Across the United States, there are tons of landscapes where people can live or visit. Each person has their own preferred environment, but there’s no doubt a certain majesty that comes with living near or in the mountains. Mountains can reach peaks higher than city skylines can even imagine reaching. Mount Denali, North America’s highest peak, reaches 20,310 feet. For those looking to get back to nature, mountain living allows plenty of outdoor activities and surrounds them with natural wonders.
However, mountain living is about so much more than just the beauty of the mountains. Mountain living offers a different pace that many people crave or at least want to visit for a while. Mountain towns can create close-knit communities that many Americans don’t get in more populated areas. Thus, mountain living can be great for both individuals and families who want a safe, healthy place to raise their kids. Fresh air, lower cost of living, privacy, and an active lifestyle all also contribute to people wanting to live in the mountains and rethink their relationship with the Earth around them.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of places to live in the mountains, and each mountain town will have its own characters and perks. Many of the best mountain states to live in have many different towns within them, many of which are desirable, but we have selected the best of the best in the United States to give you some perspective on the epic locations that are nestled in the United States.
If you’re looking to discover the best mountain towns to live, keep reading and discover why these towns and the corresponding states are so desirable to live in. You’ve probably heard of some of these towns, but some of the smaller towns on the list may be unexpected but welcome surprises.
How We Compiled This List
To compile this list, we wanted to make sure we used the best practices possible to avoid sharing inaccurate information. Of course, when determining the best place to live, there are always variables that cannot be quantified or compared with statistics and numbers alone. Thus, based on our defined terms, we had to rank different factors and determine which areas embodied our team’s vision of a great place to live.
We determined that the following factors held high significance when determining whether a mountain town was one of the best to live in:
- Beauty of the area and mountain sights
- Available outdoor recreation
- Crime rates, especially violent crime rates
- Amenities, such as shopping, restaurants, public transportation etc.
- Economic and job opportunities available
- Educational institutions and their abilities or hardships
- Demographics and diversity or openness to people of all walks of life
- The climate and weather of an area
- Proclivity for natural disasters or other adverse events
We began by compiling a list of mountain towns, and we used this list to complete extensive research that we could then narrow down into a short list using the surface level. Certain information would automatically eliminate less competitive locations. For instance, areas known for intense economic hardship, poor educational outcomes, and other red flags were clearly unfit for our list. We could then focus our research energy on areas that were better suited to our key parameters.
We used some of the following tools to ensure the most accurate information:
- Our preferred sources were official or well-researched sources. Government or location-specific resources were highly useful. Crime reports, real estate filings and listings, school statistics, government data, academic research, demographics, economic reports, and other similar information allowed us to paint a clear picture of the different locations.
- Most of the demographic statistics have been sourced from the United States Census Bureau, which provides the basic demographic information for towns and cities across the United States, including the ones on this list. Although the census is only taken every 10 years, estimates are updated to reflect changing trends and new information.
- For the sake of in-depth analysis, we made every attempt to use varied sources. We never wanted to rely on a single source to give us all our information because information can vary greatly based on the circumstances around that collected information. However, when directly comparing parameters, we tried to use information that was as equal as possible for the sake of fairness.
- We compiled tons of information for each location and then narrowed down that information to present it in a way that was presentable and easily understandable for readers while also being thoroughly backed.
- Our focus was on quantifiable information, so that we could use formulas and equations to help us finalize our ranking and ensure every location was in the most suitable location.
- We also took into account anecdotes or self-reported statements about areas. These statements were never used as sole indicators of any town, but they did help understand the people who lived in the communities and the non-quantifiable human element of living in any given place.
Our goal is to always keep information up to date and ensure that we are tracking changes and refreshing our content as needed because while some information is fairly consistent, some changes often as new figures become available.
20. Leavenworth, Washington
Leavenworth is a village in the Cascade Mountains in Washington that has a population of 2,375. It was modeled after a Bavarian village, and it has quaint houses. The only problem is that houses are rarely for sale in this pretty mountain village. It is an idyllic location surrounded by mountains and set alongside a small river.
In this general area, the median income for families was $92,364, poverty rates are low, and around 44.8% have attained a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Thus, people in this area tend to appreciate a slightly higher quality of living than many people in the United States, but there are still a wide range of people.
According to Niche, it is a good area to live for families as there are many outdoor and family-oriented activities and there are decent schools nearby. Beyond just families, individuals may appreciate features like diversity and nightlife that make this location exciting.
19. Park City, Utah
Park City is one of the United States’ top skiing destinations, so it is one of the best places to live if you plan to spend a lot of time on the slopes. However, the skiing opportunities are not the only thing that this location has in its favor.
It is a reasonable commuting distance from Salt Lake City, so it is a good option for those looking for employment in a city but who want to live in a quieter setting. It is also close to Salt Lake City International Airport, so it is a convenient location for those who travel regularly.
Those in Park City, of course, love to ski, but they also love activities like blowing glass at Red Flower Studios. Local craft beer is also popular, and there are several hangouts you can try when you live in Park City. You may even want to check out some spooky sights like the Park City Ghost Tours or other associated Park City Museum features.
18. Whitefish, Montana
Whitefish is a town in the Rocky Mountains in Montana known as a gateway to Glacier National Park, boasting lakes, valleys, peaks, and glaciers. It is a popular resort town known for its difficult ski runs and many hiking and biking trails.
Therefore, the residents of this town benefit from its idyllic setting and from the wide range of activities they can access. Despite the mountain setting of the town, there are plenty of shops and restaurants.
Some cool things to do in Whitefish, Montana, include Glacier National Park, Les Mason Park, Whitefish Mountain Resort, Whitefish Depot, and Whitefish Farmer’s Market. There’s something for everyone, and you can live here for years without having exhausted all the sights in Whitefish and the surrounding areas.
17. Salt Lake City, Utah
If you prefer living somewhere with an urban vibe to a location with a small-town community feel, then US News lists Salt Lake City in Utah as one of the top urban destinations in the mountains. This city is home to around 200,000 people and an even bigger metropolitan area, and it has all the amenities and attractions that you would expect to find in a major city.
It also has employment opportunities across most sectors and excellent transport links. Despite being a built-up and thriving city, Salt Lake City is surrounded by the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains from its position in Salt Lake Valley.
Those in Salt Lake City love to explore attractions like the Natural History Museum of Utah, hiking at the City Creek Canyon, or seeing wildlife at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.
16. Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs is set along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. It is an excellent option for those who prefer the city lifestyle but want to live in a mountainous area to take advantage of the beauty and activities of the rugged landscape.
The city sits at an elevation of 6,000 feet and is home to 483,956 residents. The earning potential is good in this city, and there are job opportunities in various sectors. Despite the urban location, the city is surrounded by landscapes that are the perfect playground for enjoying outdoor activities.
There are lots of things to love about living in Colorado Springs, such as tons of local events, community bonds, affordable living, and a trustworthy economy. Beyond the natural sights, there are lots of historical landmarks to check out, and even though it’s home to hundreds of thousands od people, those in Colorado Springs still think it has a “small-town charm” because it offers many of the pros of a city while also having many of the pros of a smaller town.
15. Deadwood, South Dakota
The Wild West town of Deadwood in South Dakota was established following the discovery of gold in the area, and it was a settlement for the miners. Although the town has continued to develop over the decades, it still has an old-world feel that many people will find appealing.
The town is close to the Black Hills National Forest, and it is home to 1,548 people. While many people in this area enjoy the outdoors in their free time, Deadwood is also known as a casino resort, so it has a vibrant nightlife.
Deadwood has a lot of personality and offers some unique character that many of the other areas of the list don’t have. Deadwood is known for its museums that you can visit over and over again. For example, the Adams Museum was founded in 1930 and shows off the history of the Black Hills. The 1880 train is a special adventure fit for the whole family. The Crazy Horse Memorial is home to a huge sculpture.
14. Bend, Oregon
Bend, Oregon is set against a backdrop of the Cascades Mountains and overlooks Mount Bachelor. It is also close to Deschutes National Forest, so there is no shortage of outdoor spaces to explore surrounding the town. Bend is also known for its breweries, so it is the ideal place to call home for lovers of craft beer.
It is a family-friendly place to live, as the schools are highly rated and there is plenty for people of all ages to enjoy. On the downside, the cost of living in this town is high.
For all you pay to live there, you don’t always have to pay a lot for entertainment. Rather than curling up on the couch with your favorite streaming service, you can opt to check out parks and trails. Other activities include Towering Tumalo Falls, surfing at Whitewater Park, or the gorgeous Pilot Butte Scenic Viewpoint.
13. Taos, New Mexico
One of the main reasons that Taos, New Mexico, makes it onto the list of the best places to live in the mountains in the United States is because of the choice of activities in the area, and it can even be great for those with certain health conditions like arthritis. As you would expect from a mountain town, it is a popular skiing destination, as it is home to Taos Ski Valley.
Other outdoor activities are also popular due to the landscape’s diversity. However, there are also options for those who are not outdoors enthusiasts. The town has more than 80 galleries and art museums and an excellent cultural scene. There are also many shops and excellent restaurants in this town.
Many people who live in this area want to have space to themselves and live in independent hoses. This area is popular for both retirees and your professionals and their families. The schools are better than average, offering the chance for families to lay down roots and feel safe and secure in their decisions.
12. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Although Eureka Springs in Arkansas is only a small, quaint town, it has plenty of character. It has a rustic, laid-back vibe, and there is a strong sense of community amongst the locals.
The look of the town differs from many other mountain locations, as there is Victorian architecture instead of log cabins. It is set against the stunning backdrop of the Ozark Mountains. Eureka Springs is home to fewer than 2,000 people.
You may worry that there won’t be much to do in such a small town, but the community loves to band together and ensure residents have fun experiences. You can check out places like Lake Leatherwood Park, Hike House, Promised Land Zoo, or Basin Park Hotel Paranormal Investigation. Many of Eureka Springs’ attractions are somewhat offbeat, but they are tons of fun.
11. Leadville, Colorado
Many of the mountain towns in Colorado are predominantly ski resorts that attract the rich and famous, and many of these locations are expensive in terms of property prices and the overall cost of living. One of the affordable mountain towns is Leadville in Colorado, which is home to around 30,000 people.
It is 100 miles from Denver, and it is the highest-altitude corporation in the United States. There are plenty of activities for residents to enjoy in their leisure time, including a vast array of outdoor activities, eight museums, and 50 historic structures. The median home price is less than a quarter of those in Aspen, the unemployment rate is low, and the schools are highly rated.
Just a few of the standout attractions in Leadville, Colorado, include the Tabor Opera House, the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, the District of Victorian Architecture, and many quaint shops.
10. Ogden, Utah
In terms of affordability, Livability says that Ogden, Utah, is one of the best mountain locations. This town is located just 35 minutes north of Salt Lake City and sits at an elevation of 4,280 feet. Thousands of acres of national forest surround Ogden, and it is the gateway to Powder Mountain, Snowbasin, and Nordic Valley.
The surrounding landscape gives visitors access to miles of hiking trails and a wide range of outdoor activities, such as mountain biking, skiing, and water sports. Despite the rural surroundings, Ogden has plenty going on all year round. There are also plenty of employment opportunities in the area, and the house prices are significantly lower than in nearby Salt Lake City. Ogden is home to approximately 84,000 people.
People who live in Ogden love to spend time at Ogden’s George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park, Treehouse Children’s Museum, Social Axe Throwing Ogden, Ogden Botanical Gardens, or Hull Aerospace Museum.
9. Asheville, North Carolina
The population of Asheville is rising, which shows it is an increasingly popular place to live, and there are currently just under 450,000 residents in this North Carolina city. Asheville is in the Blue Ridge Mountains, so magnificent landscapes surround the city.
The median home price in Asheville is $264,450, while the average annual salary is $43,070. The biggest employment sectors in this area are education, manufacturing, social services, and healthcare.
There is plenty for this city’s visitors and residents to enjoy, including farm-to-table restaurants, access to hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and multiple art galleries. Perhaps what Ashville is most known for is the impressive Biltmore estate, but there are so many other cool draws that make people love Asheville, like the Western North Carolina Nature Center or the Asheville Pinball Museum.
8. Homer, Alaska
Homer is a location that will suit many people. Not only is it a mountain town, but it is also a seaside town. Many of the restaurants serve delicious dishes made from locally caught seafood, but many of Homer’s residents enjoy fishing for their own food.
If you have not considered living in Alaska before, then some financial benefits may inspire you to move to this beautiful state. Residents each receive a share of government revenues, and there are many programs to fund education.
Additionally, you get opportunities to have unique experiences when you are in Alaska. People in Alaska can participate in activities like bear viewing, sea kayaking, hiking, fishing, tide
pooling, birding, and more. Activities like heading to the Pratt Museum are great options when you don't feel like going outside.
7. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
One of Gatlinburg's most appealing features is its three entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is also home to Tennessee’s only ski resort, Ober Gatlinburg, says Cheat Sheet.
Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to living in Gatlinburg, such as expensive housing, so not everyone will be able to afford to live here. Nevertheless, with above-average schools and diversity, Gatlinburg is often chosen as a spot to raise a family or retire.
Therefore, residents can enjoy hiking, skiing, horseback riding, fishing, whitewater rafting, and many more activities. However, there are plenty of indoor activities and attractions for Gatlinburg residents to enjoy, including wineries and breweries.
6. Stowe, Vermont
Many people who live in Stowe, Vermont, work in the tourism industry, as this is the area’s biggest employment sector. Stowe sits between the Worcester Mountains and Mount Mansfield, and it is a wonderful place to live for those who enjoy outdoor pursuits. It is particularly well known as a fantastic location for skiing.
Stowe is a great place to live because while there are tourists, it’s still a great place for families, individuals, and retirees because there are lots of eateries, coffee shops, and stores for locals to frequent. Stowe can be quite expensive to live in, though, and some locals get tired of the cold weather when winter drags on for longer than they expect.
Some of the locals’ favorite locations include the Smugglers’ Notch State Park Campground, the Alchemist Brewery, Stowe Recreation Path, Bingham Falls, and the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum.
5. Lake Placid, New York
If New York is your preferred state, Lake Placid is the best place to live in the mountains. Lake Placid is a well-known vacation destination, but it’s also perfect for living year-round. It’s the perfect place to go if you want to wake up each day feeling rejuvenated and excited to start your next adventure.
Other than the stunning surroundings, one reason to consider this location is the high earnings potential, as the median household income is significantly above the national average. It has good crime rates, offers exciting nightlife, welcomes diversity, and promotes health and fitness. Another reason is the vast array of outdoor activities to enjoy, including gondola rides, hiking, skiing, and biking.
There are lots of cool places to check out, like the Olympic Center, Mirror Lake and Mirror Lake Inn, Lake Placid Olympic Museum, Mount Jo, and Whiteface Mountain. Lake Placid
4. Crestline, California
Crestline is a census-designated area in the San Bernardino Mountains in California, and it gives most of the perks of living in California and then some! The San Bernardino National Forest surrounds it and is home to Lake Gregory Regional Park. It is an area worth considering if you are a working family that enjoys the outdoors.
Not only does the area have a strong job market, but there is also a high level of spending per student at public schools. In terms of outdoor activities, hiking, mountain biking, and paragliding are just some of the leisure options.
If you choose to live in Crestline, you may want to check out notable locations like the Mystwood Gallery, Heart Rock Trail, Rim of the World Scenic Drive, or the cherished Crestline Library.
3. South Lake Tahoe, California
Unless you are retiring to the mountains, finding a mountain location with a strong job market or good commutability to areas offering employment is important. If finding employment is important to you, then South Lake Tahoe in California is a great choice, as the job market has shown growth in recent years.
There are also many ways that residents can enjoy their time after work, including winter sports, water sports, fishing, hiking, and mountain biking. However, living here comes at a cost, as the median home price is $452,100 and continues to rise.
Some great attractions to check out in South Lake Tahoe include the Rubicon Trail, the Scenic Snowshoe Adventure, the Tallac Historic Site, the Gondola at Heavenly, and the Emerald Bay Helicopter Tour. The number of outdoor activities is nearly endless, but there are plenty of shops, restaurants, and other attractions for when you need to take a break and head indoors.
2. Boone, North Carolina
Boone in North Carolina is a good option for people who want to achieve the perfect work-life balance. It is a small college town in the Blue Ridge Mountains with many positive features that make it a great place to live. Although it’s not a huge place, it is home to 19,092, and being a college town, it has access to plenty of amenities that blend many of the perks of a city with a more small-town feel.
There are employment opportunities in various sectors, and the largest industries in this area are tourism, education, and retail. The house prices are reasonable, and the town has a great art and culture scene.
There’s always plenty to do at Boone, North Carolina, like the Blue Ridge Parkway, Lineville Caverns, Mystery Hill and the Dougherty House Heritage Museum, the Boone Area Wine Trail, and Ski Resorts of the High Country. You’ll find that the only limit to your adventures is your imagination.
1. Telluride, Colorado
We have determined that the best place to live in the mountains in the United States is Telluride in Colorado for its high quality of life, beautiful sights, and many attractions. It is a small community of approximately 2,600 people, and the main industries in this area are skiing and tourism. It is a fantastic place to live for those who enjoy nature and the outdoors. The job market has increased in recent years, and unemployment is exceptionally low.
This area tends to be more expensive, so it’s no wonder the median income for families is $155,500. Telluride also has 80.3% of people with a Bachelor’s degree or higher, so you’ll find more highly educated people here, but that doesn’t mean that people with lower education levels won’t feel welcome. The main goal of those in Telluride is to enjoy the natural wonders around them and live comfortable lives.
If you want to check out what Telluride offers, try out the Telluride Mountain Village Gondola, hike at Jud Wiebe Trail, or see historical sites at the Telluride Historical Museum. There are very few downsides to living in Telluride, so if you can make it happen, you might as well give this wonderful mountain town a shot.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn