Beyond the Big Names: Top 10 Small Mountain Towns for Hiking & Backpacking

A car driving down a road toward a small mountain town, with epic vistas

Welcome, fellow hikers! If you're aching to lace up your hiking boots, lay eyes on some breathtaking US landscapes, and savor the charm of small-town life, you're in the right place.

In this guide, we’re uncovering the top 10 small mountain towns that beckon hikers, backpackers, and nature enthusiasts alike. From beginner-friendly trails to rugged heart-pumping pursuits, these off-the-beaten-path gems offer up unforgettable natural landscapes, great local food, and splashes of unique culture.

So, get geared up and let's explore some of the most breathtaking small mountain towns in America (listed from west to east). 

Mill Valley, California

Elevation: 79'

Two people hiking along the California Coastline

Mill Valley, California, is a hiking destination where towering redwoods meet the vibrant energy of a small town life. Nestled in Marin County, just north of San Francisco and near the Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley blends rugged outdoor activities with cultural richness and small-town charm.

Getting There

Mill Valley is easily accessible by car from San Francisco; it takes about an hour. The drive across the Golden Gate Bridge is an experience in itself, offering stunning views of the bay and the city skyline. If you're flying in, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is the closest major airport.

Mill Valley Hiking

The weather in Mill Valley can be unpredictable, especially near the coast. Check the forecast before heading out and be prepared for sudden changes, including fog, rain, or strong winds. Also note that in order to access hikes in Muir Woods National Monument, and in other National Park properties, there may be a fee.

🟢 Easy Trails

  • Fern Creek and Hillside Loop (1.9 miles): A scenic loop trail that is fully shaded as you walk surrounded by towering redwood trees.
  • Muir Main Trail (1.5 miles): Also known as the Redwood Creek Trail, this out-and-back path is the main drag through Muir Woods, and connects to a host of other trails leading up the flanks of Mount Tamalpais.

🟡 Moderate Trails

  • Dipsea Trail, Steep Ravine Trail, and Matt Davis Loop (6.7 miles): Hike from the Pacific Ocean all the way up to the Pantoll Ranger Station. This moderately challenging loop trail offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, rushing streams, and beautiful waterfalls.
  • Tennessee Valley Golden Gate Loop (5.7 miles): Stroll through the headland valleys, all the way to Muir Beach. This loop trail is a great workout with lots of ups and downs, and has beautiful coastal views on clear days.

🔴 Hard Trails

  • Dipsea Trail from Mill Valley Trailhead (14.0 miles): This challenging out-and-back trail takes you from the picturesque town of Mill Valley to Stinson Beach; it can be hiked from either direction, but most people opt to go from Mill Valley to the coast.
  • Mountain Theater, West Point Inn, and Mount Tamalpais Loop (8.8 miles): This loop trail takes experienced hikers through sweeping grassland and redwood groves to the remains of the old Mt Tamalpais Scenic Railway and the buildings and features that still remain.

Gearing Up

If you’re searching for Darn Tough socks to hike in, you can find them on your arrival in San Francisco or in nearby Corte Madera.

  • Sports Basement Presidio, San Francisco
  • On the Run, San Francisco
  • REI, Corte Madera (a quick stop near Mt Tamalpais State Park)

Mill Valley Eats

After a day of exploring, Mill Valley's downtown area beckons with a variety of delicious spots to eat; these are just a few tasty options you might consider:

  • Kitchen Sunnyside: fuel up with hearty American breakfast, brunch and lunch in cozy downtown Mill Valley.
  • Mill Valley Lumber Yard: with a bakery, a restaurant, and retail shops, this is more than just a great place to eat.
  • Hook Fish Co.: open daily for lunch and dinner, this is a popular spot for fresh seafood and tacos.

Beyond the Trail

Mill Valley's artistic spirit shines through across its vibrant downtown. Stroll down Throckmorton Avenue and discover places like:

  • Throckmorton Theatre: Catch a play, concert, or comedy show at this historic theater, a local favorite for entertainment.
  • Mill Valley Farmers Market: Pick up fresh produce, flowers, and artisan goods at this weekly market, a great way to experience the town's friendly atmosphere.
  • Depot Café and Bookstore: Long-running bookshop & cafe offering a range of books & magazines for all ages, plus author events.

DYK the Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railroad, which opened for business in 1896, was dubbed by locals as the “Crookedest Railroad in the World” because of its 281 curves in just over eight miles of track?

Hood River, Oregon

Elevation: 279'

View of Mt Defiance in Oregon, a great hike near Hood River

Situated alongside the dramatic Columbia River Gorge, Hood River, OR is a laid-back haven for outdoor enthusiasts craving scenic Pacific Northwest beauty. This vibrant mountain town is an excellent destination for hikers of all abilities, offering a variety of trails with stunning views of the area's natural beauty, delicious local food options, and fun off-trail attractions.

Getting There

Hood River is just 1 hour by car from the Portland International Airport (PDX). If you have some time, Portland is also worth exploring. Here are two spots worth checking out: Forest Park (a 5,200 acre urban forest) and the Willamette Greenway and Eastbank Esplanade (a popular riverside trail with views of Portland).

Hood River Hiking

When hiking in the PNW, you should be prepared for snow/ice and cold temps at higher elevations. Having basic winter hiking essentials, like trekking poles, microspikes, gaiters, and Merino Wool socks, can be the deciding factor between an unpleasant (or even dangerous) experience and a challenging but enjoyable one.

🟢 Easy Trails

  • Indian Creek Trail: Barrett Drive Trailhead (2.7 miles): A buff out-and-back trail popular with hikers, runners and walkers. This trail is part of the Indian Creek Trail system, which spans the Hood River Valley and offers sightings of wildflowers and Mt. Hood (on clear days).
  • Hood River Waterfront (1.3 miles): This paved out-and-back path traces a beautiful stretch of the Columbia River, offering beach access, scenic views, picnic areas, and a family-friendly park along the way.

🟡 Moderate Trails

  • Hood River Mountain Loop (4.4 miles): Enjoy panoramic vistas of the valley and surrounding peaks (including Mt. Hood) on this moderately challenging loop trail. Be prepared for some elevation gain and the chance to witness seasonal wildflowers and oak forests.
  • Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail: Hood River to Mosier (9.0 miles): This paved out-and-back trail is a favorite among walkers, runners, and cyclists. Keep your eyes peeled for wildflowers, birds, and other wildlife as you take in the stunning views of the Columbia River.

🔴 Hard Trails

  • Mount Defiance Trail (12.6 miles): Strap on your hiking boots for this challenging loop trail up a six-million-year-old shield volcano. This is a tough climb with significant elevation gain, but experienced hikers are rewarded with one of the best views of Mt. Hood in the area.
  • Wy’East Falls via Eagle Creek Trail #440 (10.3 miles): This gradual out-and-back trail can be tackled in a day or extended into a backpacking expedition. The route leads you up Eagle Creek to a series of waterfalls and backcountry campsites, perfect for a deep dive into the wilderness.

Gearing Up

Before heading out on the trail, always check conditions and pack your hiking essentials. If you’re missing anything from your kit (ex. area topo maps, high-energy trail snacks, or socks), visit a local Hood River shop and they’ll help get you sorted:

  • Shortt Supply Co, Hood River
  • Footwise, Hood River

Hood River Eats

After conquering the trails, Hood River offers a bounty of restaurants to refuel. From mouth watering pizzas to local brews and friendly cafes, you'll find the perfect spot to unwind and savor delicious food. Here’s a few recommendations:

  • Solstice Wood Fire Pizza: Cafe & Bar: family-owned restaurant serving woodfired pizza, salads & seasonal small plates.
  • Bette’s Place: beloved local spot serving breakfast, lunch and homemade treats, it’s known as the friendliest restaurant in town.
  • pFriem Family Brewers Tasting Room: a casual post-hike spot with a surprisingly diverse, locally-influenced menu. Lots of GF, DF, V & VF options, and plenty of beer, wine, cider and NA beverages to try.

Beyond the Trail

While your hiking socks air out, explore the Historic Columbia River Highway by car or bike, stopping to admire waterfalls and scenic viewpoints. There’s also the Hood River Fruit Loop, a scenic 35-mile loop with fruit stands, wineries, breweries, cideries, and fields of flowers waiting to be discovered.

Did you know? Hood River is a world-renowned destination for windsurfers and kiteboarders! Its unique location and consistent winds have earned it the nickname "The Windsurfing Capital of the World."

Leavenworth, Washington

Elevation: 1170'

Hiker seated on rock in front of stunning lake in the Enchantments

Leavenworth, WA is consistently ranked as one of the best small hiking towns in the US because of a unique combination of alpine beauty, abundant trails, and a charming Barvarian vibe. This four-season trail town is an easy-to-access, family-friendly option for your next hiking trip.

Getting There

Leavenworth is about a 2-hour drive east of Seattle, making it a convenient getaway for Pacific Northwest residents. The journey itself is scenic, winding through mountains and forests. For those coming from farther afield, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is the closest major airport.

Leavenworth Hiking

Leavenworth's mountain setting means four distinct seasons. Spring brings wildflowers and cascading waterfalls, while summer explodes with vibrant green and sunshine. Autumn paints the mountainsides in fiery hues, and winter transforms the town into a wonderland.

Be sure to dress according to the season, but comfortable shoes (and great socks) are a must year-round, as much of the town is meant to be explored on foot. Also, note that trails located in national parks may have fees.

🟢 Easy Trails

  • Icicle Gorge Trail (4.1 miles): This is a gentle loop trail, easily hiked by both kids and adults, with a low elevation gain, fun bridges, animals, and water to observe.
  • Blackbird Island Trail (1.9 miles): Loop leisurely around this island trail in beautiful Waterfront Park in Leavenworth with informative signs telling the history of the area.

🟡 Moderate Trails

  • Lake Valhalla Trail (6.3 miles): This moderately challenging out-and-back trail takes you to a pristine alpine lake; hiking is steep in the beginning, but becomes more gradual as you get closer to the lake.
  • Skyline Lake Trail (2.5 miles): If you’re looking for a good leg workout and the chance of encountering snow on your hike, this is a great out-and-back trail uphill across the valley from Stevens Pass Ski Resort.

🔴 Hard Trails

  • Colchuck Lake via Stuart Lake and Colchuck Lake Trail (8.7 miles): This is a challenging out-and-back hike leading to a beautiful alpine lake accompanied by the twin spires of Dragontail Peak and Colchuck Peak at the far end.
  • The Enchantments Traverse (18.0 miles): This bucket-list point-to-point trek through The Enchantments is punctuated by soft tundra meadows, glacial-cirque lakes, crystal clear trickling streams, and impossible granite rock formations all set in the heart of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It is recommended only for highly experienced hikers.

Gearing Up

During your visit, local shops would love to help outfit you with any items you need to safely and comfortably hit the trails around Leavenworth. Here are a few spots that carry Darn Tough socks:

  • Der Sportsmann, Leavenworth
  • Eastside Cycleworks, Leavenworth
  • Pro Ski and Mountain Service, North Bend

Leavenworth Eats

Hiking all day definitely works up the appetite! Leavenworth delivers with a variety of restaurants to tempt your taste buds and fill you up. From authentic German fare to Pacific Northwest cuisine, here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Munchen Haus: This lively restaurant serves up hearty German specialties like sausages, schnitzel, and pretzels.
  • Sulla Vita: Italian dishes made fresh, from scratch and cooked in a Wood-Fired pizza oven.
  • Icicle Creek Brewing Company: Sample local craft beers and delicious pub fare after a day exploring the outdoors.

Beyond the Trail

Leavenworth isn't just about hiking and sausages. Take a whitewater rafting trip down the Wenatchee River, visit the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, or go horseback riding through the picturesque countryside.

Fun fact: Leavenworth transforms into a winter wonderland during the holiday season, complete with twinkling lights, carolers, and a Christkindlmarkt (Christmas Market). It's the perfect place to capture the holiday spirit!

Sedona, Arizona

Elevation: 4350'

Two hikers on a trail in sunny Sedona, AZ

Sedona, AZ is a place where ancient mystique mingles with the thrill of exploring the desert landscape. Renowned for its sun-struck red rocks sculpted by eons of wind and weather, Sedona is a small mountain town plugged into a vast network of trails within the Coconino National Forest. It's definitely a contender for best small hiking town in the US.

Getting There

From Flagstaff, it should only take about 45 minutes to drive to Sedona. Flagstaff itself has a charming downtown with shops, restaurants, and galleries and Route 66 running right through the heart of the city. It is also home to Arizona’s only adventure and zip line course.

Sedona Hiking

Important notes about hiking near Sedona, AZ:

  • High desert hikes call for sun protection, plenty of water and warm layers in case of rapidly falling temperatures.
  • The Coconino National Forest sometimes requires a Red Rock Pass; hikers can find info and purchase passes locally and through the forest service.

🟢 Easy Trails

  • Seven Sacred Pools via Soldier Pass Trail (1.1 miles): A scenic out-and-back trail that is relatively easy and brings hikers to a series of iconic naturally carved potholes fed by a seasonal stream. Parking for this hike is minimal, so look for a shuttle.
  • Seven Sacred Pools via Cibola Pass (2.8 miles): A quieter out-and-back approach to the same interconnected pools cascading over red rock formations. While there is more parking at this trailhead, the drive in is described as rugged.

🟡 Moderate Trails

  • Devil's Bridge Trail (3.9 miles): This popular out-and-back trail leads to Sedona’s iconic sandstone arch, with views of the surrounding valley and red rock formations.
  • Fay Canyon Trail (2.4 miles): One of the best trails in Sedona, this moderately challenging out-and-back route leads hikers through a breathtaking red-rock landscape with a natural arch, canyon and dry creek bed.

🔴 Hard Trails

  • Mount Defiance Trail (4.6 miles): This rugged out-and-back trail has several steep sections and false summits before rewarding hikers with incredible 360-degree views.
  • Wilson Mountain Trail (11.6 miles): A strenuous two-part route leads experienced hikers through beautiful desert scenery to summit the highest mountain in the Sedona area (7,122 feet).

Gearing Up

Are wool socks really necessary for hiking in the desert? Absolutely! In warmer climates, especially, having moisture-wicking socks is a key component to preventing hotspots and blisters. Support local by picking up a pair at a local Sedona Darn Tough retailer:

  • The Hike House, Sedona (includes an on-site coffee shop and bakery)
  • Canyon Outfitters, Sedona (aka the longest running hiking store in town)
  • Run Sedona, Sedona

Sedona Eats

From upscale dining to casual cafes serving fresh, local dishes, Sedona has lots of food options so you’re sure to find a perfect spot to unwind and refuel after your hike. Here are some suggestions:

  • Casa Sedona Restaurant: you’ll want to make a reservation for this popular restaurant serving local southwestern and American cuisine.
  • The Golden Goose American Grill: enjoy a tasty post-hike lunch or dinner in their cozy dining room or on the open-air patio.
  • Red Rock Cafe: a hub for locals and visitors, serving inventive Southwestern meals made with locally sourced ingredients. They have a 3 lb cinnamon roll on their menu.

Beyond the Trail

Trade the trails for a walk in town to explore Sedona’s thriving art scene. With 80+ galleries, many within walking distance of each other, you’ll want to download a Sedona Gallery Art Walk map to plan your route.

Fun fact: Sedona has natural waterslides caused by unique erosion of the landscape. You can check them out by visiting Slide Rock State Park, where you can enjoy a fun and refreshing experience.

Kamas, Utah

Elevation: 6690'

Person by their campfire, truck with camp set up behind them in Utah

Kamas isn't your average small mountain town. High in the heart of Utah, it packs a punch of "big mountain energy," making it a prime contender for those seeking the best mountain towns to visit in the US.

As a gateway to the sprawling Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Kamas is a haven for hikers, backpackers, and campers. With diverse trails catering to all experience levels, it easily qualifies as one of the best hiking destinations in the US.

Getting There

From the Salt Lake City (SLC) airport it takes about 50 minutes to drive to Kamas. If you’re looking to stretch your legs and take in some culture and history before leaving Salt Lake City, check out the Pioneer History Walking Tour or the Natural History Museum of Utah.

Kamas Hiking

Important notes about hiking near Kamas, UT:

  • Many hikes (even those marked “easy”) take place entirely above 7,000 feet where oxygen levels start decreasing rapidly. Here are some things you should be aware of when hiking at high altitudes.
  • The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest has use fees; hikers should check with local authorities or the forest service for specific fee info.

🟢 Easy Trails

  • Wall Lake Trail (2.5 miles): This popular out-and-back trail is perfect for families and beginners. With shade most of the way and a scenic lake at the end, it's a delightful introduction to Kamas hiking.
  • Mirror Lake Loop (1.5 miles): A peaceful loop trail that encircles Mirror Lake, nestled high in the Uinta Mountains (10,349 feet above sea level). Take in the alpine beauty while hiking, birding, or simply relaxing by the water.

🟡 Moderate Trails

  • Lofty Lake Loop Trail (4.5 miles): Prepare for breathtaking views of rugged peaks, lush forests, and vibrant wildflowers on this moderately challenging loop trail that winds past picturesque alpine lakes.
  • Bald Mountain Trail (2.7 miles): This straightforward out-and-back route leads you to the summit of one of Utah's most prominent peaks. At nearly 12,000 feet, Bald Mountain rewards you with panoramic vistas in all directions.

🔴 Hard Trails

  • Kings Peak via the Henry's Fork Trail (25 miles): Calling all experienced backpackers and intrepid day-hikers! This challenging out-and-back route leads you to the summit of Kings Peak, the highest point in Utah (a whopping 13,527 feet!). Brace yourself for an unforgettable high-altitude expedition.
  • Hayden Peak (3.6 miles): This challenging out-and-back may not be long, but it is known for its rocky sections, class 3 climbing, and boulder hopping. Hikers who gain the ridge are treated to spectacular views.

Gearing Up

Along the way from the SLC airport to Kamas, you can grab a fresh pair of Darn Tough socks as well as other hiking essentials at one of our local retail partners, including:

  • Level Nine Sports Downtown, Salt Lake City
  • Salt Lake Running Company - Foothill Village, Salt Lake City

Kamas Eats

After a day of conquering the mountains, Kamas has plenty of tasty local restaurants where you can refuel. From classic diners to casual pubs, you'll find the perfect spot to unwind and savor a delicious meal. Here are some suggestions worth considering:

  • Mirror Lake Diner: “Simple Food Done Right” for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. GF and vegetarian vegan friendly options.
  • Hi-Mountain: Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain and Grill serving up burgers, shakes, and ice cream.
  • The Notch Pub: casual watering hole off Mirror Lake Highway with outdoor patio, live music, pub favorites, and fun for all.

Beyond the Trail

Take a break from hiking to enjoy a scenic drive along the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway. Thick forests, glacially carved valleys, mountain lakes, and towering alpine summits are all part of the journey. It’s free to drive, but there is a park fee to use recreation areas along the byway.

Fun fact: Kamas, UT became known as the "Gateway to the Uintas" due to its strategic location at the base of the Uinta Mountains, where vast grazing lands supported large sheep herds.

Livingston, Montana

Elevation: 4502'

Pine Creek Lake surrounded by mountains, a beautiful hiking destination near Livingston

Livingston, Montana is just 30 minutes outside the bustling city of Bozeman. This charming small mountain town deserves a spot on your list of best hiking towns in the US.

Livingston is an access point to some of the most breathtaking hiking trails in the country, with stunning views of the surrounding Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and the Gallatin Canyon. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a weekend warrior, Livingston has great trail options for you.

Getting There

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) is the closest major airport to Livingston. From the airport, it's just 36 miles to Livingston via scenic I-90.

Livingston Hiking

Livingston itself might be a small town, but the hiking opportunities are anything but. Be prepared to share the trails, especially during peak season (summer and fall). Always check trail conditions before you head out, and be aware that encounters with wildlife are possible.

🟢 Easy Trails

  • Pine Creek Falls Trail (2.5 miles): This rocky, mostly shaded out-and-back trail leads to a cascading waterfall. Perfect for families or those seeking a relaxing wooded hike. You can even cool off with a swim in the pool at the base of the falls!
  • Myers’ River View Trail (1 mile): Bordering the Yellowstone River with stunning views of Yellowstone, this gravel walking path is a perfect destination for a scenic stroll, a family picnic or an afternoon run.

🟡 Moderate Trails

  • Passage Falls Trail (5.1 miles): This moderately challenging out-and-back trail takes hikers through a scenic canyon to a picturesque waterfall. The incline is gradual and there may be seasonal wildflowers and berries along the route.
  • Suce Creek Trail #44 and Suce Creek West Trail #450 Loop (5.9 miles): This popular loop trail offers varied hiking terrain (including some switchbacks) and leads to glorious views of high peaks and mountain valleys.

🔴 Hard Trails

  • Pine Creek Lake (9.2 miles): This challenging but rewarding out-and-back trail offers adventurous hikers the chance to tackle significant elevation gain and rocky terrain while taking in stunning views all along the climb.
  • North Fork Deep Creek Trail to Elephant Head Mountain (12 miles): This strenuous, high altitude hike leads to the top of Elephant Head Mountain, a unique rock formation with incredible views of Livingston and the surrounding area.

Gearing Up

Water, food, sun protection, maps, communication devices, layers, etc…these are some hiking essentials that should be in your backpack. Believe it or not, hiking socks are an essential layer - they insulate and keep feet dry, protect against impact, prevent blisters, and if they’re Darn Tough they last a lifetime.

Here’s where you can find our socks in and around Livingston:

  • Chalet Sports, Bozeman,
  • Crazy Mountain Outdoor Company, Bozeman

Livingston Eats

Trail towns like Livingston offer a variety of delicious restaurants where you can fuel your body or relax and unwind after a day of hiking. Here are some popular spots to check out:

  • Gil’s Goods: located on The Murray Block, in historic downtown Livingston, Gil’s serves up wood-fired pizzas, burgers, sweet treats, craft cocktails and draft beers.
  • Rx Coffee Shop: coffee drinks, energy elixirs and nourishing, house-made pastries, sandwiches, and burritos to fuel you up
  • Livingston Bar & Grille: a classic American lunch and dinner spot open 7 days a week.

Beyond the Trail

Livingston has a charming historic downtown to explore on your recovery days. Learn about the town's rich history at the Livingston Depot Center or take in an exhibit at the Livingston Center for Arts and Culture.

It’s interesting to note that Livingston is situated on the northern border of Yellowstone National Park, and in the late 1800’s the town served as the gateway through which many tourists accessed the park.

Dubois, Wyoming

Elevation: 6946'

Two hikers headed down a steep rocky slope of Gannet Peak

Dubois, Wyoming is a hidden gem tucked between the Wind River Range and the southern Absaroka Mountains, offering a hikers paradise just an hour and 40 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Jackson Hole.

With wide-open spaces, breathtaking scenery, and trails for every skill level, Dubois is the perfect escape for outdoor enthusiasts seeking an authentic Wyoming experience.

Getting There

Flying into Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) is the most convenient option. From there, it's a scenic 77 mile drive where you can soak in the stunning big mountain views before arriving in the small mountain town of Dubois.

The Jackson Hole metro area is situated close to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, which are iconic and worth visiting if you have time.

Dubois Hiking

Unlike Jackson Hole, Dubois offers a more relaxed atmosphere with fewer crowds. However, it’s still a good idea to book your accommodations in advance, especially during peak seasons like summer and fall. You will be hiking at high altitude here, so be sure to check trail conditions and pack your hiking essentials before heading out on the trail. 

🟢 Easy Trails

  • Upper Jade Lake Trek (3.7 miles): This out-and-back trail leads hikers of all levels past an ancient lava flow to Lower and Upper Jade Lakes. A trip to Jade Lakes can be turned into a longer hike, but be aware that some travelers say this loop trail is a better route for horseback riding than for hiking.

🟡 Moderate Trails

  • Lake Louise Trail (4.7 miles): A moderate climb with beautiful waterfalls and the chance of spotting big-horn sheep and black bears, this out-and-back trail leads hikers to stunning Lake Louise.
  • Dubois Badlands Trail (3.1 miles): Travel through an otherworldly landscape on this unique loop trail with colorful rock formations and hoodoos. Hiking boots, water & an offline map are musts for this moderately challenging trek.

🔴 Hard Trails

  • Gannett Peak via Glacier and Gannet Peak Trail (53.1 miles): This advanced multi-day trek leads experienced hikers across glaciated terrain to the summit of Gannett Peak, the highest point in Wyoming. In addition to mountaineering experience, proper planning, permits and gear (think crampons and ice axes) are an absolute must for attempting this epic route.
  • Whiskey Mountain Trail (9.5 miles): A well-maintained out-and-back trail originating in a mountain desert valley and leading experienced hikers through alpine forest to breathtaking views of an old glacier basin above the treeline.

Gearing Up

From hiking socks and trail snacks to ice axes and all-weather layers, these local gear shops can help you ensure your kit is complete with all the essentials for a safe and successful hike:

  • Big Wind River Float Trips & Fly Fishing, Dubois
  • JD High Country Outfitters, Jackson

Dubois Eats

Dubois offers a surprising variety of dining options and you’ll need some good fuel after your epic pursuits. Here are a few hearty suggestions to satisfy your post-hike cravings or to fuel you up on your way out to hit the trails:

  • Cowboy Cafe: before or after you hit the trails this American style cafe has you covered with tasty breakfast, lunch and dinner favorites.
  • Noon Rock Pizza: if you’re craving some pizza and wings, this is a spot worth checking out. They’ve got salads and wraps, too.

Beyond the Trail

Dubois is one of the best small mountain towns in the US and it offers more than just hiking. Even if you’re wearing the world’s most comfortable hiking socks and boots, sometimes your feet just need a break.

Take a rest day and enjoy a scenic drive along the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway, explore the Dubois Museum for a glimpse into the town's history, or visit the National Bighorn Sheep Center to learn about these majestic animals, which you may have spotted along the high peaks.

Dubois is known as the “Fly Fishing Capital of Wyoming.” If you’re looking to cast a line after your hike, be sure to grab a fishing permit before you head to one of the area’s many rivers or streams.

Silverton, Colorado

Elevation: 9318'

Dramatic view of a mountain valley from the million dollar highway in Colorado

Situated high in the rugged San Juan Mountains (a southern range of the Rockies), sits the beautiful mountain town of Silverton, Colorado. Its remote location adds to its charm.

At an elevation of over 9,300 feet, Silverton is surrounded by dramatic scenery - think jagged volcanic peaks, crystal-clear alpine lakes, and colorful mineral deposits. If you’re searching for one of the best high elevation hiking destinations in the US, look no further.

Getting There

Silverton is a remote mountain town. If you’re looking to fly in for some big-mountain exploration, Grand Junction Regional Airport is closest. From Grand Junction it’s about 2.5 hours by car. The drive itself is incredible as you travel the famed Million Dollar Highway (US-550), known for its breathtaking scenery, switchbacks, and steep drop-offs.

Here, you'll be surrounded by towering, snow-capped peaks, including some fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet).

Silverton Hiking

Silverton is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. There are hikes for all skill levels, with options ranging from gentle walks to challenging high altitude climbs offering panoramic vistas.

Important notes for hiking near Silverton, CO:

  • Silverton is a small town with limited services. Plan to stock up on groceries and supplies before you arrive, especially if you're planning on spending a few days exploring the area.
  • Many restaurants and shops are seasonal, so be sure to check hours of operation in advance.
  • Silverton and surrounding hikes are considered high-altitude, so plan extra time to acclimate and prepare yourself properly for the physical effects of hiking at high elevation.

🟢 Easy Trails

  • Cascade Creek Trail (3.8 miles): A family-friendly out-and-back path offers a scenic walk through the forest with wildflowers, meadows and shade coverage.
  • Molas Lake Loop Trail (1.8 miles): This easy loop trail leads to Molas Lake in the high alpine, with breathtaking lake and mountain views all around.

🟡 Moderate Trails

  • Potato Lake via Spud Lake Trail (3.0 miles): This rugged out-and-back trail leads to a high alpine lake. Hikers suggest having a vehicle with high clearance and study hiking boots because the approach is rugged.
  • Highland Mary Lake Trail (5.6 miles): A moderately challenging out-and-back route that leads to a series of high altitude lakes and awesome views. You can catch the Continental Divide Trail from above the lakes.

🔴 Hard Trails

  • Handies Peak via American Basin Trail (5.3 miles): Conquer a Colorado Fourteener. While this peak is many people's first fourteener, including some adventurous families, it is still a formidable high altitude hike.
  • Columbine Lake Trail #509 (7.9 miles): A difficult and steep out-and-back trail with 16 discernible switchbacks. It’s worth it for the breathtaking views, blue mountain lake and alpine meadow.

Gearing Up

Despite its small size and remote location, Silverton is home to not one but two Darn Tough retailers. If you’re looking for hiking socks, or any of the 10 hiking essentials, Silverton’s local gear shops would be happy to get you outfitted:

  • Cripple Creek Backcountry, Silverton
  • Great Divide Co, Silverton

Silverton Eats

Silverton may be a small mountain town, but it’s home to a surprising variety of restaurants. Here are some local options to unwind and fuel up.

  • Coffee Bear Silverton: stop in for some hot coffee, breakfast burritos, baked goods, and more, made with love at 9,318’
  • Avalanche Brewing Company: sample local beer and lovingly prepared artisan pizzas, wraps, and salads. Their menu has vegetarian friendly, vegan, and gluten free options
  • Handlebars Food & Saloon: this one-of-a-kind spot is known for their menu of tasty American favorites and eclectic old west mining decor. Check it out for lunch or dinner.

Beyond the Trail

If you're tired after trekking around the San Juan Mountains, give your legs & your hiking socks a rest and take a jeep tour high into the tundra above Silverton, or embark on a scenic train ride aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

A cool fact is that Silverton is the starting and ending point for the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run. This grueling 102.5 mile ultramarathon has a combined total elevation change of 66,394 feet. In order to complete the event, instead of crossing a finish line, runners "kiss the Hardrock," a picture of a ram's head painted on a large block of stone mining debris.

Stowe, Vermont

Elevation: 889'

Hiker on a Ridgeline in Vermont's Green Mountains

Stowe, Vermont is one of the best mountain towns to visit in the Northeast. It is a place where quintessential small town charm blends seamlessly with outdoor activities.

Tucked away in the foothills of the state’s iconic Green Mountains, this picture-perfect northeastern town offers something for everyone, from heart-pounding hikes to charming shops and a vibrant local food scene.

Getting There

From Burlington International Airport (BTV) to Stowe, VT the drive takes about 1 hour. If you have time, pop down to the Lake Champlain waterfront for a stroll along the Burlington Greenway, with 8 miles of paved path for walkers, runners and bikers.

Stowe Hiking

Stowe, VT is a popular vacation destination, so expect crowds, especially during peak seasons like winter and fall foliage. Book accommodations and activities well in advance, particularly if you're visiting during these times. Late-spring hikers should be aware of seasonal trail closures due to Vermont’s epic mud-season.

🟢 Easy Trails

  • Stowe Recreation Path (10.4 miles): This paved out-and-back rec path is popular with walkers, runners and cyclists. It is easily accessible from downtown Stowe and has many scenic picnicing spots and on-off access to shops and restaurants along the way.
  • Kirchner Woods (2.0 miles): Maintained by the Stowe Land Trust, this network of sweet trails loop through an old Vermont sugarbush. You can even spot some of the old sugaring equipment on your walk.

🟡 Moderate Trails

  • Stowe Pinnacle via Pinnacle Meadow Trail (3.2 miles): A moderate climb up this out-and-back trail leads to beautiful views along the Route 100 corridor between the Worcester and the Green Mountain ranges.
  • Sunset Rock (1.1 miles): A quick, moderately challenging out-and-back trail that originates right in the village of Stowe and offers beautiful views over the charming downtown.

🔴 Hard Trails

  • Stowe Pinnacle to Hunger via Skyline Trail (9.6 miles): This grueling skyline loop trail can also be conquered as an out-and-back.
  • The Chin via Long and Profanity Trail (5.3 miles): A strenuous trek with stunning views from the highest peak in Vermont - Mount Mansfield.

Gearing Up

It’s hard to believe anyone could forget their socks when traveling to a trail town that’s only 40 minutes from the Sock Capital of the World (aka Northfield, Vermont)... but it’s been known to happen!

Don’t worry, local shops stock Darn Tough and are ready to help you get into the right pair:

  • Shaw’s General Store, Stowe
  • Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe
  • Cold Hollow, Waterbury Center

Stowe Eats

Eating in Stowe is a delight. From farm-to-table cuisine showcasing Vermont's bounty to legendary burritos and Austrian fare, there are so many tasty choices! Here are some local faves:

  • The Bench: Tuck into comfort food with a Vermont twist. The Bench offers dishes cooked in their signature wood-fired oven alongside classic pub fare made with locally-sourced ingredients.
  • Trapp Bierhall: Set on the idyllic grounds of the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT, the Bierhall offers a menu that blends Austrian classics with fresh, local Vermont ingredients.
  • Ranch Camp: Ranch Camp caters to outdoor enthusiasts with a focus on fresh, fast-casual fare. Their burritos are legendary. And they offer vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.

Beyond the Trail

Stowe offers way more than just hiking. Explore the charming shops and boutiques in the village, or visit the Vermont Ski Museum to learn about the region's rich skiing history. Take a scenic drive along the Green Mountain Byway, or visit the Ben & Jerry's Factory for a tour and a scoop (or two) of their famous ice cream.

DYK Stowe, VT hosts a section of the The Long Trail - the oldest continuous footpath in the US? This 272-mile thru-hiking route follows the main ridge of the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts-Vermont line to the Canadian border.

If you’re considering a Long Trail bid, check out How to Hike the Long Trail of Vermont and use the thru-hiking checklist.

Lincoln, New Hampshire

Elevation: 810'

Hiker headed down Mt Eisenhower in NH, with view of Mt Washington

All outdoor enthusiasts craving a dose of fresh mountain air and epic scenery, look no further than Lincoln, New Hampshire. This charming small town, nestled in the northeastern corner of the United States, is a gateway to the awe-inspiring White Mountains.

Hikers of all abilities will find their perfect pursuit here, with trails winding through emerald forests, past cascading waterfalls, and culminating in jaw-dropping panoramic vistas of the Presidential and Kinsman mountain ranges. Lace up your boots, pack your backpack, and get ready to explore the rugged beauty of Lincoln, New Hampshire.

Getting There

For those already in New England, Lebanon, New Hampshire is a great launch pad to Lincoln. The two are a scenic 1.5 hour drive apart. Before setting off into the heart of the White Mountains, stretch your legs on the Northern Rail Trail, which has a trailhead on Spencer Street in Lebanon.

And if you’re flying into the Northeast, Boston Logan (BOS) and Manchester-Boston Regional (MHT) are two airports located close to Lincoln (2 hours and 1.25 hours, respectively).

Lincoln Hiking

Fall foliage in the Northeast is legendary, and Lincoln, NH is one of the best hiking destinations to visit and experience this spectacular display of autumn colors. Be prepared for crowds if you plan to hike during popular seasons. Also note that some trails may have seasonal closures, so check conditions before you head out.

🟢 Easy Trails

  • Franconia Falls Trail (6.9 miles): An easy, forested out-and-back path alongside a river leading to a picturesque waterfall. This hike is good for families and you might want to take a picnic to enjoy at the falls.
  • Serendipity Loop Trail (2.2 miles): A straightforward loop trail with minimal elevation changes that is great for beginners and families with kids seeking a leisurely stroll.

🟡 Moderate Trails

  • Lonesome Lake Trail (3.0 miles): Originating in Franconia Notch State Park, this loop trail has a steep approach to serene Lonesome Lake, which hikers can walk fully around before descending the same trail back out. Hiking poles are recommended.
  • Georgiana and Harvard Falls Trail (2.4 miles): A moderately challenging out-and-back trail that leads to beautiful cascades and views over Franconia Notch. Trail is not well-marked, so an offline map is advised.

🔴 Hard Trails

  • Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail Loop (8.6 miles): This extremely popular loop trail leads adventurous hikers through rugged, exposed, and difficult terrain to stunning views of NH’s Presidential Range on clear days. Sturdy hiking boots (paired with quality hiking socks) and trekking poles are recommended.
  • Mount Eisenhower via Crawford Path (10.4 miles): This loop trail showcases the White Mountains’ rugged brand of hiking. With a decent incline, mixed terrain, and some scrambling required, summiters are rewarded with 360 degree views including the Presidential Range.
  • Mount Jackson (4.7 miles): We’re adding a bonus hike to this section! About 30 minutes outside of Lincoln, this steep out-and-back trail comes highly recommended by a Darn Tough staffer, especially for winter hiking. Mt. Jackson is one of NH’s most popular 4,000-footers.

Gearing Up

The White Mountains of New Hampshire have some of the most relentlessly challenging hiking in the US. Staying safe and comfortable(ish) on terrain this steep and gnarly requires solid gear.

Support local by grabbing a fresh pair of Darn Tough hiking socks and other supplies at these Lincoln, NH shops:

  • Lahouts, Lincoln
  • Sport Thoma, Lincoln

Lincoln Eats

After a day of exploring the trails, Lincoln offers a variety of restaurants to satisfy your appetite. From classic comfort food to international flavors, you're sure to find the perfect spot to refuel and unwind.

  • The Common Man Lincoln: This lively restaurant serves up classic New England fare with a twist. Their extensive menu features everything from juicy burgers to fresh seafood platters.
  • Flapjack’s Pancake House: Fuel up for a day on the trails with hearty breakfast & brunch favorites, as well as daily specials.
  • Black Mtn. Burger Co.: For all your post-hike burger needs, diners can choose from an inventive list of brilliant burgers or customize their own.

Beyond the Trail

Lincoln is more than just a hiking destination. Recovery day recommendations include strolling the village to check out shops and art galleries, or heading to Loon Mountain Resort for a gondola ride. The Kancamagus Scenic Byway is a photographer's paradise renowned for its vibrant fall foliage views.

Fun Fact: The Basin in Lincoln, NH was once described by Henry David Thoreau as “perhaps the most remarkable curiosity of its kind in New England” - it is the largest pothole (30’ across) on the Pemigewasset River.

Another natural wonder found along the river is the Flume Gorge with its wooden boardwalks that lead past towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and hidden grottos.