8 Mountains With the Most Epic Views in the U.S.
You don't even have to hike to reach the top of all of them.
There is something undeniably invigorating about standing on the top of a mountain and getting to experience the view of a lifetime.
Some views are so staggeringly stunning that people plan entire vacations around them. While reaching some of the highest peaks entail strenuous hikes suitable for more experienced trekkers, others are easy enough for novice hikers, and some can even be reached by car or gondola.
Read on to learn about the eight most incredible mountaintops with epic views, according to travel experts.
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8. Whiteface Mountain, New York
East coast gem Whiteface Mountain is located in the Adirondacks near Lake Placid, "one of the most beautiful views from one of the top five highest mountains in New York," says multimedia travel journalist Jess Kelly. "You can take a drive to the top, hike, ski, or snowboard to enjoy the views, but either way it definitely can't be missed." The area surrounding Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid is the perfect place to explore, "especially in the winter when visitors can go tobogganing, ice skating, dog sledding, bobsledding, ride the mountain coaster, and more," she says.
7. Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
With more than 900 miles of hiking trails, mountaintop vistas, and hidden waterfalls amongst the trees, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an incredible year-round destination. It's not surprising that it's the most visited national park in the U.S.
"For the best views, head to the highest point in Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains: Clingmans Dome," suggests Powers. "The 54-foot observation deck can be reached by a steep half-mile hike, but will be well worth it for the sweeping views overlooking 100 miles and seven states, especially during sunrise and sunset."
Other notable peaks include Mount Le Conte and Mount Guyot, accessible by multiple trails depending on your hiking skillset. If you're interested in views without the hike, Cades Cove Loop is a scenic mountain drive full of wildflowers and wildlife. As for lodging, the luxurious Blackberry Farm and the recently opened Blackberry Mountain are less than an hour's drive from the mountain.
6. Castle Crags, California
Located at the southern end of the Cascade Range of Northern California in Siskiyou County, the area surrounding Mount Shasta is somewhat of a hidden gem.
"Surrounded by the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Mount Shasta is the second-highest peak in the Cascades and the fifth highest in the state, making it an incredible place to hike and rock climb in summer, as well as ski, sled, and enjoy the magical winter wonderland covering the mountain in the winter," says Amber Rose Powers, a travel advisor at Fora travel.
However, the best view is of the mountain, not on it. Castle Crags offers one of the most stunning views of Mount Shasta's staggering peaks. While you will have to hike to take advantage of the stunning view, Powers maintains it is well worth it.
"My favorite spot to stay near Mount Shasta is in McCloud Falls at McCloud Hotel or McCloud Mercantile Hotel in their Shasta Wintu Suite. Be sure to pop into Axe & Rose Public House for a drink or dinner while in McCloud, or grab a burger at Yaks just off the Interstate 5 on your way in or out of town," she says.
5. Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia, the fifth most visited national park in the country, offers 47,000 acres of beauty, ranging from forests to rocky beaches. However, if you want to really experience the wonder of Acadia, head to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the East Coast. "Even though it's a moderately strenuous hike, you can drive to the summit for the same views without the hike," says Toccara Best, travel blogger at Forget Someday. Fun fact: From October 7 through March 6, it is the first place you can view the sunrise in the entire United States.
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4. White Mountains, New Hampshire
Take in two of the best mountaintop views courtesy of the White Mountains in New Hampshire, says Best. The first is Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast. "It can be accessed by driving the Mount Washington Auto Road," she says. "Again, no hike required. Cannon Mountain, accessible from the Cannon Mountain aerial tramway, is just as impressive.
"On a clear day, you will be able to see four states—New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and New York—and Canada," she notes.
3. Grand Teton, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park hosts some of the most spectacular views in the country—and you don't even have to hike to take advantage of them. Just outside of the Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa in Teton Village, Wyoming, you can hop on the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram for a 4,139 vertical feet, nine-minute "scenic ride" up the mountain, says Stephen Lane, regional director of marketing at Noble House Hotels & Resorts.
"At the top, you will be rewarded with breathtaking, expansive views of the vale." And, once you reach the top of the mountain, you can even enjoy a meal. "Piste Mountain Bistro delivers a lively dining experience, and Corbet's Cabin Top of the World Waffles lures visitors in with delicious top-of-a-mountain indulgences," he says.
2. Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite is one of the most visited national parks year after year. But you haven't experienced the Sierra Nevada mountains in all of their glory until you stand atop Glacier Point, says Haleigh Sparks, freelance travel writer and world traveler.
"It's one of the most gorgeous panoramic views. You can see the whole valley and half dome. It's breathtakingly beautiful." She says that there are a few ways to get there. "You can drive most of the way up and walk a short loop to the lookout," she says, noting that the road has been closed for the past year, but is expected to reopen again in the summer. "There's also a four-mile trail that's a bit more difficult."
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1. Aspen Mountain, Colorado
"I've never experienced anything else quite like the rewarding beauty from atop Aspen mountain," says Tracy Block, founder of BlockMediaWorldwide. "As a travel and events writer, I've attended the prestigious Food & Wine Classic in Aspen four times, and the most anticipated activity upon each return has been watching the sun disappear into the hidden, cavernous peaks from this stunning viewpoint."
To access to epic view, simply board the 15-minute Silver Queen gondola—no strenuous hike necessary.