will find plenty of mountain cabin rentals in this mountain resort town with gorgeous sights all around. And the town is only eight miles away from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for more lovely views as well as hiking trails, waterfalls, and more woods—exactly what you need to get (and stay) away from it all.