Riding above Butte, Montana. Photo: Bob Allen.

If you’ve ever gotten a wild hair after reading one of our best mountain bike destinations in the United States lists and thought to yourself, “I’m going to pick up and move to Park City!” (for instance), chances are, reality set in real quick when you started looking at the price of homes there. While Park City is the first Gold-Level IMBA Ride Center in the world, the cost of homes currently for sale is also gold-level: a median price of $1.48 million.

While we’ve published articles about the best cities for mountain biking, which theoretically would have both lower costs of living and better job prospects, theory doesn’t always play out the way you’d think it would. With rising costs of living here in Colorado becoming a daily topic of conversation, I decided to find the best mountain bike towns with the lowest cost of living in the United States.

I quickly learned this project wouldn’t be as easy as it first sounded.

The Process

To begin, we had to create a definition of what it means to be a “mountain bike town.” We settled on these criteria:

  • 100 or more miles of bike-legal singletrack within 25 miles of downtown.
  • At least one real bike shop,
  • The population must be relatively town-like–an admittedly nebulous term.

Next, drawing on a bevy of Singletracks travel articles and input from both our editorial team and over a thousand comments on social media, I compiled a list of some 155 towns in the United States that I thought might meet the requirements above.

Once I had my list, I pulled cost of living (COL) numbers for each and every town. The problem is, no one single number accurately defines cost of living, so I pulled at least two numbers for each town. I relied most heavily on the cost of living index listed on BestPlaces.com, which incorporates all sorts of factors related to cost of living into one number. For reference, the national average is 100. You’ll note that all of the selections on this list come in below the national average, which I think is pretty impressive.

The second number I pulled for each town is the median home value as listed on Zillow.com. Of course, median home value doesn’t present the entire picture, either, as the median list price and median sale price of homes could be higher or lower than the median valuation of existing homes. In the text description for each town, I will attempt to analyze as many related home price numbers as possible.

Finally, after collecting all the data, we still applied our editorial oversight to this list, in an attempt to present not only towns that just so happen to have a low cost of living and a lot of singletrack, but that are truly rad mountain bike towns. To balance this editorial selection process, I’ve also included 10 additional towns in an “honorable mentions” section at the end of this article. That section includes some towns that either barely missed the data requirements, were ruled out for some other reason, or are just slightly more expensive than the 10 towns that made the primary list.

If you want to move to a mountain bike town and you don’t want to bankrupt yourself in the process, here are the 10 best mountain bike towns in the United States with the lowest cost of living, ordered by median home price from low to high.

Top 10 Mountain Bike Towns in the US with the Lowest Cost of Living

1. Anniston, Alabama

  • COL Index: 81.8
  • Median Home Price: $96,600, according to Best Places
  • Population: 22,000
  • Miles of Singletrack: 120

Coldwater Mountain. Rider: Aaron Chamberlain

The 35 miles of purpose-built singletrack at Coldwater Mountain–rideable from downtown Anniston–comprise the crown jewel of mountain biking in the Anniston area. According to Tom Nelson, President of the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association (NEABA), the Coldwater Mountain trail system is designated a Bronze-Level IMBA Ride Center. But the club isn’t satisfied with just 35 miles of trail: “The McClellan Development Authority recently designated $600,000 towards the construction of additional mountain bike trails,” according to Tom.

Photo: Aaron Chamberlain

Technically, 35 miles rideable from downtown doesn’t qualify Anniston for this list but according to Tom, there’s 120 miles of bike-legal singletrack within 25 miles of downtown Anniston, which includes Cheaha Mountain, Iron Legs, Henry Farm, Coleman Lake, and Kentucky ORV. And of course, the further out you push that radius, the more trails you can access.

Downtown Anniston in 2012. Photo: Rivers Langley, via Wikimedia Creative Commons

Alright, Anniston has the mountain biking chops, but perhaps the most impressive numbers are the cost of living stats. The COL index is just 81.80–the second lowest number on our list by just 0.40 points–but the home prices are even more impressive. While it’s more difficult to get median home price statistics for smaller towns, Best Places lists the median home price as $96,600. Compare that to the median price of homes currently listed for sale in Anniston, according to Zillow: $98,800, very close to the median home price. As we’ll see, this is definitely not the case for many towns on this list. Add one more number into the mix, and the picture looks even more attractive. According to Realtor.com, the actual median closing price is even lower–just $70,000. Consider yourself in on the secret of the affordable mountain biking gem that is Anniston, Alabama.

# Comments

  • rajflyboy

    Great write up

    Also look at crime maps for some of the areas you picked. There could be a reason why housing costs are low.

    Anniston, AL has a high crime rate compared to the state of Alabama crime rate.

    Alabama is a great spot and 365 day a year riding weather. This is someplace I would want to live. I would just have to find a safe neighborhood on the east side of Birmingham.

  • Amsterdam60

    To truely be a great mountain bike town to pack up and move to, Greg should have included factors such as, how often one can ride based on weather patterns and seasons as well as the tolerance to ride as often as possible, again due to weather conditions, being temperature and humidity levels and very important the concentration of nuisances during riding such as bugs and how well maintained the trails are, if they are at all. As far as the trails in an area, the type, style and ratings and evaluation of the trails should have been done, not just the estimated mileage of trails, which is all Greg used to determine his list. At this point, I could reduce Greg’s list down to just a few. Greg also failed to include any level of consideration of other factors such as any amenities these towns offer outside of mt biking including any level of a jobs base or availibility of supplies and just as important, hang out establishments such as breweries, access to education sources, entertainment and ratio of men to women. I myself know of much better places, including the town I live in and find Greg’s report mediocre at best. One needs to combine all their own criteria and research to this type of consideration and not use a report like this. Zillow isn’t even an accurate tool to use for overall evaluation of area home prices and there are numerous other tools and resources and criteria to use for home buying consideration such as to start with, what sort of home does one get for the median price range found from zillow and what is the surrounding neighborhood like, what are the taxes like in the town or area, crime rate statistics, etc, etc. Greg’s report is a very weak pathetic approach to generalize this process and the real objective appears to be to just push out another article to keep the next issue of singletracks going! Lastly, I highly doubt that the mileage of singletrack trails actually exists in the areas of Greg’s report and if he bothered to confirm any of information in his report by riding the trails there, looking at real estate there, or being there long enough to really assess the cost of living index! This entire report can and probably was written from a desk, not a mt bike, simply by accessing information from other web sites!

    • Jeff Barber

      Fair enough. There are certainly a lot of factors to consider. This is a pretty lengthy analysis though, and clearly we had to cut it off somewhere.

      FYI, Greg and our staff have visited and ridden in most, if not all of these locations. Still, no analysis is perfect so we’d love to see what else you’re able to come up with!

      Also, be sure to catch our podcast on April 2 where Greg and I go into even more detail on this list, and share information we weren’t able to include in the final article.

  • TobyThomas

    Cool article. I love to see all of the great places to ride. I have ridden in 27 of the 50 states and found something great and unique about each one. While I did check out the MTB scene prior to moving, I recently moved to Florida from Ohio and was seriously surprised at the great trails down here. Ocala is a cool area because of Santos but if you are coming to the Ocala area and plan to ride, be sure to look around the other areas within an hour south of Ocala……great trails. And don’t forget to use your SingleTracks app for other places in Florida. While mostly flat, you will be pleasantly surprised (said the guy from Ohio) at the challenges that Floridians have managed to create.

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