Best rural counties for retirees in America
The retirement years are meant to be the golden years—a period in life when your time is truly your own to enjoy. For many retirees in the United States, that means finding the perfect location that meets at the intersection of low cost of living with a high quality of life.
By the time people reach 65 years, they've started to consider where they want to live out the best years of their lives. Many factors come into consideration in addition to cost of living: there's health care facilities, weather, outdoor activities, cultural and entertainment opportunities, dining, and much more. While some retirees opt to kick back in a cosmopolitan setting, there are others who are looking to get back to nature, find a bit of space to call their own, and unplug.
Stacker compiled a list of the best rural counties for retirees in America based on Niche's best counties for retirees list from 2020. Rural areas are generally difficult to define. While the Census Bureau considers all areas non-urban to be rural, other government organizations define rural differently. To maintain consistency, in this analysis, counties are considered rural if their population is less than 50,000.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 20% of older Americans live in rural areas, and 17.5% of the rural population in America is 65 years and older. The perks of retiring to a rural community usually include small town charm, historic architecture, local restaurants, farmers markets, state parks, and towns that emphasize community engagement. Retirees have the option to keep to themselves, if they so choose. In fact, 18 of the 100 counties on this list have fewer than 10,000 residents.
Whether it's a region defined by lakes and rivers, nestled in rolling mountains, or paved with historic cobblestone streets, retirees looking to find their slice of happily ever after should look no further than these 100 counties recommended by Niche.
Read on to discover the best 100 counties in each state for retirees.
#100. Gladwin County, Michigan
- Population: 25,289
- Median home value: $104,700 (84% own)
- Median rent: $610 (16% rent)
- Median household income: $43,290
Gladwin County is located in the north-central part of the state of Michigan. The county seat is the town of Gladwin. It was named in 1831, but remained largely unsettled until the 1880s. Today it's a thriving community, rooted in the automotive industry and agriculture. Tourism is big here, as well, especially on its many rivers from the Tittabawassee to the Tobacco and Cedar. The Tittabawassee River State Forest is a popular spot for hiking and hunting.
#99. Colorado County, Texas
- Population: 21,022
- Median home value: $116,300 (82% own)
- Median rent: $702 (18% rent)
- Median household income: $49,504
Named for the Colorado River, Colorado County, Texas is a historic community in Texas' southeast section. The area in which the county sits has actually been inhabited by humans for about 12,000 years. Today it's a great place to retire, thanks to recreational options and the affordable median home value of $116,300, which is lower than the national median ($184,700).
#98. Gilmer County, Georgia
- Population: 29,922
- Median home value: $171,000 (75% own)
- Median rent: $741 (25% rent)
- Median household income: $49,389
North Central Georgia's Gilmer County covers 431 square miles in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. Most of the county is located near the Coosawattee River. The cost of living is less than the national median. The median home value is $171,000, according to Niche. Residents are drawn to the potential for outdoor living, from the temperate climate to the hiking trails within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.
#97. Montague County, Texas
- Population: 19,409
- Median home value: $112,700 (71% own)
- Median rent: $819 (29% rent)
- Median household income: $51,774
Located in north Texas, Montague County was founded in 1857. Today it makes a great spot for retirement thanks to its low cost of living—the median home value is $112,700. The county shares a portion of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Grassland, which is a protected area located in the Great Plains. It's a wonderful spot for camping, fishing, hiking, and hunting.
#96. Attala County, Mississippi
- Population: 18,581
- Median home value: $76,000 (71% own)
- Median rent: $518 (29% rent)
- Median household income: $34,756
Almost smack dab in the center of Mississippi sits Attala County. The rural county is ideal for retirees thanks to its supremely low median home values, as well as its outdoor attractions. The famous and historic Natchez Trace Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in the nation, runs right through the county.
#95. Marshall County, Kentucky
- Population: 31,166
- Median home value: $123,000 (79% own)
- Median rent: $670 (21% rent)
- Median household income: $50,731
One of the main draws to Marshall County, Kentucky is the stunning Kentucky Lake, affectionately referred to as The South's Great Lake. Much of local life revolves around the lake, providing a high quality of living to its residents, from boating and fishing, to nearby hiking, biking, golf, shopping, and nightlife.
#94. Ritchie County, West Virginia
- Population: 9,932
- Median home value: $85,800 (80% own)
- Median rent: $569 (20% rent)
- Median household income: $44,472
Spanning 454 square miles of northwestern West Virginia, Ritchie County is one of the most affordable rural places to retire in America. In addition to a low cost of living, the county is brimming with activities in nature. The North Bend State Park offers a 305-acre lake, fishing streams, hiking trails, and everything from lodges and cabins to campgrounds.
#93. Montour County, Pennsylvania
- Population: 18,294
- Median home value: $181,500 (69% own)
- Median rent: $742 (31% rent)
- Median household income: $57,183
Montour County is the smallest county by area in the state of Pennsylvania. In fact, nearly half of the county is forested. Montour County is perched on the Susquehanna River watershed and thus is full of things to do for retirees and their families. Montour County has Ricketts Glen State Park, home to 22 waterfalls and miles of hiking trails. There is also the Montour Preserve, which has year-round activities from a fishing pier and visitors' center to pavilions and playgrounds.
#92. Putnam County, Georgia
- Population: 21,503
- Median home value: $165,300 (78% own)
- Median rent: $712 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $51,245
Central Georgia's Putnam County is a great spot for retirees, due to its low cost of living and high quality of life. The county is near Lake Oconee, which is one of the top recreation areas in the state. Putnam County is also wonderful for architecture lovers, due to its high concentration of Antebellum structures. The county has a national forest, which has 37,000 acres of wilderness to explore, plus 15 miles of trails for motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.
#91. Towns County, Georgia
- Population: 11,417
- Median home value: $205,600 (81% own)
- Median rent: $764 (19% rent)
- Median household income: $43,927
Spanning the North Georgia mountains, Towns County is packed with unspoiled natural beauty. The county borders South Carolina and its county seat is Hiawassee. It sits amid the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Brasstown Bald, the highest mountain in Georgia, is located in the southwestern corner of the county.