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If you’re considering calling Colorado home, be prepared to share the highway with others also longing to get closer to the Rocky Mountains. The state ranked seventh in 2021 for the most one-way rentals, according to U-Haul data. Here are our picks for the best places to live in Colorado this year.
Best places to live in Colorado in 2022
1. Fort Collins
Job market: 8/10
More than 960 acres of public parks, more than 20 craft breweries, more than 200 miles of bike lanes — the numbers in Fort Collins all add up to the best place to call home in Colorado. Home to Colorado State University, this is a young city — the median age is 29 — with a bright future ahead. By 2030, Larimer County (where Fort Collins is located) and neighboring Weld County are expected to grow by 45 percent, so now might be a good time to invest in property in the area.
You won’t have to wait for that investment to pay off in terms of your quality of life, either. From rafting the Cache la Poudre River to savoring the flavors of more than 70 food trucks, Fort Collins is the ultimate place to enjoy the laid-back culture of Colorado. Also, if you’re looking to enjoy the Front Range lifestyle while saving a little bit of money, consider Loveland — 15 miles away from Fort Collins, and where the median home price was around $40,000 cheaper as of the end of 2021, according to Redfin.
Job market: 7/10
The Mile High City has a mile-long list of reasons to move here: Nearly 300 days of sunshine each year, a new expansive public transit system that makes getting around easy, more breweries than any other city in the country and convenient access to some of the best skiing and hiking. The list goes on (and so does the traffic, unfortunately — a definite downside).
Denver’s growth has begun to spill into the surrounding metro, and by 2030, the area is projected to have a population of more than 3.6 million. Plenty of those newcomers will be arriving for coveted professional opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math: Denver topped the most recent index from RCLCO and CapRidge Partners for STEM job growth. The drawback to all that growth: affordable housing is becoming harder and harder to find.
3. Colorado Springs
Job market: 6/10
If Denver isn’t your speed, you can go to the city where lots of ex-Denver residents relocated to: Colorado Springs. The Springs (as locals call it) has become a go-to option for those who want a slower pace and more affordable housing options while still enjoying the Colorado lifestyle. The median home price here as of the end of 2021 was around $115,000 cheaper than in Denver, Redfin reports.
The city has always been known for its role in the aerospace and defense industries. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing all have operations here, the Aerospace Corporation is opening a new research and development facility in 2022 and the city is also a major draw if you work in IT or cybersecurity. No matter what you do for your professional duties, you’ll be able to relax and forget about the stresses of work on scenic hiking and biking trails in Garden of the Gods Park.
Job market: 6/10
Remember that 45 percent growth figure under Fort Collins? The other county — Weld — is home to Greeley. The University of Northern Colorado is located here, and the city is giving more of those students reasons to stay once they graduate with jobs in healthcare, agriculture, oil and gas and renewable energy.
Greeley might not be as culturally-robust as Denver or Boulder (which fell off our list this year due to high housing prices), but it’s making strides toward establishing its own identity with a designated downtown Creative District, an impressive public art collection, a philharmonic orchestra and a cast of local breweries and distilleries. Give it some more time to mature, and you might not ever need to make the drive south to Denver in search of fun.
5. Grand Junction
Job market: 5/10
There’s more in Colorado than the I-25 corridor. While the other four cities on our list are all in the Front Range, Grand Junction should be in your consideration set if you’re thinking of moving. Buying a home might be much more within reach here, thanks to a median home price of $355,000, according to realtor.com — a bargain for Colorado living.
Don’t be fooled, though: Cheaper living doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing the beauty of Colorado that called your name in the first place. Grand Junction offers convenient access to just as much of the outdoors, without the clogged traffic heading west from Denver. It also differentiates itself from the other brewery-crazed destinations in the state as the center of Colorado’s Wine Country, with more than 25 wineries and vineyards nearby. One disadvantage, however, is the limited pool of professional opportunities. While there are employers in healthcare and Colorado Mesa University is located here, this city might be best if you’re enjoying the ability to work from home.
We looked at data from the biggest cities in Colorado to get a clear picture of where you’re likely to find employment opportunities while also enjoying your time away from the office. What makes a city ideal for you will not be a perfect match for someone else, but there are common factors most everyone looks for when searching for a new place to call home. We assessed these areas:
- What it costs – We compared each city’s cost of living data from the Economic Policy Institute with per capita personal income from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis to get a sense of how far a dollar can stretch. Then, we considered year-over-year home price data from real estate brokerage Redfin and realtor.com to learn where the real estate market is especially competitive.
- How it feels – We looked at overall wellbeing based on the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index; employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, plus the leading companies that are headquartered or have big operations in these places; culture and outdoor opportunities based on information from each city’s convention and visitors bureau; and safety, including crime rates based on FBI data.
- Who’s moving there – Over the past decade, all of these cities have experienced positive net migration, which means that more people moved in than moved out. We also looked at estimates of how many people will likely continue moving there in the next decade to get a sense of where property values might continue rising.
Keep in mind: This list is simply a place to start for your search. These are all bigger cities with at least 60,000 residents, but you might be just as happy in a remote mountain town with a few entertainment options on Main Street and a short line to the ski lift. Consider what you value most: major league sports and big-ticket concerts in Denver, for example, or struggling to find a Wi-Fi signal somewhere closer to a mountain path. You can have it all in Colorado.