These high-altitude spots offer residents an active lifestyle and stunning scenery — without breaking the bank.
If rising before the sun to get in an early ski run or mountain bike adventure before work sounds like your idea of bliss, the mountains are calling your name. The problem? Living in such close proximity to those beautiful outdoor playgrounds often comes with a hefty price tag.
The good news for those of us lacking a few extra zeroes in our bank accounts? If you’re willing to look beyond the Aspens, Park Cities and Jacksons of the country, there are a number of mountain towns with a cost of living you can actually afford. So lace up those hiking boots and wax those snowboards: from epic scenery and a lively arts scene in Ogden, Utah; to Boone, North Carolina’s quaint college town feel, here are five high-altitude cities with surprisingly low price tags.
1. Ogden, Utah
And the scenery? There’s good reason more than 45 movies and TV shows (“The Sandlot,” “Everwood,” “Con Air,” “Drive Me Crazy”) have been filmed here. Pair that with a strong local arts scene (First Friday Art Strolls take place monthly; catch live music at the downtown amphitheater; find annual events ranging from Pioneer Days to the Blues & Brews Festival to a Christmas Village); great shopping along Historic 25th Street; and great dining options, breweries and distilleries for a well-rounded experience.
2. Leadville, Colorado
Once Colorado’s second-largest city, with 30,000 residents, Leadville is now home to a mere 2,600, but its population is on the rise. Located 100 miles from Denver and resting at 10,150 feet, the nation’s highest-altitude incorporated city is home to 50 historic structures, eight museums and plenty of outdoor adventure options.
Downtown, you’ll find the famous Tabor Opera House, art galleries, shops, restaurants and saloons. And signature events include the Leadville Trail 100 bike and running races; the BBQ & Brews Festival, held each June; and Boom Days, a street fair held each August.
3. Boone, North Carolina
Named for American pioneer Daniel Boone (you’ll want to take visitors to Hickory Ridge Living History Museum in Daniel Boone Park and “Horn in the West,” the long-time seasonal outdoor drama that tells the story of Boone’s adventures), the population is 18,156 (it nearly doubles when you factor in students), the average home sale price is $220,700, job growth is higher than the U.S. average and education, tourism and retail are the top three employment industries.
4. Crestline, California
Another big draw: Lake Gregory, a beautiful mountain lake sitting at 4,550 feet where you can swim, boat, fish, paddleboard and even ride two 300-foot waterslides.
In town, Historic Old Town offers shopping and restaurants, and there’s no shortage of events taking place year-round, including the July 4 Jamboree Days, fishing derbies at Lake Gregory, the Mountain Fun Runners Car Show, a paragliding competition, the Redlands Bicycle Classic and more.
5. Idaho Falls, Idaho
The median home price in Idaho Falls is $178,300, while the average rent for a one-bedroom home or apartment is just $630/month — well below the national average of $990.
With a population of 54,334, Idaho Falls is the state’s fifth-largest city that sits along the Snake River at the western edge of the Rocky Mountains, has been named one of the best places to raise kids, is home to College of Eastern Idaho, and offers all sorts of outdoor fun, from camping and hiking to fishing and snowmobiling.
Agriculture, specifically Idaho’s famous russet potatoes and wheat, is key here, but so is tech: it’s the home of the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, the country’s premier center for nuclear energy and research development.
Home appreciation in Idaho Falls is up 9 percent, with the median home cost an affordable $178,300, while the average rent for a one-bedroom home or apartment is just $630/month – well below the national average of $990.
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