Finding the best place to live in Colorado isn't easy because there are so many choices.
Is it the fact that the Rocky Mountain State holds 75% of the land area of the U.S. with an altitude of more than 10,000 feet, or the fact that it has 222 protected wildlife areas?
Is it the fact that Colorado is known as the best craft brewing state in the nation, as it has more microbreweries than any other state, or the fact that the song "America the Beautiful" was inspired by Pike's Peak, one of the most fabled mountains in the U.S.?
Let's face it; there are myriad reasons to choose Colorado as your home state - fresh air, scenic vistas, great cities and towns, and a healthy business climate to name a few.
If you're mulling over a Rocky Mountain-high experience, focus on these best places to live in Colorado:
Let's start with the Mile-High City - Denver. The state capital was born as a legitimate gold rush town back in the 1800's and has never stopped delivering the goods for residents. U.S. news calls Denver the best city to live not just in Colorado, but in the entire U.S. At 5,280 feet above sea level, Denver is indeed a "mile high" - but it also gets 300 days of sunshine per year.
Median Income: $72,000
Home to the University of Colorado and its famous buffalo mascot seen at each U-Col. football home games, Boulder is a great place to live. It's the gateway to the Rocky Mountains, it sits at the merger of the great plains and the foothills of America's most famous mountain range. As a premier college town, Boulder has a vibrant youthful community (31% of the population is between 18 and 24), with diverse restaurants and shops. It also boasts 30 art galleries and is the home of the Colorado Music Festival and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.
Median income: $57,000
Located just outside of Boulder, Louisville is a small city (with approximately 20,000 residents) and a safe and solid Colorado outpost. It offers a low crime rate, low unemployment, and is a relatively easy 18-mile commute for Denver professionals. That makes Louisville an especially attractive place to live for families, and is known as one of the best walking cities in the U.S. It also offers great schools and a low cost of living, especially relative to Denver.
Median income: $94,000
Colorado's second-largest city, Colorado Springs, offers an alpine desert climate with 300 days of sunshine, and 156 state, county and city parks. It's home to both the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Olympic Team Training Center. Pikes Peak, in all its glory, is right next door.
Median income: $54,000
With low crime and high-employment, Castle Rock is ensconced in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Founded as a gold rush city in 1874, Castle Rock has a vibrant arts and dining culture, and is a shopping mecca, as well. The city is home to the Promenade, a 166-acre community development center with retail stores, restaurants and parks. Adjacent to the center is the Outlets at Castle Rock, the largest outdoor shopping center in the state.
Median income: $93,000
One of the great "green space" cities in the state, if not the country, Aurora offers 6,000 acres of public greenery within the city limits, and boasts one of the cleanest "fresh air" indexes in the state. For music lovers, the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater is nearby (besides catching great rock & roll and country acts, you can even get married at Red Rocks, while you're at it.)
Median income: $55,000
One of the safest places to live in Colorado, Parker is located 20 miles southeast of Denver and has a manageable population of about 52,000 residents. The city has low unemployment (Parker has over 1,600 businesses within the city limits) and a rich history. The city was once a "stagecoach" town and was a key stop between the well-traveled route between Fort Riley, Kansas and Denver. With plenty of jobs and fresh air, Parker is a destination point for white-collar professionals.
Median income: $102,000
If you've got the money, you can't go wrong with Vail. It's home to great Rocky Mountain vistas and boasts some of the greatest ski resorts in the word. Located near the White River National Forest, Vail is not just a high-profile, skiing tourism destination, it also has some of the best weather in the country, and is known for its great hiking, biking and fishing. Vail, as one might expect, has great restaurants and a vibrant music scene. In Vail, the deal is this - if you've got the dollars, Vail's got the time.
Median income: $73,000
Home to Colorado State University, one of the most beautiful college campuses in the U.S., Fort Collins is a millennial's dream. Located by the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and right on the Cache La Poudre River, the city has an extremely low unemployment rate of 3.1%, so jobs are plentiful. It's a young city - the media age is 29 - as millennials are drawn to Fort Collins for the scenic beauty, the amenities of any great college town, and access to good jobs and affordable homes.
Median income: $66,000
Home to some of the world's finest "champagne powdered" snow, which is a drawing point for skiers around the world, Steamboat Springs offers that unique blend of cowboy town and recreational tourist vista that people love about Colorado. "The Steamboat" has two high-attraction ski resorts, three state parks, and over 150 rivers, lakes, hiking trails and other outdoor focal points for nature lovers.
Median income: $54,000
Founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Company in 1880, Durango is adjacent to the jaw-dropping San Juan Mountains. A two-mile run of the nearby Animus River offers some of the best fly fishing in the world, and the city has a rich variety of shops and restaurants that link to Durango's heritage as a railroad town. In fact, Durango has more public dining options, per capita, than San Francisco.
Median income: $60,000