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What are good cities to live in if I wanted to live near mountains?

Born and raised in Texas, but I want to move north (or maybe even abroad) after I graduate college. I love the mountains and really like Colorado. I've been to Denver, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs and like Denver the most. I really enjoyed visiting Seattle a couple years ago as well. 

What are great cities I could establish myself and a family in that has a commute to the mountains nearby? I will be pursuing careers in animal biology, ecology, or environmental conservation, so job opportunity, economical factors, social life, cost of living are all important factors I will use also. 

17 Answers

top answer by
Ernst from Long Island (New York)

Anchorage could be an option. I was surprised when I learned it's now the 63rd largest city in the US with just over 300,000 people.  On clear days you can see 5 mountain ranges including the Alaska Range which has North America's highest mountain; Mt McKinley.  It's in the top 100 fastest growing cities in the country. Nightlife is very good with lots of bars, clubs, and restaurants.

Things to consider: very long summer days and very short winter days, and the cost of living is higher. If you were to commute from Wasilla or Palmer your cost of living would be less.

Every Alaskan citizen (including children) gets an annual dividend payout. This was $1884 in 2014. That's higher than average. You can find out more here:  You would be eligible for that after living one year in Alaska.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Anchorage (city)
  2. Mt McKinley (attraction)
  3. Wasilla (city)
  4. Palmer (city)
6 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Joao from Berlin

Ok, I'm not the traditional kind of person so here are my recommendations. It's probably not what you're looking for, but some readers might enjoy them.

They're all places outside the US and in crescent order of 'exoticness':

1) Lausanne (Switzerland): This is my most traditional answer. Lausanne is beautifully situated by lake Geneva and you can see the Alps from basically anywhere in the city. It's a very short distance from Montreaux. Cons: it's expensive to live there and you'll probably need to learn French.

2) Santiago (Chile): Santiago is amazingly beautiful. And you can see the Andes cordillera from anywhere in the city. It's a very majestic sight. It's really overwhelming, especially if you take in consideration that's the same cordillera that forms the Rocky Mountains and many Caribbean islands. In Santiago, you're not far from Aconcagua and the many mountains in Tierra del Fuego. You'll need to learn Spanish to live there, though. But cost of living is low, compared to USA in general.

3) Now, if you're looking for a place that's really different, go to Pokhara, in Nepal. I know it would be really challenging to live there, especially with family, so you should consider this as a "vacation home" as well. Pokhara is close to the Himalayas so you get the idea. Like Lausanne, it's situated on the margins of a lake, which is great on summer. Pokhara is the second biggest city in Nepal, so you have many of the things that westerners need (supermarkets, restaurants, bars etc). Pokhara (and Nepal) is a great town for hiking and finding raw nature. Living in Nepal, however, would give you a sense of true authentic living, far from the 'standardized' western cultures.

That's it. I hope I have helped.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lausanne (city)
  2. Santiago (city)
  3. Pokhara (city)
5 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Ross from Fort Collins

I was planning on Denver but have moved to Fort Collins Co. And am loving it! It's 40 minuets from Denver so you can get the city life easily, and you get a quiet home town feel with a ton of beer! Oh and you are right on the front range of the Ricky's !!! I know Alaska is great but FoCo gets almost 300 days of sun a year so you can actually live here lol. Try a winter in Alaska and then tell me you want to live there. It's beautiful but there is a reason it has the highest suicide rate in the USA! 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Denver (city)
  2. Fort Collins (city)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered first by
Tracie from Seattle

It sounds like you already like Seattle. I love it for it's proximity to the water and mountains. Within an hour you can get to the mountains, and a little further will get you to the big ones: Mount Rainier and Mt Baker. Bellingham is also a nice alternative if you like smaller cities. I used to live there, but needed something a little bigger. It's a place that I consider moving back to all the time, but it's harder to find work in smaller cities. Best of luck!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Seattle (city)
  2. Mount Rainier (attraction)
  3. Mt Baker (neighborhood)
  4. Bellingham (city)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered by

Albuquerque, NM is a wonderful place for great mild weather with full access to mountains. You can be in the sun playing golf, then take the tram to the top of the mountain and ski. 

The number of days good for riding motorcycles and/or bicycles is unsurpassed.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Albuquerque (city)
2 thanks

answered by
Andres from Arequipa

Hello, if  you love the mountains you should come to Colca Canyon, because there is a travel agency called Peruvian Colca Trailswho have maps to visit waruro waterfall canyon and mountains.

Andres Calcina

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Colca Canyon (attraction)
  2. Peruvian Colca Trails (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Tiffany from Corvallis


1. Mountains: Mt Hood is just an hour away and has three ski resorts including the historical Timberline Lodge. At Timberline, you can ski nearly all year. In the summer, the glacier is open for summer skiing. It's amazing. There's Mt. Hood Adventure that's decent too and the closest one. I also love Mt Hood Meadows Ski Resort for it's wide open spaces.  All three places have night skiing, so you can ski after work or go early and ski all day and into the late evening.

2. Rivers/Hiking/Gorge: I figure if you love skiing and are pursing environmental degrees, then you'll love hiking, along the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area or windsurfing on the Columbia River at Hood River, the windsurfing capital of the world. It's such a beautiful area, both to enjoy and to study.

3. Portland is very walkable, but also has great transportation including the BART lightrail system and it's extremely bike friendly.

4. With tons of parks and outdoor activities, Portland is great for families. Kids will enjoy OMSI Science Store, an incredible hands-on science center/museum. The beautiful Oregon Zoo is up on the hill near the Japanese Gardens and the International Rose Test Garden (the rose garden is free and has a great view of Mt. Hood). Portland has tons of free concerts in the parks and other fun cultural activities for families.

5. It's an environmental mecca. Welcome to Oregon, home of the Spotted Owl. Seriously, Oregonians take the natural beauty around us incredibly seriously from animals to plants, rivers and oceans, you'll find jobs here in your fields of study. The Pacific Northwest is known perhaps in part for our immense pride in the wealth of nature in our states and conservation is high on the priority list.

6. Ok, so may be "booze" wasn't on your priority list, but I came across this article lately and I was sort of proud of it. Oregon was ranked the #1 "booziest" state.  Why? 3rd best wine country in the US AND some fabulous microbreweries.  Also, (not booze), Portland is a coffee capital. Try Stumptown. It's delish.

7. Property taxes are a bit high, but there's no sales tax in Oregon and there are so many farms and fresh food markets that living can be affordable. By the way, food is good in Portland - really good... street food, food trucks, natural markets, it's all here.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Portland (city)
  2. Mt Hood (city)
  3. Timberline Lodge (attraction)
  4. Mt. Hood Adventure (attraction)
  5. Mt Hood Meadows Ski Resort (attraction)
  6. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (attraction)
  7. Hood River (city)
  8. OMSI Science Store (attraction)
  9. Oregon Zoo (attraction)
  10. Japanese Gardens (attraction)
  11. International Rose Test Garden (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Julie from York

Hi Dylan

In Europe, Salzburg is a beautiful city. Not too big, and plenty to see there and in the surrounds (with mountains galore).

With your biology background, Basel is also an option. Although I don't know the city, I know of it through friends who have worked there and from being approached about jobs there - it's the international HQ for a few major pharmaceutical/related companies inc Novartis, Roche and Lonza, so could suit your biology background well. Because they're the international HQs, English is the language of work (in those companies) rather than German, and I'm told Basel has a very international feel. The cost of living is high, but wages are also high (Salzburg would be cheaper, but you'd need more German knowledge!) Basel is historical city surrounded by mountains, and only a stones throw from everything else Europe has to offer. Bliss.

Wishing you all the best with your graduation and beyond ...


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Salzburg (city)
  2. Basel (city)
2 thanks

answered by
Rishabh from Wellington

If you are looking to do something different then you should definitely consider Wellington. It is a small, quiet and a scenic city in the southern hemisphere. Energetic and creative, Wellington has been called the world’s ‘coolest little capital’. And Wellingtonians enjoy an outdoor lifestyle, thanks to its harbourside setting and 425 hectares of bush-clad town belt.

There are various organizations here in New Zealand that are working on the environment, ecology and conservation projects. Finding a job in this field would not be a difficult thing. Cost of living would be quite similar to you if you are from USA/Canada. 

Wellington combines the sophistication, cosmopolitan outlook and global reach of a capital city, along with the warmth and personality of a village.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Wellington (city)
  2. New Zealand (country)
2 thanks

answered by
Pat from Clermont-en-Argonne

I would say Grenoble in France, Denver, CO or Vancouver, Canada:

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Grenoble (city)
  2. Denver (city)
  3. Vancouver (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Megan from Calgary

If you're willing to move up to Canada (a very friendly bunch we are :)!) I highly recommend Calgary, Alberta. We have beautiful mountains here and we are only about an hour's drive away from the mountains. It's also close enough to BC if you want to get away and not far from Montana and Washington.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Calgary (city)
  2. Montana (state)
  3. Washington (state)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered by
brendan from Seattle

Seattle is within reasonable proximity to mountains, however, having lived elsewhere (Reno, Spokane, Flagstaff)- there are better places for mountains. Seattle is far cloudier/rainier than most cities near mountains.  I am a skier/fisher/outdoor guy and Seattle's about 1:45hr to decent skiing, a haul to (good) trout fishing at the Yakima River.  Reno/Tahoe area is right in the Sierra's, close to some of the west's best skiing and cool towns around Lake Tahoe (Truckee, Tahoe City). Truckee River offers good fishing, a lot of lakes to fish, water ski, or hangout at the beach.  Tahoe is unbeatable in the summer.  Also a 2 hours drive from Sacramento and 4 hour to the bay.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Seattle (city)
  2. Reno (city)
  3. Spokane (city)
  4. Flagstaff (city)
  5. Yakima River (attraction)
  6. Lake Tahoe (attraction)
  7. Truckee (city)
  8. Tahoe City (city)
  9. Truckee River (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Justin from Bozeman

Bozeman - Surrounded by mountains and has a ton of opportunity for you in Animal Biology (ecology and also lots of agricultural and ranching), is less expensive than big cities, has some cool bars/breweries/restaurants and Montana State University.  I would consider it a really small city compared to the ones you listed above.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Bozeman (city)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Ashley from Calgary

From a Canadian perspective, we live in Calgary, which is less than an hour away from Banff, and close to Jasper, Yoho and Waterton. Great for someone who enjoys the outdoors. There are many beautiful road trips. Most jobs revolve around the oil and gas sector but you can get into environment in the sector, easily. 

Also, Vancouver Island is gorgeous mountains, ocean and a much milder climate. They are huge on eco conservation there.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Calgary (city)
  2. Banff (city)
  3. Jasper (city)
  4. Waterton (city)
  5. Vancouver Island (island)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered by
ronald from Roanoke

Roanoke, va

the Blue Ridge Mountains surround the city.  Smith Mountain Lake is just outside the city with over 250 miles of shoreline.

called the lake tahoe of the east.

roanoke,va is centrally located and only 2 or 3 hours from the coast.

high quality of living but lowest living costs.

nothing could be better

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Roanoke (city)
  2. Blue Ridge Mountains (attraction)
  3. Smith Mountain Lake (attraction)

answered by
Mo from Houston

I'm also from Texas, and based on your career path (if you don't mind moving to Canada), I would highly recommend Vancouver.

answered by
Jacey & Scott from Fort Collins

I moved to Denver in 2007 and loved it. When my husband and I started to think about moving north to Loveland (Colorado) or Fort Collins, I was a little nervous to give up SOE of those big city attractions: cultural events, great restaruarnts, short drive to the airport! But I find I'm much happier here than I thought I would be. The cost of living is significantly less than Denver, yet you're only an hour away if you want to pop in. I feel we have tons of excellent, high quality, creative restaurants than I rarely miss my old favorites. There are excellent art fest's, cultural events and just generally nicer people!!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Denver (city)
  2. Loveland (Colorado) (city)
  3. Fort Collins (city)

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