There’s something about getting lost in the peaks and valleys of an ancient mountain range that no other camping experience can compete with. The babbling of the brooks running through the crags and crannies; the sound of birdsong as the first tendrils of sunlight peek over the ridges… it’s no surprise that for some of us, the call of the mountains is just too loud and insistent to ignore.
And if you’ve been raking through your Rand McNally Road Atlas in search of some new mountain vacation destinations, we’ve got some news for you. December 11 is International Mountain Day, a time set aside to honor and celebrate these unique and powerful structures which apparently cover a full 22% of the Earth’s surface.
That’s a whole lot of mountains to explore! And luckily, we live in a country that boasts some of the most famous and majestic peaks on the globe.
U.S. Mountain Vacations
From fun weekends filled with campfires to romantic ski resort getaways, the U.S. is home to some of the best mountain vacations in the world.
With the ancient Appalachians standing sentinel on the east and the impressive Rockies challenging western adventurers, there’s a mountain destination here in America for every type of camper and traveler.
Discovering the unique, stark beauty of this landscape and challenging yourself to take on the physical demands of hiking and climbing make taking a vacation in the mountains the perfect way to simultaneously recharge and cast everything into perspective. When you find yourself amongst peaks thousands of feet high, it’s easy to feel small in the very best way possible.
And if you’re an RVer, you’ve already got the perfect way to get yourself to your favorite mountain range — your own private mountain cabin on wheels.
The only question now is, where to?
Mountain Vacation Destinations
Here are some of our favorite peaky destinations, from mountain towns for winter snow sports to remote parks where you can boondock your way through the changing fall foliage.
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, and Tennessee
They might not be as tall as their western cousins, but the Appalachian Mountains offer some of the best mountain vacation spots in the country, whether you’re there to experience a stunning summer or you want to try your hand at skiing in the winter.
Quaint villages like Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are some of the best mountain towns in the southeast, offering accessibility to this landscape to those of us who make our homes on this side of the Mississippi. Even the simple drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
2. Estes Park, Colorado
Want all the rugged terrain of Denver without quite so much hustle and bustle?
Estes Park is one of the best-known sites for winter mountain vacations, and not just because it’s the setting for Stephen King’s “The Shining.” (Don’t worry — in your RV, you’ll be safely out of reach of the spirits who haunt the famous Overlook, which is actually a real-life hotel called the Stanley!)
Colorado is basically synonymous with mountains, and once you spend some time exploring the range with this pleasant town as a base, you’ll understand why. John Denver didn’t write about the Rocky Mountain high for nothing!
3. Yosemite National Park, California
Not every mountain range is rugged enough to draw world-class (and potentially crazy) climbers like Alex Honnold — but Yosemite is. Although I guess it’s not really surprising… these peaks are stunning enough viewed from inside a camper, let alone climbing them!
4. Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
Washington state may be better known for its rain than its mountain ranges, but a trip to the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest will set that misconception to rights real quick. Enjoy lush greenery in the summer or some of the best skiing in the country once winter’s powder falls.
5. Glacier National Park, Montana
Nestled in northern Montana just before the Canada border, Glacier National Park is so beautiful it’s hard to believe it’s a real place. It’s a little bit like walking into a desktop background.
Along with hiking and backcountry camping (if you’re brave), this 1,583-square-mile wilderness gives you a different view of the Rockies’ majesty, and the chance to encounter diverse wildlife ranging from mountain goats to grizzly bears.
6. Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon
Mountain vacations aren’t just about the peaks — some pretty amazing stuff is happening in the valleys, too.
If you head to Oregon’s sprawling Mount Hood National Forest, don’t miss a trip to Bagby Hot Springs, where you can immerse yourself in geothermally-warmed water to ease away muscle aches after a day of hiking and mountaineering… or just the long drive!
Mountain Trip Guides
As you can see, there are some incredible mountain vacations waiting for you — but it is important to be prepared for this type of terrain before you hit the road.
If you’re traveling in winter, make sure you read up on how to winterize your RV, including the proper use of RV antifreeze and what you need to pack to make it through the chilly weather. If you’re planning on skiing, don’t forget your poles, skis, and other adventure gear.
And no matter when you’re going or what you’re planning on doing, you’ll want to make sure you have good, sturdy shoes like hiking boots and at least a light jacket. The weather can shift rapidly in the mountains!
Best Family Mountain Vacations
Want to take even more time to enjoy the mountains? Saving money can make a longer vacation more affordable — not to mention enjoyable — for the whole family.
One great way to save money on your next mountain vacation is to use your Passport America membership, which saves you 50% on your campsite accommodations at almost 1900 campgrounds nationwide, including many in the beautiful mountain destinations we’ve named here (and others)!
Because the call of the mountains isn’t going to quiet down any time soon. You’ve got to get out there and enjoy them.
Happy International Mountain Day!
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