As Floridians, Jon and I are partial to summer and warm weather activities. As such, we have mostly visited “ski towns” during the warm months of the year. However, we’ve discovered that as well-known as some of these idyllic mountain towns may be for their winter sports and ski resorts, they have a booming summer season with loads of activities and festivals as well. With their beautiful vistas and milder summer temperatures, three ski towns stand out above the rest. So, pack the RV, don’t forget your hammock, and a fun summer read, and head out to one (or all!) of these destinations for some summer fun.
1. Telluride, Colorado
This former mining town will steal your heart and leave you breathless no matter which way you turn to look. It’s a charming town in a box canyon, surrounded by mountains. Flowers fill the fresh mountain air you breathe with their delicate fragrance.
Things to do
As, if the views and fragrant flowers weren’t enough, Telluride is filled with quaint shops, like Between the Covers Bookstore, and eateries with sidewalk seating. Town Park allows you to recharge to the sounds of water with a path along the San Miguel River.
And, if you’re a dog lover, you may think you have died and gone to heaven. The dogs of Telluride are a happy bunch, that wander freely about town and are welcome even on the free gondola ride up to the Mountain Village ski resort. There are leash laws, but the resident dogs seem to deem those more of a formality. However, if your dog is not an easy going friendly type, the extreme dog friendliness could be stressful for you, as other dogs are rarely on leashes.
Telluride’s summer event schedule is packed with festivals. Summer kicks off with the Mountainfilm festival during Memorial Day weekend which pairs movie screenings with a robust schedule of free events. The Telluride Balloon Festival and Bluegrass Festival are notable events in June, and July brings you the Telluride Yoga Festival.
For some good eats, stop in at the Butcher & Baker Cafe. Try their carrot cake for the moistest piece of carrot cake you’ve ever had. There are seemingly endless options for coffee, but Coffee Cowboy, serving coffee and smoothies out of a Travel Trailer, stood out to our RVer hearts. The ambiance at Ghost Town coffee couldn’t be beat and there was a constant stream of people during our entire stay in Telluride. Smuggler’s Brewpub was a nice spot for a beer and gastropub fare. For a healthier take on burgers, try grabbing a steamed burger at Steamies Burger Bar.
RVers can book a stay at the Town Park campground, placing you right in the middle of all the action, or explore the nearby Forest Roads for some boondocking with mountain views.
If you’d like to continue the road trip or mix in a National Park, try jumping onto the San Juan Skyway as part of your trip and loop around the nearby quintessential mountain towns of Ridgway, Ouray, and Silverton. The San Juan Skyway continues to Durango where you can jump on US-160 to follow the Skyway to Mesa Verde National Park. You may even spot bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk, or moose along the way!
2. Sun Valley, Idaho
Great American writer Ernest Hemingway was certainly onto something when he chose Ketchum, Idaho (Sun Valley is often used to refer to Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue), as a home. Although his home in Key West, FL, is better known, perhaps because of the famous six-toed cats, Hemingway loved to spend summer and fall in Idaho.
Things to do
During the summer, the area is perfect for mountain biking, fly-fishing, hiking, and kayaking. In town, one of the most unique Starbucks in the country doubles as the Visitor Center.
The Starbucks is not to be missed. They do have some local baked goods to offer, and the use of real dinnerware used to serve “for here” orders was highly amusing to us. We grabbed counter-style seats facing out the window and onto the charming town streets
For dinner, try local favorite Enoteca Restaurant and Wine Bar. They have wood-fired pizza and mouth-watering “tapas” style small-plates.
Sun Valley downtown is very RV friendly with parking spots in what would normally be the median of the streets. Class B vans and Class C rentals were very common, even during our stay which was slightly ahead of season.
We went completely off-grid, boondocking in the Sawtooth National Forest along a babbling creek. Private campsites along babbling creeks are the best! However, while the boondocking spot we found was accessible for our Class C, you may wish to look through the handy Idaho RV park guide available at the Visitors Center if you own a Class A.
You can roll back time by heading out to Stanley from there. Stanley is a tiny town right out of an old Western with whitewater rafting tour companies ready to take you out for adventure.
3. Bozeman, Montana
Bozeman residents will tell you that the summer season is where it’s at, despite Montana being a world-class ski destination. Bozeman blew us away, and apparently, others have taken note too as they are currently experiencing rapid growth. Downtown Bozeman is filled with local shops, breweries, pubs, distilleries, and coffee shops. If you love strolling idyllic main-streets, like we do, it just doesn’t get much better than this. Bozeman’s charm will have you making plans to stay forever, and forgetting that winters are a six-month ordeal.
Things to do
The Cannery district is definitely worth a visit with its own set of cafes, breweries, and eateries. Don’t miss the Daily Coffee Bar and Bakery, the oldest coffee shop in Bozeman! The Cannery District location is their larger location, the original being on the MSU campus.
Their baked goods and dessert case is so mouthwatering everyone walking in steps up to the counter only to step right back realizing they need a minute to decide, because you really do just want to try it all. You MUST have a Bee Sting Bun, a heavenly croissant drizzled with caramel and almonds, filled with a cream cheese center. Have it warmed and thank us later. If you’re gluten-free they have quite a few mouthwatering options as well.
Bozeman, like the other two ski towns on this list, is a mountain biker’s and fisherman’s paradise during summer. There’s also plenty of good camping and hiking to be had – including in Yellowstone. Plus, Mammoth Hot Springs and the forest lined main road offer a chance to possibly spot some bears and definitely see some mighty bison.
The Gallatin National Forest offers public campgrounds, and you have the Yellowstone north entrance at your doorstep.
Consider continuing your summer adventure heading north from Bozeman and into Glacier National Park.
Who needs snow to enjoy mountain ‘ski towns’? Head over to some of our best mountain towns this summer and see them in a new light.