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20 Best Places to Retire in the West – 2019

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

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:

Lavender fields near Sequim

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.

St. George
St. George UT downtown area

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

Golf is popular in Mesquite

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”.

Palm trees and mountains in the distance

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.

Eugene OR
Eugene, OR

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.

The narrow gauge railroad near Durango


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.

Boise City, ID
Boise ID parks


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.

Reno

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

Cheyenne has a big rodeo


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.

Victorian homes abound in Eureka

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.

WABrookings coastline

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.

2019 Best Places to Retire in the Southeast

2019 Best Places to Retire in the Southwest
Dueling Retirement States Series (Starts with Arizona vs. Florida)
10 Worst States for Retirement – 2018

Posted by Admin on November 10th, 2019

16 Comments »

  1. Having lived in the Pacific Northwest for 22 out of the last 25 years, my wife and I have visited or lived in just about all of the places noted on your list. I’ll restrict my comments to those with which I have the most familiarity. We split our time between Portland, OR and Bend, OR for the past 20 years, now full time in Bend. Bend is a lovely area, with lots of outdoor recreation. But it has been discovered, and with that a lot of, at least for us, unfortunate results. It is bigger and more crowded, with consequences both fairly significant, e.g. traffic, cost of housing and cost of living, and annoying, e.g. longer waits in store lines and to get into restaurants. Primarily due to the influx of Californians, the politics have changed. Once solidly Republican, Democrats now have about a 20% voting registration lead over Republicans in the city of Bend. I state that without comment; readers can decide if that is an advantage or disadvantage.

    We made several visits to the Olympic peninsula. I think it’s important to note that while Sequim may be in the “rain shadow” of the Olympic mountains, it is not in a “cloud shadow”. We never experienced the abundant sunshine that we had heard about and read about. On one visit, we stopped at the city info center and asked about it. I told the volunteer there that I read Sequim got 250 days of sunshine a year; and asked if that was that true. He said it was more like 180-200. He then smiled and said “you also have to realize, that for the purpose of those statistics, any day in which the sun appears, no matter how briefly, it is considered a sunny day”. You can confirm for yourself by going to city-data.com and looking up Sequim, and you will see how few sunny days they have.

    We also visited Port Townsend, which is in a lovely area. It also claims to be in the Olympic “rain shadow”. We had some friends who, on the basis of the beauty and claims of reduced rainfall compared to Portland, where we all lived, bought a condo in Port Townsend. After two years of weekending and occasional week visits, they sold it because they found it chillier, rainier, grayer and even more dreary in the winter than Portland. Trust me, that’s going some, and the winter weather is one of the big reasons we moved from Portland to Bend.

    Final comments are for Colorado Springs, where we lived for 3 years during my career in the Air Force. I got a kick out of your comment that C Springs is noted for its conservative values, but no similar comments for towns such as Eugene, OR and Boulder, CO, which should be noted for their extremely liberal values. No doubt this is due in large part to the fact that Boulder and Eugene are dominated by large universities, and Colorado Springs by several large military bases.

    by Partagas — November 11, 2019

  2. Partagas – thank you for your descriptions of the differences in these areas. We have only visited the coastal towns for brief vacation trips (did not visit Bend). I did wonder about the access to healthcare particularly in an emergency for retirees. Also why Bend did not make the list too as it is so frequently mentioned on travel sites. I would expect more snow there too. Plus concerns for the frequent forest fires.

    by JoannL — November 12, 2019

  3. … I have no desire to experience the grayness, chilliness, and too many rainy days of Oregon and Washington. I will stay in SoCal. Go RAMS!

    by Bubbajog — November 12, 2019

  4. Bubbajog; like your thinking!! SoCal; yes. But Go Ducks!!

    by Bill Bamber — November 13, 2019

  5. I believe you missed a lot western cities. Phoenix, Tucson, Santa Fe, San Diego are a few cities not mentioned to live in retirement.I am sure theirs another dozen cities in the west that could be added as well.

    by Denis — November 13, 2019

  6. The Bend area seems to have a lot going for it but I want to travel a lot in retirement and it is too far from a major international airport. Even though there is a regional airport I do a lot of my traveling during the winter and want to minimize flying or driving out of areas with snow. For now I’m in SoCal but unlike others here, I don’t like year round hot weather so will be happy to leave.

    by JoannC — November 13, 2019

  7. Denis, you are right in that the towns you have mentioned are great retirement spots. Many of them we have included in a previous article naming the Most Popular towns in the Southwest.
    Below is the link to: Most Popular Places to Retire in the Southwestfor 2019:
    https://www.topretirements.com/blog/great-towns/20-most-popular-places-to-retire-in-the-southwest-for-2019.html/
    But we would like to keep comments here focused on the Western sates of Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

    by Jane at Topretirements — November 13, 2019

  8. Why did you write Medford, OR, is new to the top 20 list, yet they are not listed in the top 20 list?

    Editor’s Note: Brian, where did you see that? I see that we have Medford dropping off the list, but not mentioned as being new. It is not in the top 20 this year (was in 2018)

    by Brian — November 14, 2019

  9. Editor, sorry, I need to clean my glasses. You are correct, Medford dropped off. Good thing because I want to keep Medford my own little secret. 🙂

    by Brian — November 18, 2019

  10. Ok. The truth. There is no perfect place to live. I know as I’ve been looking for 50 years! Lol!

    by Bob — November 19, 2019

  11. A great retirement spot to consider is Idaho Falls, Idaho. The city of 100,000 inhabitants has a lot to offer. It is a gateway for skiing, camping, hiking, RVing, fishing. Located 100 miles from Jackson and Yellowstone which allows majestic day trips.

    The city is clean and has an abundance of energy sources from hydro-electric (Snake River), to wind and nuclear.

    The tax structure is friendly with taxes on a $250,000 home around $2,200 per year.
    After living in Connecticut, Florida and South Carolina, we have found the affordability of Idaho Falls to be outstanding!

    by Robert — November 19, 2019

  12. Can’t believe Green Valley, AZ or other communities around Tucson, AZ are not on this list.

    by Bart — November 19, 2019

  13. Bart…..Those areas are included in the southwest, these are western states as stated in the article.

    by Bruce — November 20, 2019

  14. There are many great places in AZ. I live in Scottsdale and really enjoy area, lower cost of living, low crime rate. I have lived in CA (Orange County) and WA (Redmond). The cost of living, politics, traffic, crime, and overcrowding make these states unlivable for a lot of people. I do not miss either of these states. I really think you results are flawed.

    by Tom Konieczny — November 21, 2019

  15. Another point I do not understand is how Colorado is considered a Western state and AZ is not.

    by Tom Konieczny — November 21, 2019

  16. We are moving to Boise after spending our lives in Seattle. I am retiring at the end of the year. I was happy and suprise how much cheaper it is to live in Boise. We loved Seattle for many years but the past 5 years it has really gotten bad and very expensive. We looked all over to find a smaller house under $400,000 but all we could find were dumps. We started looking in Boise and fold a beautiful townhouse under $300,000. Super glad we are leaving Seattle
    We are not tech people and can’t afford it here anymore.

    by Beebs — November 24, 2019

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