Colorado, in recent years, has seen a surge of new residents, particularly from nearby states such as California, Texas, and Oklahoma. Adding almost one million new residents between 2010 and 2020, the cost of living has skyrocketed, particularly along the Front Range in cities like Denver.
But it’s not just Colorado’s bigger cities that are feeling the increase, many of the state’s smaller mountain communities are experiencing it as well. Rocky Mountain towns have also seen a steep increase, especially in already popular areas like Steamboat Springs, Summit County and Winter Park, among many others.
But fear not, there are still many great places to live in Colorado that are affordable. Broken out by the state’s geographical regions, here are some of the cheapest places to live in the Centennial State.
Pikes Peak Region
The Pikes Peak Region consists of two major metropolitan areas of the state including Colorado Springs and Pueblo. The area stretches as far east as Ordway and as far west as Salida. It’s known for America’s most famous 14,000-foot mountain, Pikes Peak.
The region also boasts other major attractions such as the Garden of the Gods, Cripple Creek gambling hub, and the Royal Gorge Bridge.
Main Street downtown Canon City. Photo by Jessica Hughes.
Located in what is called the Royal Gorge Region of Colorado, Cañon City is a small community that is located near the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. It is home to the longest Main Street in America, some of the state’s biggest prisons, and a new up-and-coming winery and cidery industry. With the Arkansas River at the heart of town, outdoor enthusiasts love it here as well, with epic mountain biking, climbing, and whitewater sports such as rafting.
Due to its population of prisons (Fremont county in general), many who live here are employed by the Colorado prison system. While the community is a bit older, there are signs of younger families moving into the area as its economy continues to grow.
Average household income: $49,577
Median property value: $184,829
The downtown Riverwalk area in Pueblo. Photo by Jeffrey Beall.
Just under two hours south of Denver, Pueblo is a town deeply-rooted in its Hispanic culture and history. It is the home of the Colorado State Fair and a revitalized riverwalk area that has added value for its residents and local businesses over the years. Pueblo is seeing an influx of new residents as the population along Colorado’s Front Range continues to grow and people seek out more affordable places to live outside of Denver.
With a strong industrial heritage, Pueblo still holds on to this with the still-in-operation Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, now called the Evraz Rocky Mountain Steel company. Agriculture is another booming industry for Pueblo ranking as one of the biggest producers of melon and vegetables, plus their well-known Pueblo chiles.
Average household income: $40,450
Median property value: $141,000
Mystic San Luis Valley
Unique, quirky, beautiful, and a bit unusual are just a few ways to describe the mystic San Luis Valley. Located in the southern Colorado Rockies, the San Luis Valley is the largest alpine valley in the world. It spans 122 miles long and 74 miles wide, extending into New Mexico.
It’s home to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, the Sandhill Crane migration at the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge, an alligator farm, a UFO watchtower, and one of the most impressive mountain ranges in Colorado – the Sangre de Cristo mountains.
While the “valley,” as most locals reference it, certainly brings in the dollars from tourists, it is also home to some of the poorest counties in the state including Saguache and Huerfano counties.
Alamosa, gateway to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Photo by Jimmy Emerson.
Alamosa is the most populated city in the valley and is the home base for visiting the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The downtown offers many shops, restaurants, and a few museums.
Plus, due to its location in the valley, Alamosa is a great jumping-off point for many outdoor activities including hiking and biking, plus skiing in the winter at Wolf Creek Ski Resort. One of its biggest tourist attractions is the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad that draws in thousands of tourists every year.
Adams State University brings in a younger crowd during the school year. And because of Alamosa’s elevation and relatively flat land, the university attracts track and cross-country athletes from all over to train here. Its main industries include farming, as large producers in potatoes and hops.
Average household income: $35,083
Median property value: $164,600
The Walsenburg County Courthouse. Photo by Jessica Hughes.
Walsenburg rests on the outskirts of the San Luis Valley in what is known as the Spanish Peaks Region. Known as the “city built on coal,” Walsenburg has strong ties to the coal industry, even to this day. The town offers plenty of history and charming downtown streets. Recent efforts have put it as one of the up-and-coming art scenes in Colorado with the addition of the Museum of Friends.
As the county seat, it is the most populous city in Huerfano county, which is the poorest in Colorado. It is investing heavily in the cannabis industry with cheap rent and a marijuana-friendly business environment.
Average household income: $29,514
Median property value: $90,400
Mountains and Mesas
The Mountains and Mesas region of Colorado encompasses the southwest part of the state with some of the most distinctive and impressive landscapes around. From the majestic mountains of the San Juans to the largest flat-topped mountain, the Grand Mesa, the scenery here is unparalleled.
This region is also home to the Mesa Verde National Park, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the Colorado National Monument, and one of the state’s predominant wine industries.
Fruita is quickly becoming a mountain biking mecca. Photo by Zach Dischner.
While there are certainly cheaper places to live in southwest Colorado, Fruita offers an affordable living opportunity but in a much-desired location. Fruita is quickly gaining major recognition as an outdoor paradise, particularly as a destination for mountain biking.
Resting on the heals of the Colorado National Monument and Colorado’s wine country, the area is home to a unique landscape filled with towering rock formations and verdant valleys. Downtown Fruita is pretty quiet with just a few storefronts and restaurants, its outdoor scene is what draws people in and why the town has seen a consistent growth rate over the years.
Average household income: $58,531
Median property value: $223,500
The quiet downtown of Cortez. Photo by Doug Kerr.
Steeped in history and nestled between two of the most impressive archeological sites in the U.S., the Mesa Verde National Park, and the Ute Mountain Tribal Park, Cortez is the starting point for travelers to the area. The small rural town doesn’t get much praise as a great place to live in Colorado. But what it lacks in amenities, it more than makes up for it as an outdoor recreation and cultural destination.
Average household income: $42,271
Median property value: $170,300
Denver & Cities of the Rockies
This region encompasses the state’s most populated city, Denver, plus many others that make up what is known as the Front Range and some of northern Colorado’s farming country of Fort Collins and Greeley. This part of the state is easily the most densely populated and is home to some of the most expensive places to live in Colorado.
With easy access to the mountains, a thriving economy, and bustling city life, those who seek it all flock to this part of the state.
Downtown Greeley, CO. Photo by Jeffrey Beall.
Greeley lies 63 miles northeast of Denver and just 31 miles east of Fort Collins, offering a prime location but at a price tag, you can afford. A quaint downtown that hosts numerous events, a thriving craft beer scene, and access to outdoor recreation are all reasons people are moving to Greeley.
It’s home to the University of Northern Colorado, so it brings in a younger crowd of students. Plus, with its dedication to historical learning, Greeley also features numerous museums and historical sites. Agriculture is still a big business here with the biggest producer of meat protein in the world, JBS, providing thousands of jobs to those in the area.
Average household income: $57,586
Median property value: $247,700
The Ottesen Grain and Feed Co. in Fort Lupton. Photo by Jeffrey Beall.
Located 28 miles northeast of Denver, Fort Lupton is a rural community in Weld County that lies on the banks of the South Platte River. Residents enjoy access to exceptional city parks, outdoor recreation, an 18-hole golf course, and unique museums such as the Vintage Aero Flying Museum. But really its biggest perk is its proximity to Denver and other cities nearby, all at an affordable price.
Agriculture, energy, and manufacturing are some of the biggest industries in the area. Aims Education is a community college in town.
Average household income: $63,646
Median property value: $240,500
The Great West
The Great West region of Colorado rests in the northwestern part of the state, bordering Utah and Wyoming. It is home to the champagne powder at Steamboat Ski Resort and Dinosaur National Monument. It also boasts millions of acres of national forest access and is one of the more remote parts of the state.
Downtown Rifle, Colorado. Photo by Jasperdo.
The town of Rifle rest along I-70, just west of Glenwood Springs. It houses the famous Rifle Falls State Park. It’s a quiet community that is often sought after as an alternative to staying in Glenwood Springs. Colorado Mountain College hosts one of its locations in Rifle, which draws in a younger population.
Average household income: $66,319
Median property value: $246,300
The historic building of the State Armory in Craig, CO. Photo by Jeffrey Beall.
Located 45 minutest west of Steamboat Springs, Craig is a remote town in the northern part of the state. It’s the county seat of Moffat County, which is known as the “elk hunting capital of the world,” draws in hunters from all over.
Outdoor recreation is the main attraction here, with direct access to the Routt and White River National Forest. Its biggest industry is mining, oil and gas, and construction with little retail or dining options.
Average household income: $56,481
Median property value: $173,600
As the wind comes roaring down the plains, Colorado’s northeastern part of the state is shaped by its expansive grasslands and never-ending sunsets. Authentically Colorado, this part of the state stays rooted in Western culture. Out east here, bird watchers flock to the Pawnee Buttes Trail and the Mountain Plover Festival for some of the best bird watching in the state.
The industrial landmarks of Sterling. Photo by Simon Foot.
As a farm and ranch community, this small town is family-friendly and provides activities like hiking, golfing, and learning about the history of the prairie and the western migration. With a population nearing 15,000, Sterling is the most populous city east of Pueblo.
The town boasts a regional airport and junior college for higher education. Ideal for families, the town is also home to several good schools, local parks, and outdoor recreational opportunities.
Average household income: $45,647
Median property value: $129,221
Historic downtown Fort Morgan. Photo by Jimmy Emerson.
Fort Morgan is located 82 miles northeast of Denver and is the most populous city in Morgan County. Historically built as a fort, hence the name, Fort Morgan offers many green spaces, a vibrant music scene, and a historic downtown. One of its biggest attractions is the Glen Miller SwingFest, which honors the legendary musician Glen Miller who is from Fort Morgan.
The local economy is based in agriculture, including a Cargill meatpacking plant, a Leprino Foods cheese factory, and a large Dairy Farmers of America milk-processing facility.
Average household income: $50,823
Median property value: $169,900
Canyons and Plains
Making up the southeastern part of the state, the Canyons and Plains region is home to expansive prairie, the largest dinosaur track in America, rugged canyons, and grasslands. While population-wise, this is a much quieter part of the state, the area is a place where one can discover Colorado’s heritage and still feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
The counties that make up the southeastern part of the state include Bent, Las Animas, Baca, Prowers, Crowley, Otero and Kiowa. Three of which are the poorest in the state (Prowers, Bent, and Baca).
The annual snow geese migration across the High Prairie in Lamar. Photo by Jessica Hughes.
Heading further out east, the quiet town of Lamar offers a strong sense of community for families. The town boasts several parks, convenient access to the John Martin Reservoir State Park, and historic buildings such as the train depot.
The area is best known for its birdwatching, in particular during the snow geese migration. It also is host to one of Colorado’s welcome centers. The largest industries are health care and agriculture.
Average household income: $40,826
Median property value: $99,400
Historic U.S. Postal building in La Junta. Photo by Jasperdo.
Best known for its sweet melons that local area farmers harvest every summer, La Junta is a small rural community that lies 60 miles east of Pueblo. With its historic ties to the Santa Fe Trail, La Junta is home to many historical sites such as Bent’s Old Fort National Monument.
La Junta is home to a regional medical center, as well as a number of retirement communities. The city also features an airport in an industrial park north of town, plus a downtown business district. Farming dominates the landscape that surrounds this tiny community.
Average household income: $39,567
Median property value: $91,400
Historic downtown Trinidad. Photo by Jessica Hughes.
Trinidad is a small town located in Southern Colorado, near the New Mexico border. The town’s residents enjoy outdoor recreation close by with two state parks – Trinidad Lake State Park and Fishers Peak State Park. A historic downtown is filled with shops, restaurants, museums, and art.
You will find professionals in many industries including education, construction, and social service. However, young professionals are now making their way to Trinidad for its thriving art scene, entrepreneurial spirit, and its affordable property. So, expect to see property values begin to rise over the years as this town grows.
County: Las Animas
Average household income: $37,196
Median property value: $134,900
But really no matter where you put roots down in Colorado, you will be happy that you did!
Sources include: datausa.io and citytowninfo.com