Mountains have always provided travelers with a welcome reprieve from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Conservationist John Muir, who helped create several national parks, once said, “We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.” His poetic description beautifully depicts the mysterious influence mountains have over us. So, it should come as no surprise that more and more people are looking to relocate and buy property in one of the many mountain ranges extending all over the country.
Second-home markets in mountain destinations are exploding, attracting people with an array of outdoor activities, fresh air, and stunning views. If you’re thinking about buying a mountain vacation home, read on for our handy guide to the most attractive real estate markets in the U.S. right now.
Under two hours from Seattle, Suncadia is surrounded by more than 6,000 acres of lush, mountainous landscapes that attract second-home buyers looking for a laid-back, year-round retreat and luxury resort amenities.
“I’ve lived in this community since 2010 and love the four-season resort,” Susan West, a broker with John L. Scott Real Estate, Luxury Portfolio International, shared with Travel + Leisure via email. “There are lots of walking, biking, and hiking trails in the neighborhoods, several community pools with memberships, golf courses, a winery, playground parks, tennis courts, and a myriad of events going on throughout the year.”
West explained that several of her latest home transactions went for above-asking price, with one buyer making an offer for $2.6 million after seeing the property via FaceTime.
“One of the prettiest sights in the Roaring Fork Valley is driving up toward Snowmass Village from Highway 82, coming around the corner and seeing the thousands of sparkling lights draping the mountains. It’s our very own Whoville,” said Walker Moriarty, a broker with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty. Located a mere eight miles west of Aspen, Snowmass Village is a quieter, family-friendly, and more affordable alternative to its famous neighbor.
This small resort town has recently been gaining popularity, thanks to major new developments — namely Base Village, Aura, the Havens, Electric Pass Lodge, Lumin, One East, and One West, which have attracted many second-home buyers to the area.
"The price per square foot overall has increased, but it's still about half of what Aspen gets," added Moriarty. "This has attracted many young families and full-time residents who want access to Aspen, but at a more affordable price and with a bit more privacy."
In Asheville, the Blue Ridge Mountains create the ideal backdrop for everything from hiking and skiing to world-class mountain biking and fly-fishing. And for those not ready to compromise on the amenities of urban areas, Asheville provides the perfect balance between idyllic mountain landscapes and a vibrant cultural and entertainment scene.
The restaurants in downtown Asheville are some of the best in the southeastern U.S., while the city’s many craft breweries make it a top choice for beer lovers.
“The increased buyer demand over the last few years has created a competitive market with limited supply,” said Alec Cantley of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. “As the Asheville Regional Airport has expanded with daily flights to feeder markets around the country, many buyers have entered the local market simply for access. You can wake up in Asheville, and within a few hours, you can fly directly into some of the biggest cities in the U.S., including Miami, New York, Houston, Denver, and Chicago.”
Outdoor enthusiasts flock to the Berkshires in western Massachusetts for the seemingly endless number of activities, including hiking, water sports, and horseback riding in the summer to skiing in the winter.
The towns of Lenox and Great Barrington, located about 13 miles apart along Route 7, seem to be getting the most attention from second-home buyers.
“Lenox, once the summer home of [novelist] Edith Wharton, is known for its grand ‘Berkshire Cottage’ estates, while Great Barrington’s brick buildings make it feel like an extension of Manhattan’s Upper West Side,” Gladys Montgomery of William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty shared in an email. Both towns offer an excellent selection of boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries, but they also keep their residents pretty active. Lenox, for example, has a 200-acre park, while Great Barrington offers access to Monument Mountain Reservation.
"Prices in Berkshire County jumped 25 to 30% across the board, regaining all the ground they had lost during the recession," added Montgomery, noting that inventory is low and homes usually sell for above-asking price.
With 63 trails spread over 464 acres, Bretton Woods is New Hampshire's largest ski area and a haven for winter sports enthusiasts. This scenic destination nestled in the White Mountains is also popular with golfers in the summer, as it's home to a spectacular 18-hole course that treats players to stunning views of Mount Washington.
“The demand from buyers wanting to purchase in Bretton Woods remains strong, while the inventory of available units remains limited. Multiple offers are the norm, and ‘days on market’ remain extremely low,” said Michele Penner, managing broker at Badger Peabody & Smith Realty, Luxury Portfolio International. She added that as the area remains a popular vacation home destination, properties have risen in appreciation value. The most in-demand type of residence, according to Penner, is a four-bedroom, three-bathroom condominium with mountain views.
The scenic New River Valley in Virginia’s Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains comprises four counties — Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, and Pulaski — and 10 towns. The area is home to two universities and has no shortage of cultural and recreational activities. Whether you’re into water sports or prefer hiking and biking, you’ll find plenty of natural landmarks here to keep you active.
“The pandemic caused a lot of people to come down this way to get out of the city,” said Darin Greear, an agent at the Blacksburg, Virginia, office of Long & Foster. “The New River Valley is a rural area, but over the last two years, they’ve installed fiber-optic cable, so it’s ideal for people who want to get away, have some land, and work remotely.” He added that properties in the $1 to $1.5 million range are usually paid for in cash.
Easily accessible from Atlanta and Chattanooga, Blue Ridge has become wildly popular with second-home buyers looking for an idyllic escape in the mountains or an investment property.
The town is also the gateway to the Appalachian Trail, making it a year-round hiking and biking destination.
“We are a national forest town, meaning that much of our privately owned property backs up to United States national forests, with trails in our backyards,” said Logan Fitts, an agent with Harry Norman Realtors, Luxury Portfolio International. Another draw? Lake Blue Ridge, more than a 3,000-acre body of water, provides plenty of water sports and fishing opportunities.
The Sonoma Mountain region needs no introduction. The area is home to a world-famous dining and wine scene, as well as music, art, and outdoor events. With easy access from San Francisco, the greater Healdsburg area is a popular vacation destination for urbanites searching for beautiful vistas and outdoor activities. Downtown Healdsburg is also home to a couple of Michelin-starred restaurants, so you don’t have to travel far to get a good meal.
About 17 miles north of Healdsburg, Cloverdale is a quaint town that has emerged as another Sonoma wine country mountain destination for discerning second-home buyers.
“It has wine country’s beautiful vistas, rolling hills, vineyards, and sprawling valleys, plus lots of nearby wineries and a robust downtown with farmers markets and weekly summer outdoor music events,” explained Leslie Olch of The Lucero Group, Vanguard Properties, Luxury Portfolio International.
While Arizona may not conjure up images of towering mountains, the state is home to the San Francisco Peaks and Humphreys Peak, which rises 12,633 feet. And Flagstaff is in the middle of it all. This university town offers many cultural and recreational opportunities, and its residents enjoy 288 days of sunshine annually.
Flagstaff is also surrounded by the Coconino National Forest, the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in North America, providing endless outdoor adventures. Another reason why purchasing property in Flagstaff is a good investment? The destination is close to other major northern Arizona attractions, including Grand Canyon National Park, Sedona, the Painted Desert, and Saguaro National Park, so the rental potential here is excellent.
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