Colorado, Utah, and the Pacific Northwest have typically always been a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, and their home-buying habits prove it. However, since the rest of the country caught wind of their national parks and abundance of hiking and biking trails, cities like Denver and Portland, Oregon, have seen an influx of new residents, and, as the story usually goes, price inflations. These coveted metro areas aren’t as affordable as they were before the pandemic, so home buyers with a tight budget and an adventurous spirit will need to start looking elsewhere. Luckily, Realtor.com has the answers. In a recent report, its data team noted that those looking to make the most of their work-from-home flexibility are flocking toward the Great Lakes—nine of the 10 most affordable cities for nature lovers are in the general vicinity of those bodies of water. 

With a median home price of $165,000, Urbana, Illinois, tops the list of places that offer budget-friendly properties and a surplus of activities. Not only is the city a part of Tree City USA, which means it meets the organization’s standards of sound urban forestry management, it also lives up to Realtor.com’s requirements for being a four-hour drive from a national park and having an abundance of outdoors-related businesses per household. Madison, Wisconsin, which its residents lovingly refer to as the “unofficial bike capital of the United States,” and Iowa City, Iowa, which has more than 1,800 acres of riverside trails, are ranked numbers two and three, respectively. Here’s a look at the top towns where outdoor lovers should consider putting down roots, and the median home price in each. 

  1. Urbana, Illinois ($165,000)
  2. Madison, Wisconsin ($410,000)
  3. Iowa City, Iowa ($320,000)
  4. Bloomington, Indiana ($375,000)
  5. El Paso, Texas ($280,000)

So whether you’re looking to maximize your lunchtime biking miles or weekend camping trips, these five cities are sure to encourage any new homeowner to look beyond their own four walls.


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