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