November 11, 2019 – As a place to retire the American West offers perhaps the biggest range of geography and the lifestyles that go with that. This huge area comprises 9 states with every kind of geography. Most impressive is its huge coastline that runs from coastal California to the state of Washington. There is the Pacific Northwest with its rain forests and deserts. Then there are towns in the real wild west from Idaho to Montana, along with deserts, mountains, and national parks in Nevada and Utah. There are college towns, some big and small cities, and many towns in tourist areas, so it’s likely there is a great place to retire for just about everybody. Here in our the third installment of our “Best Places to Retire 2019” are the top 20 most popular retirement towns in the U.S. West. Here are links to the other two: “The Top 20 Places to Retire in the Southwest” and “Best Places to Retire in the Southeast“.
What States are in the West?
The National Geographic Society includes nine states in the American West, a huge territory made up of Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. With the exception of the coastal Northwest, most of this region is dry with hot summers. Most of the region has low humidity. For more information about what it is like to retire in the West see our “Dueling Retirement States” series: Dueling Retirement States: The Pacific Northwest, and
Dueling Retirement States: The Western Mountain States.
A Surprising # 1
The 20 most popular towns in the West contain some surprises, including a few not familiar to many. The surprising #1 most popular place to retire on our list, Sequim (WA), edged out many more well known towns and cities. Its review was read by over 3,300 visitors in the first ten months of 2019 by Topretirements.com visitors, beating out Grand Junction (CO). Last year’s winner, St. George, UT, slipped to third place this year. This year there were four newcomers to the top 20 list: Cheyenne (WY), Eureka (CA), Brookings (OR) and Port Townsend (WA). Dropping off from the 2018 were Coeur D’Alene (ID), Medford (OR), Spokane (WA), and Las Vegas (NV).
The battle of the states
This year four states won most of the spots in the top 20. Colorado earned five of the top 20 positions, Washington had four, and Nevada and Oregon each had three of the most popular retirement towns. Oregon earned three spots, while California and Idaho each placed two on the list. Montana was shut out, although the resort town of Whitefish came close at 21st.
Here are the Top 20 Places to Retire in the West
Based on popularity at Topretirements, here are the 20 best places to retire in the West for 2019:
1.Sequim, WA. Sequim is popular both with retirees and with people looking for second homes. Pronounced (skwim), this growing town of about 6,600 (with 20,000 more in the area) gets its name because pilots kept noticing that there was almost always blue skies over the area – it is in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains. At about 14″ of rainfall per year, Sequim almost qualifies as a desert.
2. Grand Junction, CO. Grand Junction, is a college town perched on the border with Utah. It has a nice downtown, and natural beauty and recreation are abundant.
3. St. George, UT. Saint George has spectacular red rock bluffs overlooking the town, a mild climate in winter, and terrific recreational opportunities.
4. Henderson, NV. Henderson, second largest city in Nevada, is also one of America’s fastest-growing communities. The city prides itself on its master-planned residential areas, transportation projects, and outstanding recreational opportunities
5. Mesquite, NV. Mesquite is an extremely popular retirement town in southeastern Nevada, almost in Arizona and Utah. Casinos arrived here in the 1970’s. The town markets itself as a low key alternative to Las Vegas.
6. Bend, OR. Bend offers great scenic beauty, skiing, mountains, golf, fishing, and more. Bend makes just about every list of “best retirement communities”.
7. Palm Springs, CA We love this oasis town east of Los Angeles in the Coachella Valley with hundreds of communities of all types. You can be playing golf in the valley and see snow on nearby mountains. It has a lively arts scene.
8. Eugene, OR . Eugene enjoys a national reputation as one of the most livable cities in the country. As a retirement community it offers small town charm combined with big city sparkle. It has a thriving and eclectic arts scene along with unsurpassed natural beauty. It is home to the University of Oregon, so it is a college town.
9. Ft. Collins, CO. Fort Collins was chosen by Money Magazine as the best small city in the U.S. It’s a popular retirement community for its low crime rates, fantastic outdoor life, and small town ambiance. Formerly an agricultural center, it is now home to many tech companies.
10. Durango, CO. Durango is one of the most interesting small towns in Colorado. It is world famous for every kind of outdoor recreation including mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, and golf.
11. Boulder, CO. Perhaps the most prestigious and expensive city in Colorado, it is home to the University of Colorado. The area is growing fast and has become quite expensive. It is possible to live in center city.
12. San Juan Islands, WA. San Juan Islands Located off the coasts of Washington and British Columbia, are both a tourist destination and a retirement community. The setting, the tranquility, and the scenery are world class.
13. Boise City, ID up from #100 “The city of Trees” is a modern, prosperous, and livable city that offers many recreational activities and a great lifestyle. Cheyenne, WY.
14. Bellingham, WA. If there was ever a town with momentum it is Bellingham Washington. Kiplinger’s called Bellingham one of the top retirement communities in the U.S. It boasts unbelievable natural scenery from Puget Sound on the west and Mount Baker to the east.
15. Reno, NV.”The Biggest Little City in the World”, is the 4th largest city in Nevada with a population of about 220,000. The nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains and deserts make this a great area for people who like the outdoors. As a college town it has a full supply of cultural and sporting venues.
16. Colorado Springs, CO. Colorado Springs is an extremely popular retirement community due to spectacular scenery, abundant sunshine, and conservative values. The city also offers bike trails, parks, and cultural activities. (viewed 2,800 times
17. Cheyenne, WY. The city was an early western railhead and stock town, as the major east/west railroad came through town. The city has a lower than an average cost of living, and in fact was named by U.S. News as the #1 most tax-friendly town in the U.S. in 2008. Plus the great outdoors is right there.
18. Eureka, CA. Eureka’s northern isolation means that it missed much of the post-war redevelopment. As result the town is filled with examples of 19th and early 20th century architecture and historic districts. There are Victorian, Colonial Revival and Greek Revival neighborhoods, with 13 distinct districts that meet the criteria for the National Register of Historic Places.
19. Brookings, OR. Located at the foot of the Klamath mountains on the southern Oregon coast, Brookings is a small outdoorsy town.Once a logging community, Brookings is a now cute seaside town with over fifteen miles of pristine beaches and unusually warm weather year round. Wet and mild winters makes this town incredibly lush; palm trees and bright gardens dominate a lovely color palette here
20. Port Townsend, WA. Located on the extreme northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, just across Puget Sound from Seattle. Port Townsend was a thriving port settlement before Seattle was founded – unfortunately, the Union Pacific Railroad bypassed it, sending the thriving community into an economic tailspin. Like Eureka (CA), this resulted in a large number of beautiful Victorian buildings that were never touched by “urban renewal”.
How we choose the winners
Topretirements.com has published lists of the most popular retirement towns annually since 2007. While most “Best Places” lists are either the subjective opinions of the authors or a ranking from various criteria, this list is different. Sequim made the top spot on this list through a simple process. We counted how many times each city’s review was viewed at Topretirements.com during the first ten months of 2018. We view that count as a gauge of interest in that destination. For example, the Sequim review was visited over 3,300 times. You can debate whether “most popular” is the same as “best”; another way to say it is that these towns certainly spark the most interest.
That was about 3.3 times as often as Port Townsend (WA) in the #20 position. It doesn’t mean that people will actually move to any of these destinations, but it does indicate that folks are interested in learning more about them. Note that popularity is affected by other factors, such as whether or not we featured a town in one of our newsletter or Blog articles. We do not include active adult communities in our compilation. See articles like “20 Most Popular Active Adult/55+ Communities in the Southwest” for more. To make sure you don’t miss new lists like this, sign up for our free weekly “Best Places to Retire” newsletter.
Comments? What towns in the West would you put in the top 20? Did we miss any you think should have been included? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.