George Harrison in the gardens at Friar Park, screen capped from Living in the Material World and the “Any Road” music video
“Although [George Harrison] did feel like a big outsider to the entertainment industry, he wasn’t hiding, he was just doing what he wanted to do - planting trees and making music. Trees replaced music as his work. Japanese maples. We bought a couple of thousand of them. He’d be out in the garden digging, on his hands and knees planting every night until the light went. My mother and me too, we were a real team.” - Dhani Harrison, Los Angeles Times, 18 November 2002
It’s more than just the mountains. Though the scenery surrounding the high-altitude towns of the USA is spectacular – snow-capped peaks, dizzying cliffs, burbling rivers and forests blanketed in white – these settlements aren’t just beautiful, they’re historic, and charm-filled, says adventurer Ben Groundwater.
Lake Tahoe, California
Photo by tpsdave from Pixabay
A favourite weekend spot for Californians – given it’s only a one-hour flight from San Francisco – this series of charming settlements hug the shores of the shimmering body of water that is Lake Tahoe. Though the easiest way to access Lake Tahoe’s most popular ski area, Heavenly, is by staying on the touristy south shore, it’s the settlements on the lake’s north that retain the most allure.
To most people, New York means skyscrapers and a brash attitude, but that’s just the city. The state itself has a surprising number of ski resorts and towns that service them, and perhaps one of the most beautiful is Lake Placid. Though a former host of the Winter Olympics, Lake Placid these days lives up to its name, and is the perfect destination for some relaxing time in the mountains away from city life.
West Glacier, Montana
Photo by Terrah Holly on Unsplash
There are few more scenically spectacular parts of the world than the “big sky country” of Montana, and few places capture that beauty quite like the town of West Glacier. What it lacks in size and infrastructure – this is really just a gateway into the famed Glacier National Park – it makes up for in easy-going charm, and a setting that would make any nature lover cry tears of joy.
Though it’s known these days for the Hollywood big shots who arrive en masse around Christmas, Aspen is actually a former silver-mining town that also enjoyed a brief stretch as a hippie enclave populated by the likes of John Denver and Hunter S. Thompson. These days Aspen’s five-star resorts and chalets are the stuff of fantasy for most, but the town retains its beautiful historic charm.
North Conway, New Hampshire
Photo by Margit Wallner on Pixabay
This is New England at its finest, a quaint mountain town within easy striking distance of the city of Boston, and yet with an atmosphere that sets it a world apart. North Conway, founded in 1765, is all historic buildings and “mom and pop” stores, but is also within a half-hour drive of 13 ski resorts.
Another former Coloradan mining town, Telluride has done a better job than most of retaining its old-world charm, with a postcard-perfect main street that’s a throwback to simpler times. The town is surrounded on three sides by towering mountain ranges, a geographical quirk that has helped to protect Telluride from the onslaught of mass tourism.
Mammoth Lakes, California
It takes just an hour to fly from the concrete jungle of Los Angeles to the snow-capped peaks of Mammoth Lakes, a year-round hotspot for those who enjoy the great outdoors. The town itself doesn’t quite have the history of some of its Coloradan counterparts – however, when you’re surrounded by sparkling alpine lakes and dizzying mountain peaks, it really doesn’t matter.
Virginia City, Nevada
Those with Westworld-inspired dreams of stepping back into the Wild West need only visit Virginia City, Nevada, the place where the legendary Comstock Lode – a huge silver deposit – was once struck, and which has retained pretty much all of the old buildings that lined its streets back in the 19th century. That the town is surrounded by the Sierra ranges only adds to the appeal.
Photo by tpsdave on Pixabay
This is cowboy country, no doubt – you only have to cast your eye around and take in the saloons on streets, the boots on wooden walkways and the Stetsons on heads. However, Jackson, Wyoming is also hugely popular with hikers, bikers, skiers and climbers, thanks to its position among some of the most imposing and beautiful mountain scenery you’re likely to witness.
Though the adjoining ski resort in Breckenridge is as modern as they come, most of the buildings in the town itself are throwbacks to a bygone era, colourfully painted places that date back to the late 1800s. With the Rocky Mountains filling all horizons, this is a place to take your time strolling around and soaking up the history and the scenery.
Taos, New Mexico
Photo by tpsdave on Pixabay
There’s something a little different about Taos, New Mexico. It’s in the architecture: these aren’t the wooden facades of the Wild West mining towns, but rather the mud-brick buildings of the southern deserts. It’s in the people, too: this isn’t cowboy country so much as a bohemian hub filled with hippies and artists, as well as adventurers and old-school Hispanic settlers. And off in the distance… towering mountain peaks that can’t fail to impress.
Park City, Utah
Park City’s history is a familiar one: a former silver-mining boomtown turned playground for the rich and famous, who are drawn here largely for the world-class skiing, not to mention the cosy village feel and the spectacular scenery that surrounds it. Park City is hugely popular in winter, but has something of a locals-only vibe in summer, when the hikers and bikers head out to play.