Who's Your City?, by Richard Florida
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Smaller mountain towns in either Colorado, Oregon or Montana?


Strongly considering leaving lovely Madison, WI to return to my laid back western roots and love of mountains. I welcome anyone’s input on smaller to medium sized, affordable mountain/foothill towns in Colorado, Montana or Oregon. Some I have been exploring include Corvallis, Bend, Missoula, Kalispell, Bozeman, Fort Collins, Loveland. I just graduated with my MSW and am hoping to find a town I can a) find a decent paying job in and b) afford to live in on a Social Work salary. I am realizing this rules out many Colorado mountain towns due to extraordinary housing costs.

Ideally I am looking for a community like Madison but with close access to mountains or foothills to hike & bike in. Somewhere that is more liberal, dog & family friendly, nurtures local business (coops, mom & pops vs. national chains/mass condo development), diversity, the arts, and community (festivals, public schools, local gatherings). Does anyone have any experiences living in these areas or suggestions of other areas to check out. Thanks very much for your two cents…

Sent by Christie from Madison, WI

7 Responses to “Smaller mountain towns in either Colorado, Oregon or Montana?”

  1. Mac Says:

    I have friends who grew up in Kalispell and Bozeman and they have a great attachment to home, particularly the lush, fresh beauty of Montana. I don’t know if that kind of dedication to a city comes from having been born and raised there or if it’s the opportunities the city offers that encourage people to have such love for it. What I do know is that any of them would go back there in a heartbeat if it was a wise decision economically.

  2. Brian Says:

    I realize you’ve categorically ruled out many of the Front Range cities in Colorado due to price, but I’d encourage you to consider Longmont. Nestled between Boulder and Loveland, it’s a rather sizable city filled with services but really devoid of crowds. Fifteen miles separate you from Rocky Mountain National Park, Denver is about one hour away, and Boulder is a ten-minute drive. Boulder provides a tremendous amount of culture, and Longmont gives you access to it without Boulder’s high prices. After my wife was offered a postdoc position at the University of Colorado, we moved here from Boston and have really been enjoying it. We’re proximate to so much recreation and have managed to enjoy a good standard of living.

  3. Joe Says:

    Missoula, Mt is the place you’re looking for, in my book. I’m from Seattle, and went to college out there, and now consider Missoula to be my true home. As a college town, it’s youthful, liberal, and bike and pedestrian friendly. The Clark Fork River, which runs through the center of town, and the Rattlesnake River, provide you with immediate green spaces. And they are clean, beautiful, calming. Missoula has more worldly culture in it than any other city in Montana, though at the sacrifice of some of the rugged, individualistic “Montananess” that a place like Kalispell or Bozeman has. Still, I’d argue that those places haven’t developed as responsibly as Missoula has with respect to density and green living, so Missoula is always your best bet. You can step off your front porch with a bicycle or a backpack and find yourself in wilderness in no time, without inhabiting a car at all. To my mind it is the best city of its size in the West.

  4. Sam Says:

    I’m also looking for a city to re-locate to and have found a useful website called bestplaces.net. From what I’ve read magazines like Outdoor Magazine and Mens Journal use this site as a source for their “best places to live” issues. I am also drawn to Bozeman and Missoula but have found many current and past residents complaining about a high cost of living, low paying jobs, a good old boys network as well as a certain disdain for outsiders. I’ve only visited these towns on vacation, so I don’t know if I should take these claims as gospel or myth. Any other comments would be helpful.

  5. Kathy Says:

    How about Anaconda? It is small, less than 10,000, it is surrounded by mountains, it is very affordable because they lost their main industry of smelting years ago. Many people there are in need of social services so an MSW might find work there. It is mostly Democrat. There is no mall and no national chain stores. Bozeman, Missoula and Kalispell are all very nice but housing prices are insane in those places.

  6. Geoffrey Gyrisco Says:

    In the past couple decades Bend, Oregon has grown in size and sophistication. The location is fabulous, and I imagine prices are a fraction of those in the luxury destination towns of the Rockies. For a larger town, close to the mountains, I recommend Corvallis, Oregon, having lived there for six months.

  7. Molly Says:

    I’m a Madison native – left in 1976. Was a Californian for 15 years then moved to Northern Utah.

    Have you thought of Salt Lake City? It’s pretty liberal in a conservative state…maybe not as diverse as you might like but that is changing.

    Also? EXCELLENT connection to the outdoors and wonderful mountains and winter sports are huge here….and MSWs do OK here for work.

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