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Best Places to Live + Play: Mountain Towns
National Geographic Adventure announces this year's top 50 adventure towns, state-by-state.   Text by Dan Koeppel


Wilderness  |  Small Towns  |  Mountains  |  Waterfront  |  Cities  |  Las Vegas 

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Hot Spot: Bishop, California >>

Hot Spot: New Paltz, New York >>

Gunnison, Colorado
- Population: 5,300
- Median home price: $220,100
- The radius: The Gunnison River territory is blessed with 25 feet (8 meters) of Colorado's airy powder a year—more than any other ski area in the state. Come summer, mountain bikers head up the hill to Crested Butte's singletrack; rock climbers reign on the 2,000-foot-walls (610-meter-walls) of Black Canyon of the Gunnison; and cowpokes converge for Cattlemen's Days, the oldest rodeo in the state (this year marks the 107th). 


Missoula, Montana
- Population: 62,923
- Median home price: $218,000
- The radius: A legendary Rocky Mountain retreat: Hiking, skiing, biking, and white-water paddling are all within minutes of town. Find your own options along 2,495 miles (4,015 kilometers) of trails in mammoth Lolo National Forest. Also a mountain-bike-touring hotbed, Missoula is home to Adventure Cycling Association (
www.adv-cycling.org), which maps and maintains seven cross-country road-bike routes. Glacier and Yellowstone are three hours in either direction, and the town is at the center of fly-fishing's Golden Triangle, where brook and rainbow trout thrive.


Hanover, New Hampshire
- Population: 11,156
- Median home price: $376,040
- The radius: This highbrow enclave, set in the Connecticut River Valley's White Mountain foothills, is home to Dartmouth College. The university's Hitchcock Medical Center is one of the best in the country, while nearby Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site—the home, gardens, and studios of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens—hosts classical music concerts every July and August. The Appalachian Trail passes right through town, and 25 miles (40 kilometers) east, the climb to Mount Cardigan's 3,155-foot (962-meter) summit ends with a rocky scramble and full-circle views of the Presidential Range and Green Mountains.


Wenatchee, Washington
- Population: 29,920
- Median home price: $201,463
- The radius: Three hours from Seattle, typical Pacific Northwest climate patterns don't apply here (Wenatchee gets 300 days of sunshine a year). But the friendly town is perfectly in sync with the region's outdoor-centric values. It's parked in prime alpinist territory, at the foot of the Cascades and on the edge of 4.1-million-acre (2-million-hectare) Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forest. Icicle Canyon is the climbing hot spot, but there are dozens of others, ranging from easy to legendary. Planning your housewarming party? Tap the Wenatchee Huenachis, a mariachi band featuring local high school students.


Hood River, Oregon
- Population: 6,580
- Median home price: $300,000
- The radius: You can ski almost year-round on 11,239-foot (3,426-meter) Mount Hood, and the peak's upper sections feature one of the most challenging ascent bids in the continental U.S. Hood River is also a launchpad for the nation's top windsurfing spot, with 33 put-ins along Columbia River Gorge, ranging from the novice-level Inn Beach to black-diamond Swell City. Diehard boarders are snatching up second homes here, but so far it has managed to stay affordable.


Boone, North Carolina
- Population: 14,132
- Median home price: $232,000
- The radius: Low-key Boone, at 3,333 feet (1,016 meters), is higher than any major town east of the Mississippi River. (Downtown views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are spectacular.) Climbers head to the 2,000-foot-deep (610-meter-deep) Linville Gorge for towering multipitch walls, while the Nolichucky River,
60 miles (97 kilometers) southwest, is one of the least traveled white-water stretches in the region: From the 3,000-foot (914-meter) deep Nolichucky Gorge, it funnels into the legendary "Quarter Mile Rapid," the longest continuous Class IV in the Southeast.


Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
- Population: 5,409
- Median home price: $137,334
- The radius: This unassuming outdoors mecca  in the Poconos has 20 trails smack in the center of town. Cyclists and hikers share the Gorge Trail, which loops 19 miles (31 kilometers) past waterfalls and steep canyons. Seven ski areas are within two hours' drive: Try Shawnee Mountain for top-to-bottom cruising or Camelback for terrain park action. Big-city perks are close at hand, too, with Philly and New York City one and two hours away. Or stay in town: The stellar acoustics of Mauch Chunk Opera House amp up live blues and rock.


Montpelier, Vermont
- Population: 8,003
- Median home price: $108,000
- The radius: This Green Mountains base is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, with three urban paths and covered-bridge touring in nearby Mad River. There's kayaking right in town, too, along the Winooski River: The Class II is gentle, but the water turns white along its tributaries. Montpelier gets bonus points for being nearly fast-food free. There's not a single McDonald's or Burger King in sight (though Ben & Jerry's—the home team—is plentiful).


Wilderness  |  Small Towns  |  Mountains  |  Waterfront  |  Cities  |  Las Vegas 

See All Towns >>

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