Are you an outdoor enthusiast who thrives in the serenity of nature? Does your idea of a perfect vacation include a trip to a US national park? Well, what if you could live close to a national park and enjoy it year-round? Moving to a nearby city can provide quick access to activities such as hiking, biking, backpacking, fishing, and rafting all within proximity to your front door. Not to mention, all of the sounds and smells – birds chirping, marmots roaming (if you’re in the Olympics), and wildflowers blooming, who wouldn’t want to live near all that beauty and nature? If you’re a first time homebuyer or just looking to move, check out these cities located near a US National Park for your next home.
1. For a town near the Grand Canyon, check out Flagstaff, AZ
Known for its towering red rock formations and gaping river channels, Grand Canyon National Park is considered one of the seven wonders of the world. The canyon encompasses 277 miles of forest, desert, canyons, and the Colorado River. There are also many activities to partake in beyond standing on one of the rims and taking selfies. If you want to be mesmerized by turquoise blue tidepools, take a journey to Havasu Falls. Mule tours or helicopter tours are also a great way to explore the area in less time. For water lovers, book a rafting trip down the Colorado River. Just outside the park’s boundaries lie the famous Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon where you can take beautiful pictures and explore slot caves.
Located around 2 hours from the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Arizona provides a vibrant city life with a small-town feel. Because the city gets four seasons, there are many activities to partake in year-round. During the winter, snowshoeing Arizona Nordic Village and skiing Arizona Snowbowl are popular activities. The spring and summer months are a great time to explore restaurants and microbreweries such as Dark Sky Brewing Co. During the fall, there are many nearby hikes like Humphreys Peak to take in the views. If you love a city vibe, downtown Flagstaff is filled with many small businesses and a growing art scene.
- Walk ScoreⓇ: 38
- Median Home Sale Price: $471,750
2. If you love the Rocky Mountains, check out Boulder, CO
If you want to explore the best that Colorado has to offer, check out Rocky Mountain National Park. Encompassing 415 square miles of breathtaking mountains, there are many sites to explore, streams to fish, and trails to ride. For pristine views, check out Chasm Lake, a highly trafficked out and back with stunning forests, mountain peaks, and serene waters. If hiking isn’t your thing, take a drive along Trail Ridge Road for views of the Rockies in every direction.
Want to move closer to the Rockies? Boulder, Colorado is home to Pac-12 University UC-Boulder and is a college town that provides easy access to concerts, festivals, and sporting events. The city is located about an hour from Rocky Mountain but has many outdoor trails to explore within its proximity. Boulder makes living convenient with a robust transit system, lots of small shops, and farmers markets. Not to mention, the summer months tend to be warm. But readers be warned, prepare for the occasional hail storm.
- Walk ScoreⓇ: 57
- Median Home Sale Price: $715,000
3. For a city near Mount Rainier, consider Seattle, WA
On a clear day, Mount Rainier towers over the Washington state sky and can be seen from miles away. One of three Washington national parks, Mount Rainier is an active volcano that ascends 14,410’ into the air. The park itself is divided into five areas. One of the more popular areas, Paradise, is open year-round to visitors for summer and winter activities. Another popular area is Sunrise where you can take in stunning views and beautiful sunrises close to the base of the mountain.
Seattle, Washington, also known as the Emerald City, is around two hours away from Mount Rainier National Park. However, there is no shortage of activities in the city itself. No, it is not always raining. On a sunny day, you can take in the city skyline at Gas Works Park, grab a bite to eat at Pike Place Market, or get a 360 view of the city from the Space Needle. With a median home sale price of $725,000, Seattle is becoming a popular destination to call home. There are also many career opportunities in the area being home to tech, real estate, food and drink, aviation, and manufacturing companies.
- Walk ScoreⓇ: 74
- Median Home Sale Price: $725,000
4. A gateway town into Olympic, check out Gig Harbor, WA
Olympic National Park is one of the most diverse US national parks, with nearly a million acres and three different ecosystems including coastline, mountains, and temperate rainforest. Located on the Olympic Peninsula, the national park has many unique places to explore. If you love to be on the water, rent a kayak and explore Lake Crescent. For those with children, explore one of the many beaches with wildlife living in tidepools. For the summit chaser, head up to Hurricane Ridge to feel like you’re on top of the world.
If you’re thinking about moving closer to the Olympics, consider the gateway town of Gig Harbor, Washington, which offers the best of small-town living with gorgeous views, small street shops, and beautiful houses. Located near Commencement Bay, there are a lot of water activities such as kayaking and boating. If you love to support small businesses, Harborview Drive boasts a handful of small shops and restaurants. For a fun day trip, visit Tacoma Narrows Park where you can picnic as you watch the boats drive by. On a clear day, Mount Rainier is visible right at your doorstep.
- Walk ScoreⓇ: 65
- Median Home SalePrice: $635,000
5. Want to explore the North Cascades? Consider living in Bellingham, WA
Known for its pristine backcountry, North Cascades National Park is filled with blooming wildflowers, jagged mountain lines, and alpine lakes. While backpacking through Cascade Pass or Maple Pass is a popular activity, there are many things to do and see. For those who own boats, sailing the turquoise water on Diablo Lake is sure to be a memorable experience. If horseback riding is your thing, explore the main routes located on the Pacific Crest Trail. All of these activities are under the watchful eye of the stunning Mount Baker.
Consider buying a home in Bellingham, Washington, a city that showcases the finest that Washington state has to offer. Located around one hour from the North Cascades, this college town is a perfect place to raise a family as the city has many hidden gems. For those who love their beers, check out a local favorite Aslan Brewing Co. If you love to go on scenic drives, take a ride down Chuckanut for the best views of Bellingham Bay. Lastly, catch the farmers market every third Sunday in the Depot Market Square.
- Walk ScoreⓇ: 49
- Median Home Sale Price: $478,500
6. For a city near Yosemite, check out Sacramento, CA
Located in the Western Sierra Nevadas, Yosemite is around 1,200 square miles of beautiful waterfalls, mountain peaks, and diverse wildlife. There are many activities to please your outdoor cravings from biking through Yosemite Valley, rock climbing one of the many slabs throughout the park, or taking a guided tour to learn about its history. If you want to get up close and personal with nature, check out Vernal and Nevada Falls or try your luck winning a lottery ticket to climb Half Dome. If you’re looking for a piece of modern-day history, visit El Capitan where climber Alex Honnold was the first to free solo climb the vertical rock formation.
Located about 3 hours from Yosemite, Sacramento, California, the state’s capital city, blends the old and the new with many landmarks, sites, and modern architectures. The winter months are cold and the summer months can reach over 100 degrees. If you love trees, Sacramento is the place for you. The city has the most trees per capita compared to any other city in the United States. Sacramento’s National Historic Landmark district boasts many small shops, attractions, and restaurants. If you are looking for a day trip, the city is located only about two hours from Lake Tahoe and San Francisco.
- Walk ScoreⓇ: 45
- Median Home Sale Price: $400,000
7. To take in the coastal views of Acadia, check out Bar Harbor, ME
Named after the french colony of Acadia, Acadia National Park is known as “the place where the mountains touch the sea.” The highland Rockys and the Atlantic Ocean come together to create a beautiful US national park filled with color-changing trees, defying cliffs, and calm waters. If you want to get some exercise in, take a bike ride down the 27-mile Park Loop Road. For those who like to swim, take a dip at Sand Beach or Echo Lake Beach. For stunning views, hike the popular Beehive Trail. However, hike at your own risk, this trail is not for the faint of heart.
If you’re thinking about moving to Bar Harbor, Maine, this town offers a vibrant downtown district, tasty restaurants, and a unique microbrewery scene. While many people visit Bar Harbor during the summer and fall months, there is a certain allure during the snowy winter. Nearby lakes become ice skating rinks and downtown Bar Harbor is the perfect place to take a winter wonderland stroll.
- Walk ScoreⓇ: 75
- Median Home Sale Price: $435,000
8. If you love the Great Smoky Mountains, consider Knoxville, TN
Want to check out America’s most visited national park? Great Smoky Mountain National Park sees 12.5+ million visitors per year because of its diverse amount of activities, breathtaking views, and scenic drives. For starters, take a drive up Cades Cove Loop to check out field views, looming trees, and restored buildings including a church, barns, and a windmill. For thrill-seekers, go whitewater rafting down the Pigeon River which boasts several class III and class IV rapids. If you want to take some time to explore yourself, visit Rainbow Falls for a stunning waterfall surrounded by greenery.
Located about one hour from Great Smoky Mountain, Knoxville, Tennessee offers a suburban feel in a college town environment. Knoxville is a great place for families due to the many parks, museums, restaurants, and access to outdoor activities. For those who love sports, the University of Tennessee – Knoxville offers access to a great college sports program.
- Walk ScoreⓇ: 31
- Median Home Sale Price: $249,900
9. Looking to airboat the Everglades? Consider Miami, FL
The Everglades is an unparalleled landscape known as a biosphere reserve, wildlife habitat, and world heritage site all in one. There are many activities to embark on in the Everglades, but perhaps the most popular is taking an airboat tour through the wetlands. Make sure you don’t fall in or you might find yourself in alligator-infested waters. Once you’re done, hop on a bike and explore the Lone Pine Key Trail. If you are willing to get down and dirty, try slough slogging to really immerse yourself in the environment. If you want to stay for the weekend, consider camping in the Everglades at one of two drive-in campgrounds.
If the sun, sand, and beaches are calling you home, Miami, Florida is the city to live in. With a vibrant nightlife and rich Latin American influence, the city is nothing short of a good time. If you want to check out some artwork, visit the Wynwood Walls for a colorful adventure. Maybe checking out wildlife is your thing – if so, grab a pair of snorkels and head to nearby Keywest. For the inner foodie in you, head over to Wynwood and do a food and beer crawl at local breweries like J Wakefield Brewing and Veza Sur Brewing.
- Walk ScoreⓇ: 78
- Median Home Sale Price: $360,000
10. Want to go stargazing at Joshua Tree? Look into Palm Desert, CA
No, we aren’t talking about the U2 album. Joshua Tree National Park, located in Southern California, boasts the beautiful Mojave and Colorado deserts filled with jagged rock formations and unique trees. One of the park’s most popular activities is rock climbing and bouldering – with an immense selection of over 8,000 climbing routes and 2,000 bouldering problems of slab, traditional, and steep face climbing. For those who want to spend the night, there are over 500 campgrounds to choose from where you can get a clear view of a sky full of stars.
About an hour from Joshua Tree, Palm Desert, California is an oasis that you may just call your next home. There are many activities to try, but the greatest thing is how many attractions come to the city yearly. If you love music and want to see leading artists, Coachella Festival and Stage Coach are regarded as some of the premier music festivals in the world. Maybe tennis is your favorite sport? The BNP Paribas Open brings the world’s greatest tennis players to Indian Wells. Within Palm Desert, there are a wide variety of restaurants, coffee shops, golf courses, and shops. However, the most alluring aspect of the city has to be the sunny weather year-round.
- Walk ScoreⓇ: 27
- Median Home Sale Price: $406,000
11. To get aerial views of Haleakalā, check out a city on Maui, HI
A dormant shield volcano, Haleakalā, translated to ‘House of the Sun’, is a US national park that blends outdoor beauty with Hawaiian cultural history. Legend states that the demigod Maui guided the sun across the sky as he stood on the summit to make the day go by longer. The park runs the volcano’s rim all the way to the Pacific Ocean shoreline. It is home to many endangered species such as the po’ouli bird and the Maui parrotbill. Popular activities include watching the Haleakalā sunrise, biking, taking a helicopter tour, or going stargazing.
You might know the island of Maui, Hawaii as a tourist destination, but it’s also a great place to call home. The culture is laid back and you are sure to encounter friendly neighbors. While Maui is technically not a city, there are many cities on the island to consider. Whether you live in Lahaina, Wailea, and Kihei the weather is sunny most of the year. Living on Maui means access to world-class beaches, beautiful hiking, and delicious Hawaiian cuisine.
- Walk ScoreⓇ: 28
- Median Home Sale Price: $744,000
12. For a town near Crater Lake, check out Bend, OR
Oregon’s only US national park, Crater Lake, was formed by the mighty eruption of Mount Mazama. Now it is known as the deepest lake in the United States and the place to go for pristine water and mountain range views. When visiting, you’ll love going on a bike ride along the 33 mile Rim Drive wherein you’ll get unparalleled views of the water. While fish might not have been native to Crater Lake, it has been stocked with seven different species for you to catch in nearby streams. Summer is not the only month you can explore the park, for camping enthusiasts, pitch a tent in one of the many campgrounds during the winter.
Bend, Oregon brings together the best of small-town and big city living. About two hours from Crater lake, the city offers four-seasons which makes living there enjoyable. If you enjoy brewery hopping, Bend is the place for you as it is known for its world-class microbrewery scene being home to Bend Brewing Co., Deschutes Brewery, and others. While walking downtown, you can easily visit the Deschutes River as it flows straight through the city. Bend is a family-friendly city with great schools and an abundance of parks, but it also is an outdoor playground with access to Mount Bachelor in the winter and many nearby hiking trails.
- Walk ScoreⓇ: 33
- Median Home Sale Price: $549,000
13. Want to summit Denali? Consider Fairbanks, AK
Formerly known as Mount McKinley National Park, Denali National Park is one of Alaska’s most visited places and is known for its incredible wildlife, backpacking, and mountaineering. If you love animals, make sure to bring your binoculars to view the over 160 species of birds and 39 mammals. For those wanting to take in an aerial view, you can take a flight to see the mountain up close. Some planes can even park on top of glaciers. Maybe it’s your dream to summit a mountain? While this takes effort and practice, you can climb up 18,000 ft. to the summit of Denali.
The third-largest metropolitan area of Alaska, Fairbanks is around two hours from Denali and boasts a small community feel. If you don’t mind winters, Fairbanks is a delightful place to settle down and possibly call your next home. The University of Alaska is in the city with a renowned land, sea, and space grant program. Downtown Fairbanks blends the old and the new with lots of restaurants, museums, shops, and a cultural visitors center. Perhaps the greatest aspect about living in Fairbanks is it is one of the top places to see the Northern Lights. This is definitely a bucket list item you will want to cross off.
- Walk ScoreⓇ: 33
- Median Home Sale Price: $250,000
14. If you want to go on a nature drive in Shenandoah, check out Richmond, VA
The most beautiful fall colors live in Shenandoah. Encompassing the Blue Ridge Mountains and around 200,000 acres of protected land, this US national park welcomes wildlife species and humans of all kinds. But be careful on the trails, there is a chance you could encounter a black bear. Popular activities include hiking the Old Rag Mountain Loop, going fishing at one of the park’s 70 mountain streams, taking a guided horseback riding tour, whitewater rafting the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, and passing beautiful trees while driving around Skyline Drive.
About 1.5 hours from Shenandoah, Richmond, Virginia is a great town worth considering for people who are looking for a simple, suburban feel and a place to raise a family. If you are into art, there is a thriving art scene with dozens of colorful murals and unique art pieces scattered throughout the city. If you want access to nature, there are many parks that border the James River. The city has quick access to travel with an international airport nearby. Some neighborhoods to check out include Church Hill, Rocketts Landing, and Carytown.
- Walk ScoreⓇ: 52
- Median Home Sale Price: $274,850
15. Itching to explore Zion? Check out Las Vegas, NV
Utah’s first national park, Zion is a beautiful US national park filled with Navajo Sandstone. Zion is an explorer’s dream. For those who aren’t afraid of heights, hike Angel’s Landing for a spectacular view of the canyon. But make sure you don’t look down. If you want to stay closer to the ground, the Narrows is another option that takes you through Zion’s slot canyon. Another fun activity is going canyoneering. Make sure you have a permit so you can repel and explore less-trafficked territory. If canyoneering is too intense for you, opt to climb one of the huge 2,000-foot cliffs. If you don’t want to walk, horses, mules, burrows, or even a jeep or ATV tour are good options to get around.
You might know Las Vegas, Nevada for its vibrant nightlife, highrise hotel-casinos, and showstopping entertainment, but there are many other unique aspects about living in the city. The largest city in Nevada, Las Vegas is an ideal place to live due to its no state income tax, warm weather year-round, and access to outdoors like Red Rocks Canyon National Conservation Area. For the sports fans out there, the city just acquired a football franchise in the Las Vegas Raiders as well as has the Las Vegas Aces and Vegas Golden Knights. If you want to do a permanent staycation, consider moving to Las Vegas.
- Walk ScoreⓇ: 41
- Median Home Sale Price: $314,900
When visiting national parks, please consider practicing Leave No Trace principles in order to mitigate the impact on surrounding areas and the environment.
*Walk ScoreⓇ and median home sale prices as of January 2021