I want to live outside year round – dry summers and no snow – $4,000 a month. Where should I retire?

I am a single 54 year old woman looking to retire within the next 10 years, but I am also looking to move to my future retirement location within the next two years. I love dry summer weather, hiking, biking, water sports, year-round outdoor living. I don’t like snowy winters, unless I’m driving there!

I like being close enough to art and culture (within two hours), but I want to be close to trails and lakes every day. I don’t want to be too isolated, but I don’t want to be lumped into a compartment either.

My monthly retirement budget is about $3,500-$4,000. I also get money from the sale of my house.

Any recommendations?

thank you,


Dear Alice,

Moving to your retirement location before retirement sounds like a dream come true, especially if, as I hope, you can telecommute to your current job.

No snow, no summer rain – or even a lot of humidity? That’s about the eastern half of the United States, although if you’re willing to compromise a bit, you might want to look into western North Carolina (here’s an option) and eastern Tennessee (no state income tax).

Otherwise, let’s go west..

You’ll find our awesome national parks and plenty of public lands to play in. You don’t want to be fenced in, so push beyond city limits in the comments below. Likewise, given the range of neighborhoods you’ll find, don’t assume that a more urban setting means you’ll be packed into a fraction. (One reader calls Albuquerque “a delightful, surprising hidden gem.”)

Don’t worry about finding a trail where you move. The National Trails System has 193,000 (primarily hiking) miles, and the nonprofit organization Rails to Trails America says it has more than 24,000 miles of trails that attract cyclists and hikers.

Here are three options to get you started. As always, make sure your retirement budget is realistic and spend some time getting to know the area in all seasons before committing. A bad move is a costly mistake.

Read: There’s more to choosing a place to retire than low taxes – avoid these 5 costly mistakes

as well as – 4 questions to answer before you make a big change in your retirement life

Elephant Arch Wilderness in the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, part of the Red Cliffs Wilderness Reserve outside of St. George, Utah.


St. George, Utah

This fast-growing city of about 90,000 people in the southwest corner of the state puts you within an hour of the 60,000-acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and Zion National Park. If you’re looking for a city less than a quarter the size, head east to Hurricane about half an hour. Head southwest for over 2 hours and you’ll be in Las Vegas. It is 2½ hours north of the Grand Canyon.

You know there is good hiking in this area. But you’ll find lakes (well, reservoirs) nearby, and the 14-mile Virgin River Trail cuts through town for an easy bike ride. At Brian Hale Resort, you can hit the slopes in 90 minutes.

The climate is as hot as Vegas, with average summer highs of over 100, but you won’t have the rain and snow. If you cross the state line into Nevada, you don’t pay state income tax. If state taxes are a concern, consult a tax professional.

Much smaller Moab, Utah, was another tempting choice, just outside of Arces National Park and not far from Canyonlands National Park. Housing costs are similar to St. George but there is a little more snow. Grand Junction, Colo., will be your big city.

Read: Can I afford to retire? Not before you know the answer to this big question

You can see what homes are on the market in St. George and Moab by using Realtor.com, owned by News Corp., like MarketWatch.

Redding, California

This is where California’s Central Valley transitions to the Cascade foothills and is home to 92,000 people. (A similar number exists elsewhere in Shasta County.)

It’s basically surrounded by national forests—so many outdoorsmen—except to the south, where I-5 takes you to Sacramento in 2½ hours. Lake Shasta, the state’s largest reservoir, is your water playground just 10 miles to the north. The city boasts 225 miles of roads within a 15 mile radius. Orbitz calls Redding “California’s best-kept secret.”

There is no rain in the summer (and basically no snow in the winter), but this area gets a lot of rain in the winter. Skiing is nearby, including in Lassen Volcano National Park.

A pair of cross-country skis in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Courtesy of Red Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Average highs in July are 101 degrees; Average winter lows remain above freezing.

Here you can find out what your money can buy you at home.

Note that while California has a reputation for high taxes, it does not pay Social Security income.

Outside Mount Vernon, Wash., there are fields of yellow daffodils.


Mount Vernon, Washington

If it’s all too hot for all the outdoor living you want to do this summer, continue down I-5 to Mount Vernon, the county seat of Skagit County and home to 36,000 people. By ferry from Anacortes and the San Juan Islands, one hour from Seattle and 90 minutes from Vancouver, BC you’ll be at the top of the Cascade Mountains in North Cascades National Park in less than 30 minutes. You can reach Mount Baker Ski Area in less than two hours.

For the cyclist in you, you’ll be minutes from the Adventure Bike Crossroads North Level and Washington Parks trails and not far from the Pacific coast. Drive (or bike) 10 miles to Sedro-Woolley, and you can hop on the 22.5-mile Cascade Trail.

A lone cyclist pedals along a Washington Parks trail.

Alex Strickland / Adventure Bike

Because it’s northwest Washington, average summer highs only reach the mid-70s. They get over an inch of rain in July. Winter is almost freezing. When you get maybe an inch of snow a month, you get rain (though less than Redding).

Mount Vernon is a more expensive housing market than Anacortes, and there are other cities in Skagit County or north in Whatcom County. Here’s what’s for sale in Mount Vernon right now.

Added bonus: No state income tax here.

Readers, where do you think Alice should retire?

Read ‘Where Should I Retire’ from MarketWatch

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