California and Nevada

The greatest places to live in the West 2011
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The greatest places to live in the West 2011

ELKO, NEVADA

POPULATION: 17,430

LAND STARTS AT: $28,000 per acre

AVG. HOME PRICE: $182,000

While Nevada may get attention for the glittering lights of Las Vegas, this remote oasis in the northeastern part of the state has long attracted cowboys to the area’s big ranches. Elko’s Western Folklife Center, for example, hosts the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in January, because all the cowboys who perform and attend are working cattle during the warmer months. Elko flanks the Ruby Mountains midway between Reno and Salt Lake City and has a surprisingly robust economy thanks to jobs from the local gold mining industry, one of the world’s largest producers. The Northeastern Nevada Museum, Elko Railroad Park, and Sherman Station highlight the area’s gold and railroad heritage. Vacationers rave at the variety of attractions, from the Spring Creek Horse Palace and Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge to the Wildhorse State Recreation Area and the geologic wonders of Lamoille Canyon. And you haven’t been to Elko unless you honor the area’s Basque shepherding heritage with a meal at the Star Hotel.

Annual events:

NATIONAL COWBOY POETRY GATHERING, January (westernfolklife.org)

SILVER STATE STAMPEDE, July (silverstatestampede.com)

NATIONAL BASQUE FESTIVAL, July (elkobasque.com)

ELKO COUNTY FAIR, August-September (elkocountyfair.com)

RUBY MOUNTAIN BALLOON FESTIVAL, September (rubymountainballoonfestival.com)

RED BLUFF, CALIFORNIA

POPULATION: 14,000

LAND STARTS AT: $55,000 per acre

AVG. HOME PRICE: $145,000

The gold rush may have come and gone in this northern California town, but its location on the Sacramento River continues to yield Red Bluff’s most lasting asset—fertile pastures for farms, ranches, and livestock. Get an up-close view at the Red Bluff Round-Up, one of ProRodeo’s best since 1918. And fuel up at the Green Barn Steakhouse before heading to the area’s wilderness, lakes, and mountains.

Annual events:

RED BLUFF BULL AND GELDING SALE, January (redbluffbullsale.com)

90TH RED BLUFF ROUNDUP, April (redbluffroundup.com)

WEST COAST MONSTER TRUCK NATIONALS, October (rbmonsters.com)

TEMECULA, CALIFORNIA

POPULATION: 76,107

LAND STARTS AT: $6,000 per acre

AVG. HOME PRICE: $289,000

First an Indian outpost, then a Mexican rancho, and later a stagecoach and railroad stop, Temecula has deep Western roots. While the area’s vineyards and balloon rides cater to a certain crowd, Temecula’s Old Town has impressive 1890s-style storefronts, antique hunting, and the outstanding Temecula Museum. Stay at the Palomar Inn Hotel, built in the 1920s.

Annual events:

OLD TOWN TEMECULA BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL, March (cityoftemecula.org)

TEMECULA VALLEY WINE & BALLOON FESTIVAL, June (temeculacalifornia.com)

WESTERN DAYS, May (temeculacalifornia.com)

OLD TOWN TEMECULA STREET PAINTING FESTIVAL, June (temeculacalifornia.com)

BISHOP, CALIFORNIA

POPULATION: 3,428

LAND STARTS AT: $2,500 per acre

AVG. HOME PRICE: $287,000

Set in the majestic Owens Valley in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains, roughly 200 miles south of Reno, Bishop has always been a small ranching community. Life here is lived at a slower pace, whether you’re riding horseback through the Muir Wilderness or lingering over a meal at Whisky Creek, which has served locals since 1924. Hiking, offroading, camping, and fishing can be had in any direction, and photographers are known to fall in love with the dazzling light and scenery.

Annual events:

BLAKE JONES TROUT DERBY, March (bishopvisitor.com)

MULE DAYS CELEBRATION, Memorial Day weekend (muledays.org)

EASTERN SIERRA TRI-COUNTY FAIR, Labor Day weekend (tricountyfair.com)

The greatest places to live in the West