May 21, 2014 — If you are an outdoor oriented person the chances are you have dreamed about retiring to a town in the mountains.You might love to ski, hike, camp, fish, mountain bike, or just plain admire the beautiful scenery mountains have in such ample supply. This article is a companion to our other articles about great retirements near the water, in cities, college towns, and small towns (see Further Reading at end of article for more about them).
When some people think of mountain towns they might be thinking of a small community pushed up against the edge of towering peaks. Colorado and much of the American west have plenty of those. Yet for others the mountains might just mean having some nearby foothills. With that in mind we have tried to present a range of communities in this article. There are so many great mountain towns to choose from that we promise a Part 2 in these series.
For those who aspire to a mountain retirement, here are some of the advantages that come with them:
– Cooler summers. Altitude means an escape from hot summers, even in some otherwise warm states.
– Lower humidity. Particularly in the western part of the U.S., humidity tends to be lower in the thinner air.
– Beautiful scenery. Any time you look you will see a dazzling array of cliffs, trees, peaks, and more. At the higher altitudes there might even by snow in summer.
– Recreation. Mountainsides are hard to develop. So there is usually plenty of pristine land right outside your door where you can hike, ski, hunt, fish, kayak, camp etc.
– Spectacular home sites. Just as some people treasure a view of a lake or ocean, so do many others enjoy the thrill of big overlooks and distant mountains from every window and deck.
– Colder winters. Take the Blue Ridge mountains of western NC for example, where retirees experience snow and colder temps than do those who live in the rest of the state.
– More difficult transportation. Mountain towns tend to be smaller and more remote, so your car might be more important to your daily transportation needs than you might have hoped. Driving on snowy roads can be dangerous. Likewise, biking can be a challenge (or better buy one of the new models with auxiliary battery power!)
– Fewer cultural resources. This isn’t always the case, but many mountain towns tend to be on the smaller side, which can mean fewer town resources with cultural offerings
– Fires and natural disasters. Of course any location can have its share of natural disasters, but living in the mountains can come with serious hazards. Wildfires, blizzards, and landslides are just some of them.
– Not so great for older people. Once you get to a certain age you do have to consider the disadvantages of going up and down hills, slippery streets, and thin air.
– Less daylight. One friend of ours thought he wanted to live in a great town in western Colorado, only to realize that the winter sun was hidden by tall peaks until mid morning and disappeared again in late afternoon.
Some of the more popular mountain towns at Topretirements
Based on their popularity with our members,and along with some attempt at regional diversity, here are 10 examples of mountain towns that might be perfect for your retirement:
Prescott, Arizona. Located at an elevation of 5400 feet in the mountains of north central Arizona, the City of Prescott (population just under 40,000 in 2011), was the original territorial capital of the Arizona Territory. This old mining town now popular that now attracts so many active adults borders the Prescott National Forest to the south and west.
Knoxville, Tennessee . Knoxville is particularly attractive because it is home to the Vols of the University of Tennessee. It is a vibrant college town with big-time sports and many cultural events. Tennessee has wonderful mountains and hills nearby.
Las Cruces, New Mexico.. Las Cruces shows traces of civilization going back 8,000 years. The ancient Anasazi people had communities here, which seem to have disappeared by 1300 A.D. The town is 4000 feet above sea level and claims to enjoy 350 days of sunshine per year.
Blue Ridge, Georgia. This very small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia is located at the very top of the state on the border near where Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina come together. The town has about 1200 residents. Blue Ridge is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Georgia because of Lake Blue Ridge, the Toccoa River, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The southern tip of the Appalachian Trail is quite close.
Santa Rosa, California. Santa Rosa is the largest city in California’s wine country. Nearby towns include Sonoma, Healdsburg, and Napa. The city is actively engaged in economic development centered around wine, food, tourism. Residents enjoy the hiking and views in the many state parks surround Santa Rosa.
Middlebury, Vermont. This college town offers views of the Green Mountains and the Adirondacks in the distance. The postmodern architect Robert Venturi said of the campus, “Middlebury looks like what everyone thinks an American campus should be but seldom is.”
Laramie, Wyoming. Laramie is a lively college town near the Medicine Bow mountains so nice that some people move here and never leave. A big draw for many is the fact that there is no income tax in Wyoming. Laramie has 14 parks and residents have access to the University’s 18 hole golf course.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Eureka Springs is a Victorian resort village in the northwest corner of Arkansas. Its steep winding streets and well-preserved Victorian-era homes give it an alpine feeling. Many of the buildings are built with local stone. The undulating streets rise and fall with the topography in a five-mile long loop.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado. This mountain resort town in Colorado draws tourists for its sports and views. Although skiing on Mt. Werner is the main draw here in the winter and spring, the popularity of river sports on the Yampa River, mountain biking, and hiking keep it bustling year-round. The population was about 12,000 in 2011, although it swells higher than that in peak periods. Steamboat enjoys plenty of snow and ample sunshine.
Morgantown, West Virginia. Home to the mountaineers of West Virginia University, Morgantown’s 28,000 students are a major influence on the community. Cost of living is low, while recreational activities in the nearby mountains, Monongahela River, and Cheat Lake are extraordinary.
You can use our Advanced Search to look for more mountain towns in particular states. If you dream about retiring in the mountains, you will have fun going through lots of fun choices.
For further reading
These College Towns Make for a Great Retirement
Affordable Places to Retire on the Waterfront (part 1)
7 Great Places to Retire for Livability
5 Big Reasons Why Small Towns Are Great Places to Retire
How About a New Urban Community for Retirement
See our 2 Part Series on Great Lake Towns for Retirement
Comments? Please share your thoughts about some great mountain towns you know about for retirement. Is their another kind of retirement environment you would like us to explore in a future article? Or did we miss any of the advantages or disadvantages about a mountain retirement? Let us all know in the Comments section below.