Summer vacations can be expensive, especially considering that some of the most popular travel destinations are very similar to what you can find within a few hours of your own home. But, if you are looking to get out and visit someplace that is different and someplace with reasonably priced accommodations, there are nearly unlimited opportunities in the Mountain West.
1) Gunnison, CO
In the geographical heart of the mountains, Gunnison is surrounded by ghost towns in every direction. Less than an hour to the west of Gunnison is the Black Canyon, the nation’s deepest, narrowest canyon. Less than an hour to the east are the spectacular views provided by the Continental Divide at its highest points. To the north is Crested Butte and Aspen and, to the south, arguably the most majestic mountains in the United States: the San Juans.
Nightly hotel accommodations range from $65 per night to $100. Cheap airfare from Houston to Gunnison can be had for $365, from Fort Lauderdale for $488,0 from Los Angeles for $314 and for $425 from New York.
2) Moab, UT
Renowned for its mountain biking, rock climbing and off-road, four-wheel-drive tour, the Colorado River runs through Moab which means the rafting, camping, picnicking and hiking is unparalleled. Moab itself has a number of micro-breweries for the adults, a large water park for the kids and dozens of exceptional places to eat.
Hotel accommodations range anywhere from $125 per night to $250. Airline tickets from New York are around $280, $204 from Houston, roughly $260 from Fort Lauderdale and $200 from Los Angeles.
3) Lake Tahoe, NV
While more popular and better known than Gunnison and Moab, Lake Tahoe is still off the beaten path. The lake is pristine and the area is surprisingly undeveloped. From short hikes to long expeditions to camping for an extended amount of time, there are activities for everyone around Lake Tahoe. And, the nightlife and restaurants are five-star rated.
Hotel accommodations range from $45 per night to $300, and vacation rentals are comparable. Airline tickets from Los Angeles are around $135, about $65 from Houston, $140 from Fort Lauderdale and around $300 from New York.
There are Lake Tahoe vacation packages for South Lake Tahoe, Kings Beach, Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows.
4) Rapid City, South Dakota
Rapid City is most famous for its annual motorcycle rallies, but if you visit Rapid City any other time of the year, the Black Hills are a sight worth seeing. Rapid City — originally a mining town — has wonderful restaurants, great museums and history and the hospitality is unmatched. In addition to Mount Rushmore, Rapid City is surrounded by recreation opportunities, including jeep tours over passes with breathtaking views, horseback riding and lively casinos.
Hotel accommodations in Rapid City range from $40 per night to $80. Flying into Rapid City from Los Angeles costs around $350, about $360 from Houston, $450 from New York and roughly $550 from Fort Lauderdale, and there are even better vacations deals during the low season.
5) Jackson Hole, WY
Renowned as a ski town, Jackson Hole has far more to offer during the summer. Hiking near the Grand Tetons, horseback riding through the valley, spending a week on a dude ranch, rafting the Snake River Gorge, duckying down the Hoback River and riding the tram to the top of the ski area and walking or mountain biking down are just a few of the options. The restaurants in Jackson Hole are world class and the nightlife is great.
A night in a hotel costs between $60 and $250, and there are even better deals on vacation home rentals. A ticket from Los Angeles to Jackson Hole is $390, about $410 from Houston, $273 from New York and $520 from Fort Lauderdale.