Last Updated on January 22, 2024

Some people are drawn to the idea of living in the desert, for a variety of reasons.

The stunning landscape, sunny climate, abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities, and more isolated, peaceful lifestyle can all be appealing to people who want to experience a different way of life.

With four main deserts and numerous desert cities and towns, the United States offer a range of opportunities for those who are interested in moving to a desert environment.

Below, a list of desert cities and towns in the US that are known for having a high quality of life and the most attractive living conditions.

Palm Desert, California
An American desert oasis? Palm Desert, California.

Best Desert Cities to Live in the US

1. Phoenix, Arizona

Population: 1,700,000

Phoenix is the capital and largest city of Arizona, and the fifth most populous city in the USA. It is known for its sunny weather, diverse culture, and vibrant arts scene.

The city is the ideal destination for those who crave big city life and want to experience life in the Sonoran desert. Phoenix is home to a number of top-ranked universities and has a strong economy, with many job opportunities in a variety of industries, and has a relatively low cost of life compared to other cities of the same size in the US.

Life in Phoenix is diverse and dynamic, you will find both urban city events like bars, nightclubs, live music performances and sport events, as well as countless opportunities for enjoying the outdoors such as hiking in the Phoenix desert, rock climbing, off-roading, and so on.

Hot Air Ballon over the Sonoran Desert in Phoenix, Arizona

2. Las Vegas, Nevada

Population: 647,000

Las Vegas is a popular destination for tourists, but it is also a great place to live and enjoy the Nevada desert. The city is known for its vibrant nightlife, world-class restaurants and entertainment, and mild year-round climate.

Life in Las Vegas is fast-paced and energetic, with a wide range of recreational opportunities, including many casinos ranging from large, luxurious resorts to smaller, more intimate venues. There are also many other things to do in the city besides gambling, such as desert hiking, rock climbing, museums, spas, concerts and live performances.


Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Las Vegas, Nevada.

3. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Population: 560,000

Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico and is known for its diverse culture, rich history, and beautiful desert landscape.

The city has a rich cultural history with a strong Hispanic and Native American influence. Albuquerque also has a strong economy and a number of top-ranked universities, making it a popular place to live and work.

Overall, Albuquerque’s culture is a blend of Southwest and Mexican influences, with a strong focus on outdoor recreation, art, and music, and can be a good compromise for people who wish to move to the desert without losing the perks of urban city life.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

4. Tucson, Arizona

Population: 535,000

Tucson is the second-largest city in Arizona and is known for its mild climate, beautiful landscape, and diverse culture. Not as oit is a diverse and vibrant city with a rich cultural history and a range of recreational and cultural amenities.

Tucson is a good choice for people who are interested in exploring the Southwest and experiencing a unique desert lifestyle with a strong Hispanic and Native American influence, with all the perks of a mid-sized city.

Tucson, Arizona

5. Bend, Oregon

Population: 90,000

Bend is not located in a true desert, as it receives more rainfall than a typical desert climate and has higher humidity levels. However, it is located in the high desert region of Oregon, which means that it has a dry, semi-arid climate with hot summers and cold winters.

Bend is also known for its strong sense of community and small-town feel, which can be attractive to people who are looking for a more laid-back lifestyle. The Oregon coast and its dunes are popular for sandboarding and easily accessible from Bend.

Bend, Oregon

6. Palm Springs, California

Population: 48,000

Palm Springs is a desert city located in in the Coachella Valley of southern California, known for its mid-century modern architecture, stunning mountain views, upscale resorts, and laid-back atmosphere.

The city has pleasant weather, a strong economy and a diverse population, with many job opportunities in a variety of industries.

Despite being a smaller city with a somewhat relaxed, laid-back atmosphere, Palm Springs has a variety of amenities, a thriving arts and cultural scene, and a range of dining and shopping options.

Palm Springs, California

7. Moab, Utah

Population: 5,000

Moab is a small town located in the desert region of eastern Utah, known for its red rock landscape and abundance of outdoor recreational activities, including hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Te town itself has a sparse suburban feel, but it is the outdoors that make Moab worth moving to.

The scenery in Moab is like no other, the town is surrounded by a variety of hiking trails that offer stunning views of the red rock landscape. Some popular trails include the Delicate Arch Trail and the Mesa Arch Trail.

Moab, Utah

8. Sedona, Arizona

Population: 11,000

A small town located in the red rock country of northern Arizona, Sedona is known for its stunning natural beauty and rural feeling. It offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreational activities, including hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking.

While scarcely populated, Sedona is a popular destination due to its proximity to outdoor recreational areas, such as the Coconino National Forest and the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness.

9. El Paso, Texas

Population: 683,000

El Paso is a city located in the westernmost part of Texas, right on the border with Mexico. It is known for its unique blend of American and Mexican cultures, making it a vibrant and diverse place to live. The city enjoys a desert climate with hot summers and mild winters, making it an attractive destination for those who appreciate warm weather.

El Paso offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking and exploring the nearby Franklin Mountains State Park. The city is also home to a rich history and cultural heritage, with several museums, historical sites, and festivals celebrating its unique identity.

El Paso’s cost of living is relatively low compared to many other major cities in the United States, making it an appealing choice for those seeking an affordable desert lifestyle with a strong community spirit.

El Paso, Texas

Read also: Stunning Desert Towns from Around the World



High Desert vs Low Desert: Where to live?

In terms of quality of life, the High Desert and Low Desert present distinct advantages and considerations.

The High Desert, known for its cooler temperatures and less crowded environment, offers a more serene and rural atmosphere.

Life in the High Desert can be described as tranquil and idyllic, its rural charm fosters a tight-knit community where neighbors often form strong bonds, fostering a sense of belonging and support.

For example, Joshua Tree in the High Desert is renowned for its natural beauty, hiking trails, and peaceful surroundings.

On the other hand, the Low Desert boasts a warmer climate and a livelier atmosphere.

Palm Springs in the Low Desert is famous for its vibrant entertainment scene, upscale resorts, and golf courses.

However, it is important to note that the Low Desert can be more expensive and crowded than the High Desert.

The increased demand for desirable locations in the Low Desert, such as Palm Springs, can drive up housing costs and the overall cost of living.

Additionally, the popularity of the Low Desert as a tourist destination and retirement hotspot contributes to a higher population density and more crowded urban areas.

The presence of upscale resorts, trendy restaurants, and a bustling nightlife scene also adds to the vibrant but often busier atmosphere in the Low Desert.

Ultimately, choosing the best place to live between the High Desert and Low Desert hinges on your specific preferences, lifestyle, and priorities.

Read more: High Desert vs Low Desert

Best Desert Towns to Retire in the US

Retiring in a desert town can offer a unique and appealing lifestyle for seniors in the United States. The lower cost of living, stunning landscapes, sunny weather, abundance of outdoor activities, and diverse cultural scenes make desert towns an attractive choice for retirees.

When it comes to deciding between the high desert and low desert regions, retirees have distinct options to consider. High desert areas, known for their cooler temperatures and less crowded environment, offer a serene and rural lifestyle. Towns like Joshua Tree in the High Desert provide a tranquil atmosphere with natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor recreation, such as hiking and stargazing.

On the other hand, low desert regions boast a warmer climate and a livelier atmosphere. Cities like Palm Springs in the Low Desert are renowned for their upscale lifestyle, luxurious resorts, and entertainment options, making them ideal for retirees seeking a more vibrant and socially engaging retirement experience.

Several desert towns and cities across the US stand out as excellent options for those seeking a rewarding retirement experience.

Palm Desert, California: Nestled in the Coachella Valley, Palm Desert offers a delightful retirement experience with its mid-century modern charm and laid-back atmosphere. Retirees can enjoy the stunning mountain views, numerous golf courses, and cultural events that make this city a vibrant and enjoyable place to spend their golden years.

Scottsdale, Arizona: Renowned for its upscale lifestyle and world-class golf courses, Scottsdale provides retirees with a retirement experience of luxury and leisure. The warm and sunny climate is perfect for those looking to escape cold winters, while the city’s vibrant arts and cultural scene offer enriching experiences for retirees.

St. George, Utah: Captivating outdoor enthusiasts with its breathtaking red rock scenery and numerous recreational opportunities, St. George is an ideal choice for active retirees. The city’s low crime rate, affordable cost of living, and abundance of outdoor activities, including hiking and golfing, make it a popular destination for retirees seeking an active and fulfilling retirement.

Santa Fe, New Mexico: With its rich history and unique adobe architecture, Santa Fe allures retirees interested in culture and the arts. The city’s diverse community and abundance of art galleries, museums, and festivals offer a rewarding retirement experience for those seeking a culturally enriching atmosphere.

Sierra Vista, Arizona: Surrounded by picturesque mountain ranges and enjoying a mild desert climate, Sierra Vista offers a peaceful retreat for retirees seeking a close-knit community and affordable living. With ample opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking and birdwatching, retirees can enjoy the natural beauty and tranquility of this charming city.

Each of these desert towns has its own unique charm, providing retirees with a range of experiences and amenities to enjoy their golden years.

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