Retirement Top 5 Places to Retire for Outdoor Recreation

From Wyoming with Yellowstone to Arizona with the Grand Canyon, here are the best U.S. states to keep the adventure alive in your golden years.

By Katie Perry Illustration by Kiersten Essenpreis
PUBLISHED 12/02/2022 | 6 MINUTES

You’re over 65 and looking to retire soon. You’re active, strong and healthy. You never stop craving adventure.

You’re happy hiking on a rugged trail, clipping into your road bike, skiing majestic mountains, paddling a kayak on a serene lake or hoisting sails on a breezy bay. 

If this sounds like you, here are our top five places to retire for outdoor recreation that will cost you $2,500 a month or less—based on cost of living, tax-friendliness, community and, of course, fun activities to do in the wild.


Average Monthly Cost of Living: $1,468

Median Home Cost: $249,000 to $385,000

Percentage of Population 65 and Older: 17.8%

Home to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks—and boasting a variety of mountains, lakes and scenic byways—the Cowboy State is a great spot to retire for anyone looking to lead an active lifestyle while saving money. In Sheridan, explore 13 miles of paved paths and stop along the way at parks, restaurants, shops and other amenities in the historic downtown. Discover hundreds of different bird species at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, enjoy a relaxing dip in Saratoga’s historic Hobo Pool or hike, camp, fish and go horseback riding in Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area

Real estate, retirement and tax experts highlight the state’s well-funded health care, low property taxes and no income taxes. The number of retirees in Wyoming is rising, and as of 2021, nearly 18% of the state’s population was over 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Additionally, real estate is relatively inexpensive: According to data from, the median home cost in popular cities (like Cheyenne, Sheridan, Rock Springs and Jackson) ranges from $249,000 to $385,000—rent for a one-bedroom, however, is only about $706.


Average Monthly Cost of Living: $1,010

Median Home Cost: $470,500

Percentage of Population 65 and Older: 18%

For dry weather, stunning scenery and state tax advantages, Arizona is an excellent choice for retirees. As an outdoors lover, you may already be familiar with the plethora of adventures this Southwestern state has to offer—like hiking in the Grand Canyon and viewing wildlife in Sedona’s Red Rock State Park. You can also purchase a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands lifetime Senior Pass for just $80 for access to hundreds of parks and public lands nationwide, or enjoy many other unique outdoor experiences for free. 

Near Hoover Dam, you can trek to Arizona Hot Springs and relax in the warm waters. On Navajo land near Leupp, you can view the raging Grand Falls, a seasonal waterfall carrying tens of thousands of gallons of dark-brown water. In Northern Arizona, descend down the White House Ruin Trail to see Canyon de Chelly, known for its cultural heritage. Take a short climb to Devil’s Bridge for a breathtaking vista in Sedona, explore Lava River Cave outside of Flagstaff or hike, boat and picnic at Woods Canyon Lake.

Arizona was one of the states with the highest number of incoming residents in 2020, with nearly 40% moving there for retirement. But that shouldn’t be too surprising, as the nation’s first active adult retirement community was started there in Youngtown in 1954. Retirees find Arizona’s lack of taxes on Social Security benefits and estate and inheritance income to be quite alluring. The state also has reasonably priced (though slightly higher than the national average) housing, with the median home cost cited at $470,500 and average rent for a two-bedroom apartment at $1,295. Property taxes are comparatively low and homeowners insurance is relatively inexpensive. Health perks include a climate that combats arthritis symptoms and the expansion of the Mayo Clinic’s Phoenix location, frequently regarded as one of the best hospitals in the nation. 

South Dakota

Average Monthly Cost of Living: $1,655

Median Home Cost: $239,500

Percentage of Population 65 and Older: 17.5%

South Dakota is a great place to retire if you appreciate four seasons, picturesque views, endless recreation, neighborhood charm and an easygoing lifestyle. Get lost in the 1.2 million acres of the Black Hills, which houses Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave and Custer State Park; enjoy boating and fishing along the Missouri River, the longest river in the United States; and visit the Glacial Lakes and Prairies for walleye fishing, bird watching or vineyard tours. 

In addition to the natural wonders and friendly communities, retiring in South Dakota has several advantages, including a cheaper cost of living, tax-friendliness and top-notch health care. All retirement income, including Social Security benefits, are tax-free, and there is no state income tax. The state also has comparatively little sales tax. 


Average Monthly Cost of Living: $850

Median Home Cost: $170,800

Percentage of Population 65 and Older: 17%

Better known for its country tunes and Southern grub, Tennessee also welcomes older outdoorsy folks with its tranquil countryside, warm weather and scenic wonders. And guess what? The most popular park in the state, the Great Smoky Mountains, doesn’t charge an entrance fee. Hike through the diverse flora and fauna, take in sensational sights at Clingmans Dome, indulge in your favorite water activity at the park’s numerous lakes and reservoirs (like Douglas Lake) or trek to dozens of waterfalls, including the tallest underground waterfall in the United States

Tennessee is a popular option for retirees looking to settle down due to its high standard of living and low cost of living, which is 10.3% below the national average. There are no state income taxes, property taxes or prescription medication sales taxes. Housing, groceries and health care costs are also typically lower than the national average. 


Average Monthly Cost of Living: $1,821

Median Home Cost: $304,500

Percentage of Population 65 and Older: 20.1%

While Delaware is a small state, it’s packed with outdoor activities and natural areas. Find your favorite route by exploring tens of thousands of acres of parks and wildlife refuges, like Brandywine Creek State Park (known for its meadowlands), Alapocas Run State Park (great for biking and hiking along the Northern Delaware Greenway Trail), Delaware Seashore State Park or Rehoboth Beach (for ocean-lovers), and White Clay Creek State Park (with 37 miles of trails). 

Delaware is known as a tax haven for businesses, and it’s tax-friendly for retirees, too! There are income tax exclusions and deductions for seniors, no Social Security benefits taxes and no state or local sales tax. It also has some of the country’s lowest property and gas taxes. 

Millie content is licensed from Dotdash Meredith, publisher of Millie, Real Simple, InStyle, Investopedia, The Balance and more.

Katie Perry is a travel blogger based in Philadelphia. She has spent more than 10 years abroad and has lived long-term in Portugal, Brazil, Peru and Costa Rica.


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