Black Mountain is a thin strip of brick antique stores, artisan shops, log cabins, and outfitters set against the soaring spine of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Even though Asheville’s just 15 minutes away, housing costs and rents here are considerably cheaper. And right off State Street you’ll find epic hiking and mountain biking, plus the start line for the grueling 40-mile Mount Mitchell Challenge footrace up the East’s tallest peak (6,684 feet).
Once a dusty afterthought along the Oregon Trail, Boise is now the biggest urban center between Salt Lake City and Portland. The compact chunk of high-rises springs up where the Rocky Mountain foothills end and Idaho’s 21-million-acre spread of national forests begins. But that backyard comes surprisingly cheap: Monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment right downtown is just $500. And sharing a zip code with companies like Microsoft and Micron Technology ups your job prospects too.