15 Best Trail Towns In The United States
Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
Hiking is a great hobby.
Virtually anyone can hike, no matter your experience or profession.
It costs much less than most other hobbies, lets you live a life of adventure, keeps you fit and feeling good, and helps you appreciate mother nature.
Speaking of mother nature, you’ll enjoy more hiking benefits the further away from the city you go.
This is why avid hikers tend to scout their next vacation spot depending on the location’s trails.
Table of Contents
Discover These Trail Towns Today
I have hiked all around the world.
And we can’t talk about hiking trails without talking about trail towns. Trail towns step up to provide necessary and useful services for tourists and adventurers.
If you’re looking for your next adventure destination (or town to move to), here’s a list of the 15 best trail towns in the USA – according to me.
In no particular order:
Keene, New York: Unending Trails
Keene is a small town located in Essex County, in the State of New York. It’s the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Enjoy your morning coffee while taking in the exquisite mountain top views.
If you fancy some excitement on your morning jog, the Mount Marcy trailheads got you covered. Oh, and, did I mention that the Adirondack High Peaks are also located here?
Perk: Low Traffic, Mountain Trails, Entirely Different Version of New York
Pub n Grub: Baxter Mountain Tavern
Treat: Stewarts Shop
My Favorite Trails: Indian Head and Rainbow Falls & Cascade Mountain Trail
Damascus, Virginia: Trail-friendly Community
Damascus is a small town located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia. It’s one of the most trail-friendly communities out there and has even been called “Trail Town USA”.
If you’re looking to feast your eyes on the stunning beauty of mother nature, this is the perfect spot.
Seven nationally acclaimed trails intersect within this trail town’s borders. One of the more famous trails is the Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail.
This trail takes you through nearly 33 miles of dense forest, open fields, and verdant waterways.
The area around this trail town is also dotted with caves, waterfalls, and mountaintop views so there’s plenty of scenery to enjoy.
Perk: Well Marked, Beautiful Views
Pub n Grub: 7 Trails Grill
Our Favorite Trails: Damascus Loop & Virginia Creeper Trail: Damascus to Whitetop
Cumberland, Maryland: Mountain Biking Destination
This small city located in Northwest Maryland is fast becoming a regional cycling spot. While there are plenty of things to do in the city and its surrounding areas, it’s the city’s uninterrupted pathways and bike-friendly culture that attracts cyclists and hikers from all around.
Cumberland is home to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park trail and Great Allegheny Passage – both contributing to the city’s growing reputation.
Perk: Easy, Near the Lake, Great Fall Colors
Pub n Grub: Da Vinci Pizzeria
Treat: Queen City Creamery
Our Favorite Trails: Rocky Gap Canyon & Rocky Trail Loop
Fairbanks, Alaska: Perfect Days & Painted Skies
To some, Fairbanks, Alaska is the be all end all place for adventure. Fairbanks is known as the perfect outdoor adventure basecamp and we’re inclined to agree.
This trail town is home to Denali National Park. Intrepid adventurers can also pack up and cross the arctic circle.
With the painted night skies (courtesy of Aurora Borealis), several hiking trails, and mountain views, it’s no wonder people from all walks of life come to Fairbanks for some outdoor fun.
Perk: True Wilderness, Long Summer Days, Minimal People
Pub n Grub: Pump House Restaurant & Saloon
Treat: The Fudge Pot
Our Favorite Trails: Granite Tors Loop & Chena Hot Springs via Angels Rock Trail
Marquette, Michigan: Tourist & Hikers Hub
Marquette, Michigan is located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Don’t let its size fool you as this town is a bustling hub of activity and adventure for tourists and outdoors people.
This trail town is home to the Iron Ore Heritage Trail which stretches 47 miles across the Marquette Iron Range and connects with the Marquette Multi-use Path.
Perk: Low Traffic, Picturesque, Plenty of Water Around
Our Favorite Trails: Iron Ore Heritage Trail, Hogback Mountain North Trail & Bareback Trails Loop
Bend, Oregon: Dog Friendliest Town
Bend, Oregon is a small town located near an extinct volcano. The town itself, although “small” by category, spans a sizable area and encompasses several different hiking trails.
Another great thing about Bend is that it’s been voted as one of the Dog Friendliest Cities in the country, and has maintained that reputation for years.
Perk: Dogs, Waterfalls, Dense Forests
Pub n Grub: Pisano’s Woodfired Pizza
Our Favorite Trails: Bend Glacier and No Name Lake & Tumalo Falls via Tumalo Creek Trail
Dayton, Ohio: Definition of a Trail Town
This trail town offers all the comforts of home coupled with endless possibilities for outdoor adventure.
Dayton, Ohio is home to the Great Miami River Trail. This 86 mile long trail passes through Dayton, Troy, Piqua, and several more.
The town itself offers various other attractions with historical, culinary, or cultural value. You’d be hard-pressed to find yourself bored while in Dayton.
Perk: Plenty To Do, Fishing, Food
Pub n Grub: Jimmie’s Ladder
Treat: Graeter’s Ice Cream
Our Favorite Trails: Ghost Hedge Nature Trail & Great Miami River Trail
Durango, Colorado: Come for the Trails, Stay for the Heritage
Durango, Colorado is another small but beautiful trail town that’s home to 50+ local trails stretching well over 300 miles.
It offers plenty of opportunity for outdoor activities beyond hiking, like wakeboarding and rafting on Lake Nighthorse. Durango is also home to Mesa Verde National Park.
What sets Durango apart, though, are the locals’ efforts to preserve the ancient Pueblo heritage.
Perk: Watersports, Stargazing, Mountain Biking
Pub n Grub: Derailed Pour House
Treat: Michel’s Corner Crepes
Our Favorite Trails: Purgatory Trail, Colorado Trail to Gudy’s Rest & Cascade Creek East Fork
Moab, UT: Desert Adventure
Moab, UT is a little town perfectly situated between the rock gardens of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Because of this, it attracts adventurers of various tastes, such as bikers, rafters, climbers, and (of course) hikers.
Particularly worthy of note is Salt Creek Canyon which can take up to four days to explore.
Perk: Petroglyphs, Biking, Endless Hiking Trails
Pub n Grub: Thai Bella
Treat: Moab Garage Co
Our Favorite Trails: Dead Horse Rim Loop Trail, Professor Creek & Mary Jane Canyon Trail, Lathrop Canyon Trail
South Lake Tahoe, California: Beachfront Walkways & Mountain Trails
South Lake Tahoe, California has seen a steady increase in population recently due to the growing number of people looking to settle down there.
I don’t visit Tahoe (city) much anymore because the traffic has gotten ridiculous and people seem agitated. Probably due to all the traffic and tourists. Imagine San Francisco in the mountains.
That said, it is still very popular, and once upon a time was an awesome place to visit.
If you dig ski-trips or water sports, South Lake Tahoe offers both in endless supply. This trail town offers quick access to lake front walkways and mountain trails for hikers, bikers, skiers and horseback riders.
The mountain bikers seem to be cut from a different cloth here. Almost any mountain biker you see on the trails are polite, say hello and let you know if anybody else is following behind. Kudos to the South Lake Tahoe mountain bikers. You guys are awesome!
Perk: Weather, Scenery, Wildlife
Pub n Grub: Blue Dog Pizza
Treat: The Baked Bear
Our Favorite Trails: Mt Tallac, Lake Aloha from Echo Lake, Tamarack Lake, Ralston Peak, Eagle Lake Loop
Flagstaff, AZ: Red Rock Country
Flagstaff, AZ is the gateway to the Grand Canyon. This small city is located at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks and attracts backpackers, mountaineers, and river runners from around the globe.
This trail town is home to the Boucher Hermit Loop which stretches up to 23 miles.
Perk: High Desert, Forests, Bouldering
Pub n Grub: Proper Meats + Provisions
Treat: Sugar Mamas
Our Favorite Trails: Humphreys Peak, Boucher Hermit Loop, Elden Lookout Trail, Inner Basin Trail, Sunset Trail to Brookbank Trail Loop
Asheville, North Carolina: Affordable Living and Picturesque Trails
Asheville, North Carolina is the perfect trail town if you’re looking for a more affordable place to go. It has a cost of living that’s 4% below the national average and, for several years now, has been ranked in the top 10 places to live and retire in.
This trail town is home to the picturesque Great Smoky Mountains National Park trails. Make sure to visit the waterfalls while you’re in the area.
Perk: Laid Back, Low Traffic, Friendly, Gorgeous
Pub n Grub: New Belgium Brewing Company
Treat: The Chocolate Fetish
Our Favorite Trails: Hard Times Road Trail, Bent Creek Network: Ingles Field Gap Loop Trail, Coffee Pot Mountain Loop Trail
Whitefish, MT: The Bob’s Million Acres
Whitefish, Montana is the quintessential backpacker paradise thanks to Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshal Wilderness Complex.
With so many outdoorsy people attracted to this town, don’t be surprised to find world champion outdoor athletes sharing your table at the local pub.
The Bob Marshall Wilderness, aka The Bob, offers endless adventuring potential with its one million acres of giant rivers, cliffs, and peaks.
Perk: It’s Montana, Minimal Traffic, Intense Trails
Pub n Grub: Tupelo Grill
Treat: Sweet Peaks Ice Cream
Our Favorite Trails: Beaver Lakes via Lion Mountain Trail, Stanton Mountain Trail, Big Mountain via Summit Trail, Whitefish Valley Lookout
Auburn, California: The Endurance Capitol
This was an area I spent a lot of time in when I lived in California.
Back then there was minimal traffic on the trails, and everybody and their step-mom didn’t think they were an instagram celebrity.
Parking sucks if you want to visit one of the more popular trails, and there will be people. However, everyone is usually in a good mood.
We typically do trails more on the outskirts, longer, and not for the faint of heart, which means it doesn’t matter how many insta famous hikers are around, you wont see them if you pick the right trails.
Believe it or not, this area of California has A LOT of bears and mountain lions, so be alert. Take in the scenery, fresh air and listen the rivers.
Very cool area, and the locals tend to be friendly.
Perk: Endless Trails, Wildlife, Bike Friendly
Pub n Grub: Dingus McGees
Our Favorite Trails: Training Hill From Robie Point Trail, Pioneer Express Trail, Western States Trail
North Conway, New Hampshire
Spent plenty of time mountain biking and hiking in New Hampshire. Never would have thought of it as an adventure location, because let’s face it, how often do you hear anything about New Hampshire? Well, I’ve got to reveal one of their little secrets, this is an outdoorsy state with plenty of outdoor adventures to be had.
Perk: The Post Hike Grub, Low Population Density, Long Mystical Trails
Pub n Grub: May Kelly’s Cottage Restaurant & Pub
Treat: Old Village Bakery
Our Favorite Trails: Red Ridge Trail, Black Cap, Via Black Cap Connector, North Moat Mountain Trail
That will do it for this one.
Remember, things happen on the trail, here are 7 Ways to Treat Common Long-Trail Aches & Pains.
And regardless of trail length, this is What Gear To Bring On A Day Hike.
Wishing you a great adventure, and a healthy life.