Grab Your BFFs: These 8 Epic Fall Mountain Towns Await
From the Poconos to Park City, here are our top picks.
Mountain destinations certainly get plenty of winter hype. But fall is actually the best time to visit these regions, in our humble opinion. Along with colorful foliage, you can expect spectacular hiking, comfort food galore at cozy restaurants, inviting fireplaces (preferably at your home away from home), and, if you’re lucky, clear, starry night skies.
For a welcome blend of autumnal beauty, relaxation, and action, keep reading for our favorite group getaways to the peaks.
With 27 trails, eight chairlifts, and a 2006-foot summit, Wachusett Mountain provides some of the most vibrant fall color in New England from endless vantage points. Enjoy over 17 miles of hiking trails within Wachusett Mountain State Reservation or skip the Achilles-level workout and take the lifts up to the top of the mountain to take in a birds-eye view of the changing leaves. Groups can book their stay at Great Wolf Lodge (did we mention the indoor water park?) or the elegant 112-room Colonial Hotel, both of which are close to the hills. If you can get the timing right, round out your trip’s schedule with a visit to the Fall Food Truck Fest, now in its fourth year, on November 4.
Did you know that Asheville is known for the longest autumn season in the United States? Which obviously comes with some of the best leaf-peeping around. While we’re happy to recommend a few of our favorites (Sovereign Remedies, Open Oven Brunch and Bakery, and Benne on Eagle for food; Hike Bike Kayak Asheville for a kayak tour; an afternoon spent wandering around The Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home and the one-time summer residence of the Vanderbilt family), why not let spontaneity rule the day?
To help make said approach less stressful, the destination provides detailed drive guides, so you and your crew can design the ideal road trip based on your interests. Count sheep at The Foundry Hotel, a boutique hotel in Asheville's former steel foundry and home to the aforementioned Benne on Eagle, a happening hub for Appalachian-rooted soul cuisine. To make vacation planning easy, book their “Leaf Peeping by Land & Lake” package. Groups can experience a two-mile round trip hike through Bearwallow Mountain via Asheville Wellness Tours to see vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains at its multi-hued finest, then hit the water for a Lake Junaluska Kayak Tour led by Hike Bike Kayak Asheville. Split gratuities for your knowledgeable tour guides by having one person from your group fork over the cash while everyone else quickly and safely pays them back through Zelle®.
Grab your guys and gals and journey some 80 minutes outside of New York City to Crystal Springs Resort, the Northeast's largest solar-powered resort and home to the largest wine collection in the NYC area. Tucked along the Appalachian Mountains, you can choose from the Grand Cascades Lodge or The Minerals Hotel in adjacent Vernon Township, less than 15 minutes apart, for your digs. Between the two hotels, the resort has a smattering of dining options, including superb Restaurant Latour. Helmed by executive chef Chef Aishling Stevens and wine director Susanne Wagner, the three- or seven-course tasting menu showcases the bounty of local farms and the establishment’s foraging program with hits like Scottish Langoustine with wild fennel, curd, pickled watermelon, and chocolate mousse with warm cherry cake and coconut ice cream.
Fall group activity highlights include glow golf at dusk, axe throwing, pickleball social night, and getting pampered at the Reflections Spa after a morning on the trails marveling at the tree’s changing colors. If you and your amigos would like to work on your swing, reserve some tee time at the golf course to put the icing on your alpine escape.
The Poconos, PA
If you want another getaway where you and your favorite pals don’t leave your hotel, may we suggest Great Wolf Lodge Poconos? Right next to the main property, the resort recently unveiled 30 1,500-square-foot villas designed exclusively for the Pocono Mountains resort. Designed by Nate Berkus, The Woodland Villas sleep eight to 20 people and showcase amenities like a private outdoor patio, fully equipped kitchenette, and included water park passes (you get water park passes included with your stay at the main hotel, too). Along with the famed water park, there’s a ropes course and mini golf.
Hungry? Yeah, you don’t need to leave for that, either. The property features multiple dining outlets on-site including Timbers Table & Kitchen with delectable family-style dishes and Wood’s End Creamery for over-the-top ice cream concoctions. P.S. If for some reason you’re antsing to get off the property, venture to Big Pocono State Park, which stays open for hiking and mountain biking through early December.
Park City, UT
There’s more to this Beehive State darling than the Sundance Film Festival and skiing. In the fall, you’ll be dazzled by shades of reds, oranges, and yellows whether you’re on the hiking trails like Silver Lake Trail in Deer Valley or staring out the window of your suite at Washington School House. To get your adrenaline pumping, plan a jaunt to the Olympic Park and zoom down “The Comet,” a 3,000-foot long bobsled experience.
Group meals are best enjoyed at spots like Bartolo’s, High West Distillery and Saloon, or Hana Ramen Bar. Or, journey to the base of Canyons Village where you’ll find Pendry Park City, where the rooftop venue, The Poolhouse is the frequent host of live musical acts. And for the fly fishers amongst us, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point you towards local locales like the Provo River, Weber River, Strawberry Reservoir, Echo Reservoir, Rockport Reservoir, and Jordanelle Reservoir for some of the best fly-fishing in the Rocky Mountains.
Jackson Hole, WY
Tuck in at the only hotel on Jackson’s historic Town Square, The Cloudveil, an Autograph Collection hotel and get into the Western spirit with your nearest and dearest. Great for a crew that loves the great outdoors, the hotel’s “Pathfinders” concierges can point you to the region’s best leaf peeping and aspen groves, tell you exactly where to hike at Grand Teton National Park or Yellowstone National Park, and where to spot birds and wildlife at Ski Lake Trail in the Tetons. For another great lodging option, try Caldera House, an eight-suite hotel in Teton Village that’s a stone’s throw away from the tram and a quick drive to Grand Teton National Park. When you’re recovering from a long day of hiking or biking, you’ll be grateful for the property’s spa, heated outdoor infinity plunge pool, and sauna. Ditto for nearby eateries like Mangy Moose Restaurant and Saloon, a beloved watering hole since 1967 which often hosts live music.
Kenoza Lake, NY
Sullivan County’s Catskills shine year-round, but there's just something about the region when paired with crisp fall air. Stay at Kenoza Hall, where groups will love sprawling out in the property’s cozy-chic bungalows and eating far too many pear and Gorgonzola salads and grilled trout almondine at the restaurant. The guided “morgen lauf” (morning walk) on Saturday mornings is a must-do, where you'll walk along the tranquil trails right on the hotel’s grounds, as is a yoga class (or aerial yoga class, if you dare) at the Hemlock Spa. No Catskills adventure is complete without apple picking in the fall, so head to Stone Ridge Orchard or Majestic Farm to have some fruity fun. One day during your vacation, drive about 20 minutes to The Eldred Preserve for a meal at The Homestead Restaurant and Lounge and stroll around the property’s bucolic ponds. The smoked trout dip is enough to warrant the trip.
Hot Springs, AR
Prepare to be surprised in Hot Springs, which has a robust history of scandal (just see the Gangster Museum of America and the signs about Al Capone and his cronies around town), healing waters, and Major League Baseball spring training. Yes, we know it's a motley mix, but any given day in this unique city provides a wide range of activities for your crew. For one, it's the home base for the (free!) Hot Springs National Park, which is a must-visit. You could also try your luck at Oaklawn, a horse racing casino and resort, meander about the serene Garvan Woodland Gardens (the chapel is a jaw-dropper), or catch live music while you sip a loaded Bloody Mary at The Ohio Club — which happens to be the oldest continuously running bar in the state dating back to 1905, once frequented by Al Capone, Bugsy Segel, and Babe Ruth. An eclectic city indeed.
Other noteworthy excursions include mining for quartz at Avant Mining Fisher Mountain Rock Shop and Public Dig, hiking or biking on Northwoods Trails, and touring the National Park Services's The Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center and Museum to learn more about these storied springs. Stay at The Reserve at Hot Springs, an upscale bed and breakfast (read: three-course breakfast that feels worthy of a Michelin star) that's a five-minute drive from downtown, or head into the woods and up In the Trees if you and your group are keen on trying that whole treehouse thing.