Mild weather, plentiful sunshine, and a diversity of outdoor adventure opportunities are just a few of the reasons desert cities and towns are attracting attention. In recent years, the popularity of desert towns in the US has grown significantly. If you’re looking to relocate, the abundance of great choices can make it hard to know where to begin your research! In this post, we present a list of our favorite desert towns and why we love them.
Why People Are Moving to the Desert
Desert cities and towns are attractive for many reasons. From retirees looking for milder weather to young, hardcore desert rats who crave adventure, a variety of people find that living in the desert has many perks. Here are four big benefits of calling a desert town home.
Although some desert areas can certainly get chilly to downright cold, most have wintertime highs that those living in colder areas like the northeast would envy. Mild weather means more time outdoors to pursue activities like hiking, backpacking, trail running, and mountain biking.
Nearly all true deserts receive abundant sunshine. People who live in desert towns and cities have no excuse for not getting ample doses of vitamin D. For people moving from cloudier areas like the Pacific Northwest, being able to see the sun nearly every day is a major selling point.
Deserts are dry places, and that means high-humidity days are a rarity. For people with certain respiratory conditions, or those who simply don’t like the feeling of living in a greenhouse, the arid desert climate is a welcome change.
Ample recreational opportunities
Deserts offer an abundance of opportunities to get outside and explore. Many desert towns and cities have hiking and mountain biking trails just outside (and often inside) the city limits. Incredible national parks, including Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, and Joshua Tree are within an easy drive of many of our top picks below.
Things To Know Before You Make the Move
For people who’ve never lived in a desert town before, there are a few things that may take a bit of getting used to. First of all, desert towns don’t generally permit irrigated lawns. In exchange, you’ll gain a living space outside your home filled with amazing desert-dwelling fauna. Xeriscaping, or landscaping with water conservation in mind, is a great way to embrace the beauty of the place you’re in instead of trying to replicate a look that doesn’t belong there.
Desert cities also have different critters than you may be used to seeing. Scorpions and rattlesnakes, for example, like to live in desert towns as much as we do. In general, they’re happy to coexist peacefully alongside you, provided you pay attention to their whereabouts. Watching where you step and shaking out your shoes before you put them on will help you avoid upsetting your new neighbors!
13 Top Desert Towns in the US
With portions of four true deserts falling within our borders, the US is well-supplied with desert cities and towns to choose from. Here are seven of our favorites, organized by state.
California Desert Towns
Joshua Tree is just 14 miles from Twentynine Palms.
- Population: 26,740
- Average home price: $280,000
What makes it special: Twentynine Palms offers small-town living at its finest. This desert town is a quick drive to Joshua Tree National Park with endless miles of on- and off-trail hiking and backpacking opportunities. The epic Sheephole Valley Wilderness offers backcountry hiking for experienced desert trekkers.
Needles, CA. Photo credit @Scutne.
- Population: 4,959
- Average home price: $189,000
What makes it special: Right on the border with Arizona, Needles is a remote outpost located right in the heart of the Mojave Desert. With easy access to the Mojave Desert National Preserve, desert lovers of all kinds are sure to find trails to fuel their passion for desert exploration.
While exploring the area be sure to check out these top Southern California desert hikes.
Nevada Desert Towns
- Population: 644,594
- Average home price: $447,000
What makes it special: Sin City is much more than just casinos and outlet shopping. Las Vegas offers access to some great desert hiking at the nearby Valley of Fire State Park and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It’s also just a hair over 2.5 hours from Zion National Park, which is just across the border in Utah.
Austin, NV. Photo credit Adam Smith.
- Population: 101
- Average home price: $141,000
What makes it special: Though it’s by far the smallest desert town to make our list, Austin's potential for big adventure and recreational opportunities more than make up for its tiny footprint. Spend your days exploring in the three nearby designated wilderness areas crisscrossed with trails that treat you to some of the finest desert scenery in Nevada.
Arizona Desert Towns
- Population: 1,658,000
- Average home price: $434,000
What makes it special: Phoenix is definitely more city than town, making it an ideal place if nightlife means more to you than sitting around a campfire staring up at the stars. Its larger size makes it ideal for those who want outdoor adventures without having to sacrifice easy access to things like big box shopping, professional sports, and stadium concerts. Places like the nearby Sonoran Desert Preserve make it easy to feel like you’re much farther away from civilization than you really are.
- Population: 10,341
- Average home price: $946,000
What makes it special: No list of top desert towns would be complete without Sedona. Surrounded by the Coconino National Forest, this town has more named trails than most people could hike in a lifetime. Towering, multi-colored sandstone formations, slot canyons, and long desert vistas are what earns this town such high marks as a home base for top-notch desert adventuring.
Check out: 36hrs in Sedona, AZ: 20 Best Things to Do
New Mexico Desert Towns
Taos, NM. Used with permission.
- Population: 5,950
- Average home price: $392,000
What makes it special: Taos is a true treasure. Its main historic square is laid out in the original Spanish style and lined with neat shops and places to sample top-notch local cuisine. Located right outside of the modern town is Taos Pueblo. This Native American village holds the title as the longest continuously inhabited pueblo in the US. Surrounded by Carson National Forest, Taos puts mile upon mile of gorgeous hiking trails within easy reach.
- Population: 9,530
- Average home price: $209,000
What makes it special: Silver City’s vibrant mining past is on full display in its adorable main street district. Tucked into the southwest corner of the state, this town boasts easy access to a range of trails that crisscross the high mountains and drop into some of the region’s finest thermal hot springs.
Utah Desert Towns
Kanab, UT. Photo credit Taylor Slevin.
- Population: 4,767
- Average home price: $381,000
What makes it special: Kanab is a small desert town with big hiking potential. Its location one hour from Vermillion Cliffs National Monument and two hours from Zion National Park provides lots of options for epic weekend getaways. There are also many trails that wind through smaller preserved spaces closer to town.
- Population: 87,176
- Average home price: $561,000
What makes it special: An hour’s drive from Zion National Park, St. George provides ample big-town services while putting one of the country’s best national parks within easy reach. Snow Canyon State Park is less than 15 minutes outside of town, offering plenty of opportunities for early morning or evening desert treks closer to home.
- Population: 5,303
- Average home price: $515,893
What makes it special: Perfectly placed between the Colorado River and the La Sal Mountains, Moab is nestled in a valley in the heart of the Colorado Plateau. With two iconic national parks (Arches and Canyonland), state parks, and miles of wild, rugged BLM land, Moab is a mecca of outdoor adventure for climbers, bikers, hikers, and off-roaders. This is the perfect town for anyone seeking the magic and solitude of the desert.
Check out: 36hrs in Moab: 18 Must Do Experiences
Colorado Desert Towns
- Population: 62,218
- Average home price: $384,000
What makes it special: Grand Junction is a historic town right on the border between Colorado and Utah. Its historic main street is lined with shops and restaurants. Colorado National Monument borders the town, providing miles of trails that go deep into some stunning red rock scenery. And if that’s not enough to get you excited, you can also get to Canyonlands and Arches National Park in under two hours’ drive.
- Population: 8,729
- Average home price: $289,000
What makes it special: An easy 30-minute drive from Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez offers some stunning desert hiking opportunities while putting the forested peaks found around Durango less than an hour away. With so much diversity close by, Cortez is one of our favorite desert towns.
Deserts Town or Bust?
Whether you’re intent on putting down roots in the desert or just adventuring there anytime you get the chance, being prepared for the challenges of hiking in arid places ensures you get the most out of each experience. At Erem, deserts are our first love. These starkly beautiful places provide tranquil solitude and a sense of stillness and peace. We design and manufacture desert hiking boots to handle the extremes, so you can spend your time enjoying what you came for — not focusing on sore, sweaty feet.
Note: Population data pulled from Google Census Data. Average home price pulled from Zillow.