Towns and cities of the Rocky Mountain West consistently top lists for "Livability". By livability, I mean good weather, good views, a decent job market, proximity to public lands, affordable homes, and sparse traffic.
We've been residents of six western states over the past three decades (10 different towns). We have traveled extensively in the region for work and play, including many extended stays. As a result, we have refined our opinion of Western geography. Places like Portland, Seattle, Eugene, Logan, Jackson, and Bozeman routinely top annual Best Places to Live lists published by outdoorsy magazines. None of these spots made our list for this reason: More often than not we found them annoying and kind of scuzzy. On the other hand, places like Boise, Sandpoint, Edison, and Billings did make our list because after each visit we left feeling pleasantly surprised, curious, and eager to return.
Admittedly, its unlikely that you'll soon be buying a home in Picabo, Canmore, or Livingston, but White Salmon, the towns of the Kitsap Peninsula, and the Flathead Valley are too beautiful and too close to major cities to remain sleepy much longer.
Our Squiggle of Livability Map highlights some truly great places to live in the West. If you haven't heard about some of these places shown here, believe me, you will in the future. Most of our top choices are small towns, but not all. Boise's North End neighborhood is an awesome place to build a life (we were home owners there for 5 years). In making this map, we didn't prioritize nightlife, tech jobs, or trendy shopping districts. We figure if you want to live in the Pearl, you already do. We prefer rural landscapes poised on the brink of change.