25 ML Secret Travel Tips

Contributors and staff members share their mountain west hidden gems

Contributors and staff members share their mountain west hidden gems. Take a peek below!


The precarious spine of the Bridger Ridge has called out to me since I moved to Montana in 1990. It spans the eastern side of Gallatin Valley, where Bozeman is nestled. Beginning at an elevation of 6,394 feet from Bridger Bowl Ski Area, the climb traverses the mountain over 2.3 miles, topping out at 8,510 feet. It’s a push, but at the top the reward of panoramic views of five different mountain ranges makes it worth the effort. —Seabring Davis, writer


After exploring Death Valley National Park last fall, my partner and I made the last-minute decision to hike the Mt. Whitney Trail to Lone Pine Lake, located at just over 10,000 feet. As we hopped across streams and walked through corridors of gold-leafed aspen trees, the snow-capped granite peaks in the distance—I realized that what started out as a side excursion had turned out to be the best part of our entire trip. —Tate Gunnerson, writer


Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, photographer Emily Redfield came to Crested Butte to fly-fish and ride horses along the Taylor River in the summers and to ski the slopes throughout winter. Redfield hopes to make it back permanently to the charming mountain town. “The sweeping valley leading up to the dramatic peak of Crested Butte ski mountain and the laid-back town full of quaint Victorian architecture has captured me. With teenagers going to college fairly soon, Crested Butte is on my husband’s and my radar as our next home base.” —Emily Minton Redfield, photographer


Aspen’s John Denver Sanctuary is a peaceful, green song garden blooming beside the Roaring Fork River and surrounded by the mountains. With a profusion of flowers, meandering streams and footpaths, and rocks carved with song lyrics and poems, it’s a place of beauty and contemplation—perfect for humming a tune with sunshine on your shoulders. —Laura Beausire, writer


It’s no surprise that I ended up living in the Vail Valley. As a little girl, my parents would pile all the kids in the Suburban and make the trek from Minnesota to Colorado a few times a year. I drew mountain scenes constantly as a kid and knew that someday I would find myself out here. I’ve skied a ton of resorts in Colorado and I still am happy to find Vail and the backcountry my happy place. Could I name a favorite run? Yes, but I can’t divulge that information—some things are sacred. —Kimberly Gavin, photographer


Known as the “Upper Loop,” to me it will always be the “magical tree forts and boulders” hike of my hometown, Crested Butte. Just off the easy, close-to-town trail are huge boulders that long ago tumbled off the mountain, accompanied by a collection of tree forts that change their configuration yearly, depending on who’s visited. Summer through fall, my must-do is to climb atop a boulder and take in the magic of the mountain, aspens and sky. —Michelle Starika Asakawa, copy editor


A modest assemblage of Old West storefronts, Victorian hotels and confectionary shops, Ouray is tucked into a tight box canyon. Alpine splendor surrounds: verdant evergreens, candy-colored wildflowers, aspens, winding rivers that morph into frozen waterfalls. The “Switzerland of America,” Ouray offers quaint charm intensified by the town’s unlikely persistence amid the sublime landscape—the jagged mountains with peaks sharp as wolf’s teeth, forever threatening to devour it. —Alicita Rodriguez, writer


When all I have is a half day to spare and I crave a quick high altitude fix, I head to Blue Lake in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. Hardly a well-kept secret, the relatively easy half-day hike—teeming with wildflowers or filled with snowfields, depending on the season—culminates with a spectacular alpine lake that never ceases to take my breath away. —Mindy Pantiel, writer


Cody’s Sleeping Indian is located on the Upper South Fork of the Shoshone River, a fabled valley that dead ends in the Washakie Wilderness. From here there are four or five major trailheads; you can ride to Dubois, Meteetsee or the trailheads near Jackson without crossing a road. When I was 18 I was lucky enough to get a job as a wrangler at the historic Valley Ranch and spent three summers there. This is definitely a special, timeless corner of the West. —Chase Reynolds Ewald, writer


Maroon Bells Wilderness is my happy place. I try to do a backpacking trip there for two or three nights each summer. Last year, my boyfriend, his dog Boone and I trekked the Aspen-to-Crested-Butte trail, an 11-mile hike that traverses through wildflower fields, across streams and up steep switchbacks. The views are incomparable, and I love disconnecting for a few days to play outside. —Michelle Johnson, writer


I would have to say my favorite place to visit in the Rocky Mountains is Park City. It’s only a 30-minute drive from Salt Lake City, so it’s easy and convenient to get to. The town itself consists of a three-block radius and is preserved as an old mining town with tons of amazing restaurants and shopping. —Kendall Buckley, account executive


After meeting near Aspen, the now husband-and-wife photography duo Peter and Kelley Gibeon immediately bonded over their love for mountain lifestyle and capturing it through their lenses. “A recent ski run in Big Sky, Montana, from an 11,166-foot summit was an especially sweet pause in our momentum. The four-minute, 1,450-foot vertical ride up the Lone Peak tram paralleled the craggy outcroppings of the Big Couloir and delivered us to the summit. Endless views, rich blue skies, sunshine, and plenty of that white fluff all the way down Liberty Bowl.” —Peter and Kelley Gibeon, photographers


Lake Tahoe is a gem. Mountain lakes have a strong draw for a girl who grew up in Wyoming with no water in sight. There are countless beautiful spots around the lake, but Emerald Bay on the southern side of the lake is by far the best. I will take the mile-long walk down to Vikingsholm Castle, where you can stop at the public beach, but I love to explore all the walking trails and discover small secluded beaches along the less traveled areas of the bay. In my opinion it is the most beautiful spot in the West from any vantage point you choose. —Loneta Showell, art director


There are few places where you can have such an intimate concert experience amid the beauty and breathtaking views of the San Juan Mountains. Each time we visit Telluride we attend a summer concert festival and have experienced the music genius of Pearl Jam, Beck and Ben Harper. In this park setting, you can set up a sun shade, put your bare feet in the grass and let your kids run around while gazing at the awe-inspiring views. —Holly Scott, publisher and vice president


When I need an escape, in my mind I’m kayaking in Grand Teton National Park. I like to paddle around the perimeter of the shallow, turquoise String Lake as people picnic, paddleboard and swim (when the mountain water is warm enough). My favorite spot is a patch of lily pads along the south shore; sometimes I just stop paddling and sit, absorbing their beauty under Wyoming’s blue skies and the Cathedral Range above. —Darla Worden, editor in chief


My favorite “spot” is in the WFO trees at Vail Resort on a powder day! I love to ski and was introduced by locals to WFO in 2011 when I worked at a restaurant in town. WFO is a bit of a traverse from most chairlifts on the hill, but being able to always find fresh lines is worth the trip!  —Maggie Swift, advertising director


Telluride has it all—from the historic town that is totally walkable, to the seasonal festivals (bluegrass anyone?), it has the best skiing, picturesque hiking with towering aspens and the most breathtaking mountains. It’s one of the few spots that I can’t decide if I like more in the winter or summer—it’s one of the few places I want to be year round. —Eleanor Wynant, account executive


On a mountain spine, I feel the tension between what is tangible and the expanse of what is beyond. The ridge is akin to the touching of polar emotions, the intricate line between earth and sky. Exploring the Beartooth Mountains of Montana and Wyoming reminds me of this. I am in awe of the sheer magnitude of beauty and force. With each trek, I rediscover how special this wilderness is.  —Audrey Hall, photographer


Having the opportunity to travel the country for clients and shoot in mountain towns throughout the Rockies, I will always have a soft spot for Crested Butte—the town that I have called home for over 20 years. For me nothing can compare to its mountains, valleys and rivers that surround it. Trail running the Upper Loop is my passion and meditation. —James Ray Spahn, photographer


Cracking the top of Rawlings’ list are Colorado’s Fryingpan River, Utah’s Green River (below Flaming Gorge Reservoir), Montana’s Madison River and Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon in the Frank Church-River of No Return. “My favorite time is twilight, when the quiet of darkness is fast approaching and the setting sun creates quick sparks on the fast-moving stream. I stand waist-deep in water, lulled by the rhythm of my cast—surrounded by mountains and meadows in the fading light of a perfect evening.” —Irene Rawlings, writer


There is no place more magical than Grand Teton National Park in the autumn. I like to visit in early October, when the trees are still ablaze with color and the first snows are just dusting the valley floor. In the evenings we like to drive up into the park with a thermos of hot chocolate to hear the elk bugle and to stargaze. —Taylor Cornelius, researcher


Crested Butte is a favorite mountain spot of this Colorado native. My family and I stayed at a friend’s secluded cabin in the Gunnison National Forest, where we were alone except for a few friendly horses that visited us each day. The grandeur of the landscape is breathtaking. Downtown Crested Butte is 45 minutes away, where you can shop, nosh and drink with cool people and stunning mountain views. —Kasey Harvey, digital editor


Guanella Pass was one of the first places that I camped and hiked when I moved to Colorado, and it remains one of my favorite mountain spots. Just a little over an hour from Denver sits this beautiful oasis. Camping spots line the scenic route all the way to the Silver Dollar Lake Trail, a 3.9-mile trek with scenic views of three beautiful freshwater lake. —Laura Pilz, production manager


Typically known as the winding route that leads into Steamboat Springs, Rabbit Ears Pass is an overlooked beauty. I got the chance to snowmobile through said pass, where we were guided through snowy evergreens up to a large open field to race around one another. The pass is comprised of peaks of the Continental Divide and offers sweeping views of mountain ranges reaching all the way to Wyoming. If you need a break from the ski slopes, this is definitely the spot. —Devon Miner, writer


My favorite mountain spot is Sun Valley, Idaho, in the summertime. The village abounds with colorful flowers and artful activities, including the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, Ballet Sun Valley and world-class ice-skating shows. The beautiful weather is also perfect for hiking and biking around the resort. A particular highlight is the Sun Valley Wine Auction, hosted annually in July. Guests enjoy a weekend full of amazing food and wine surrounded by incredible scenery. —Leah Brinks, events & sponsorship director

Categories: Mountain Travel