4 Great Places to Retire: For the nature lover -- mountain towns

June 1, 2011: 5:00 AM ET

St. George, Utah

Population: 72,897

Median home price: $155,000, down 56% from the market peak

Every October thousands of athletes over age 50 descend upon St. George for the Huntsman World Senior Games, where these "mature" sportsmen and -women compete in everything from archery to the triathlon. Some of them must fall prey to its charms, because this mountain community -- which cedes the spotlight to the better-known ski town of Park City across the state -- has become home to a large and very active retirement population.

For those drawn by the outdoors, St. George is exactly where you'd place it if you had the choice: a mere 10 miles from Snow Canyon State Park, 45 minutes from Zion National Park, and three hours from the north rim of the Grand Canyon. St. George's own backyard offers hiking and camping options at every turn, and nearby Brainhead has great skiing. The county also has 35 miles of paved bike trails (below), many of which connect the city to surrounding communities. Plus, St. George is surrounded by trails for all levels of mountain bikers. For those inclined toward more traditional retirement activities, the town won't disappoint: It has no fewer than 10 public golf courses.

St. George was once a snowbird destination, which makes sense given its hot summers. The climate here is similar to that of neighboring Arizona -- well over 100 in the summer and highs only in the 50s in the winter. Yet with so much to do now, more people are staying year-round.

Home prices in St. George went through the roof during the housing boom, at one point rocketing up more than 40% in a year. Now that they've fallen back to earth, there are bargains to be had, particularly at the high end of the market, says Vardell Curtis of the Washington County board of realtors. Homes at the lower end are starting to stabilize, but those over $750,000 have been sitting on the market for a long time. "That market is still pretty volatile," he says.

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Whitefish, Mont. A skier's paradise nestled between two resorts -- and the fly-fishing in the summer is not bad either. Celebrities have discovered it, so you may have to look hard for bargains.

Maggie Valley, N.C. Bordering the Smoky Mountains, this little-known gem is a great base for rafting, hiking, cycling, and even some Southeastern skiing.

4 GREAT PLACE TO RETIRE
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