Not every Western State is suitable for a modern Homestead because of changing laws, the State’s climate, terrain, population growth or possibilities for natural disasters.
The best homestead areas in the American West involves more than just price of land, whether there is a scenic view and what is your favorite State.
Where are the best Homestead areas in the American West?
The best Homestead areas in the American West are Central and North Idaho; Western Montana; Portions of Western Wyoming; Selected areas in Utah.
There are critical aspects involved in choosing land for a Homestead.
You can read about these critical aspects in “Homestead – Critical Aspects And Important Considerations.” that I wrote.
These basic principles vary little from those in the American East or the American Mid-West.
Understanding those principles and implementing them when searching for Country or Homestead Property is key to a successful search and happiness with the property purchased.
To read about the American East and Mid-West, I wrote, “Where Are The Best Homestead Areas In The American East”
Portions Of America’s West Has Changed
Just a few years ago there were many areas of the American West which could be considered to be good areas for setting up a modern Homestead.
Those areas have diminished in recent times.
Some States that were Homestead havens then now have only one or two areas that are suitable for a Homestead.
Some have no prime areas for a Homestead anymore.
In this article we are going to take a look at the best areas in the American West to Homestead.
We will also see why some States of the American West are no longer prime areas for modern Homesteading.
Modern Homesteading is defined as a place where a family can raise most of their food, be in control of their water and possibly their electrical power as well.
To be a Modern Homesteader also means not being dependent upon a power grid or commercial water, sewer and other services that were depended upon in city or suburban life.
A big factor in Modern Homesteading is to locate the Homestead in a safe area away from potential Military Targets in case of a future war.
Preferred Homesteading Areas In The American West
The preferred areas for setting up a Homestead in the American West are Central and North Idaho, Western Montana and portions of Western Wyoming as well as selected areas in Utah.
There isn’t any State in the American West where the entire State is suitable for setting up a Homestead.
In many areas of the American West the best homestead areas do not have a lot of opportunities for finding a part-time or full-time job while Homesteading.
We will start by looking at the preferred areas first.
Central And North Idaho
In December 2017 the U.S. Census Bureau declared Idaho the fastest growing State in the U.S. by percentage of population growth per year.
In 1990 the population of Idaho topped 1 million people for the first time.
Twenty-seven years later Idaho’s population was 1,717,000 by U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
Idaho is the 14th largest State and is twice the size of the six New England States combined.
In 2018 Idaho was ranked by US News & World Report as the 5th best State for Public Safety, the 6th Best State for Quality of Health Care.
It was also ranked the 7th best State for both the Economy and Fiscal Stability and the 10th best State for Infrastructure.
Known for it’s mountainous landscape, large areas of protected wilderness and outdoor recreational areas, Idaho is the 7th least densely populated state with an average of 1 person to each 31 acres of land.
With an unusually good supply of ground water for a Western State, a longstanding tradition of agriculture and a low population density, Idaho ranks best in the American West for establishing a modern Homestead.
There are two prime areas in Idaho for Homesteading.
The first prime area is the center of Idaho which lies to the north and east of Boise and extends up to and including the area surrounding Lewiston, Moscow and St. Maries, (pronounced as if it was spelled St. Mary’s).
This portion of Idaho has the largest wilderness area in America outside of Alaska.
There are excellent areas for safe homesteads near Highways 28, 56, 75, 93 & 95 in this portion of Idaho as well as in the Bitterroot Valley portion of Idaho near Hamilton, Montana.
The area around Lewiston and extending to Orifino tends to have a milder climate and a longer growing season.
The two northern most counties in the Idaho panhandle, Bonner County and Boundary County, comprise Idaho’s second prime area for safe modern Homesteads.
Boundary County is the northern most County that borders Canada.
It’s County Seat and largest town is Bonner’s Ferry.
There are good areas on both sides of Highway 95 which runs north and south as well as good areas on both sides of Highway 2 which leaves Highway 95 a few miles north of Bonner’s Ferry and goes East to Montana.
Water does not seem to be a problem here.
There are beautiful mountain valleys and hillsides in this area of Idaho.
The next County below Boundary County is Bonner County who’s County Seat is Sandpoint.
Bonner County has areas that are suitable for homesteading on both sides of Highway 95 and Highway 2 in the western part of the County.
Idaho Highway 200 runs East from Sandpoint to Montana where good homestead areas can also be found.
Idaho has plenty of rivers and lakes and many areas also have good springs.
When the water supply is compared to the population, Idaho has a lot more water than other Western States.
In Idaho it is common to extend it’s shorter growing season by starting plants indoors in late winter or early spring.
Its also beneficial to have a greenhouse or hoop house to extend the growing season in the fall.
In Idaho, as in other mountainous Western States, locating your homestead in a micro-climate can mean the difference between a late spring frost killing off a large portion of your garden.
Or not having to deal with that problem at all.
Micro-climates are an important aspect of Homesteading in the northern portion of the American West.
Montana’s prime Homesteading locations are found from a line located just East of Missoula, running from the Canadian border in the north and extending to the southern border of the State.
From that line west to the Idaho border has good homestead areas.
Its best to avoid the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains because they are exposed to the cold Canadian air masses in the winter and are much colder than North Idaho.
In the northern portion of Western Montana, the Flathead Lake Valley is a good area.
It has mountains on both the East and the West and a base of mostly conservative people.
The Bitterroot Valley of Montana, which is close to Hamilton, Montana is another good Homesteading area.
Southeast of Butte is the Gallatin Forest which is another good area for Homesteading.
Just be sure to avoid the 10 miles buffer zone surrounding Yellowstone Park.
For those who are not afraid of being isolated from a big city, there are the Big Horn Mountains which can be found in the southeastern portion of Montana.
This area is west of I-90 and South of the Crow Indian Reservation.
This is near where General Custer fought his last battle know as Custer’s Last Stand.
These are the only areas of Montana that can be recommended for Homesteading.
The rest of Montana is either a barren plain or too close to potential military targets in the event of a future war.
A drawback to some portions of Western Montana is the presence of refugees who have successfully escaped the liberal Southwestern portion of America.
Many of these people persist in bringing their liberal ideas that have made a mess out of the Southwestern part of America with them.
Locals who appreciate the ideas that make Montana and other portions of the American Northwest attractive, have little use for these liberal refugees.
It is always a good idea to adapt to the ideas of an area you chose to move to instead of trying to recreate your new home into the place you decided it was time to move from!
Wyoming has perhaps the lowest density population of any American State and has low taxes.
The first time I drove across country in America I felt like I was finally in the American West when I drove into Wyoming on I-80.
Ever since then Wyoming has been one of my favorite Western States.
In southern Wyoming there are good areas for Homesteading around Laramie and Evanston.
Some of the most scenic mountains in America are the Teton Range in western Wyoming just below Yellowstone National Park.
Land on the east side of the Tetons is very expensive and is a place where a lot of the rich and famous have purchased second homes.
Good homesteading land can be found on the west side of the Teton Range between the mountains and the Idaho border.
The Swan Valley and Star Valley areas between the Tetons and Idaho are good locations for Homesteads and the land is more reasonably priced.
This picture from the Teton Range is one of my favorite pictures of land in the American West.
I am including it here because it shows several of the desirable features of Homestead land.
There is plenty of water, both varieties of trees, deciduous (leaf bearing) and conifers (trees with needles instead of leaves).
There are mountains to collect snow pack in the background which provides water for the next year.
A good healthy amount of undergrowth on the land indicates that there is good soil there.
Last, but by no means least, is the off-grid cabin.
Some of this land may have to be cleared for a garden, orchard and pasture but it is not land that has been contaminated with chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
It is the type of land where organic produce could be raised, certified as organic and possibly sold to local stores and restaurants if that was desired.
The best area to look for Homestead Property in Utah is in the Wasatch Mountains that are located east of I-15 and I-84 and north of I-80 next to Wyoming.
There is easy access to the rest of America from the airport at Salt Lake City yet this area is far enough away from the populated areas of Utah to be clean and pristine.
Don’t let the view of the Wasatch Mountains from I-15 and I-84 discourage you.
The western slopes look pretty barren but the eastern slopes are heavily forested and contain many good areas.
Oregon is a State that has many areas of scenic beauty.
It used to have excellent areas for Homesteading in the north below I-84 and west of The Dalles, on both sides of I-5 which runs north and south and between the Cascade Mountain Range and the Coast Mountain Range.
In those areas there is plenty of rainfall, good soil, trees and mountains.
Oregon is still one of my favorite States to visit.
The scenic beauty, rainfall, good soil, trees and mountains are still there but over the last 20 years Oregon has changed.
When I lived on the western side of the Coast Mountain Range near the Pacific Ocean over 30 years ago, Oregon was a great place to live, work, raise a family and be proud to call home.
I have relatives that live in the Willamette Valley between the Cascade Mountains and the Coast Range.
This area has one of the most productive soils in North America and a great growing season with fairly mild winters.
But politics, the influx of people escaping the liberal State immediately south of Oregon and a quirk of nature have combined to drop Oregon well down on the list of desired Homestead Locations in the American West.
First is the influx of liberal minded people from that State immediately south of Oregon.
One of the facts of human nature is that people, even when they are dissatisfied with the area they live in, will carry with them to a new area the ideas and problems that plagued the place they moved from.
This appears to be one of the things that changed Oregon from a truly great place to live and homestead to a place that has dropped several States down in desirable places to live and Homestead.
The people from down south became politically active.
Over a period of time they changed the political climate of Oregon to a point that those of us who used to live there can see the changes that came about.
But are not so evident to those who have always lived there.
Some of these changes have made Oregon more dictatorial and less tolerant of basic American Freedoms cherished by many Homesteaders.
The quirk of nature is called the Cascadia Subduction Zone.
This is located about 70 miles off the Pacific Northwest Coast extending some 700 miles from northern Vancouver Island Canada all the way down the coast to Cape Mendicino in Northern California.
This is a mega fault line that scientist believe could result in an 8.7 to 9.2 magnitude earthquake that has the potential of a resulting Tsunami that could make it all the way to I-5 and maybe further east.
The potential for destruction makes the entire coastal region of Oregon extending eastward across a large portion of the Willamette Valley no longer a safe place to consider Homesteading.
Recently we have noticed an increased influx of vehicles from Oregon into North Idaho.
When questioning those from Oregon, we have learned that both the Cascadia Subduction Zone and changes in the political climate in Oregon have led a number of Oregonians to seriously consider moving out of Oregon.
Idaho is seen as a State that is very desirable for those Oregonians to move too.
Many of the things that were said above about Oregon can also be said about the State of Washington.
Washington is a State that has several locations which would be great for Homesteads.
Many Homesteaders have established Homesteads in Washington in the past.
But Washington has changed in the last 15-20 years.
Those changes do not bode well for those wanting to Homestead nor with those who are currently Homesteading in Washington.
Washington faces the same threat from the Cascadia Subduction Zone that is described in the section on Oregon above.
To a certain extent Washington suffers from an influx of liberal minded people fleeing the State below Oregon who have brought their ideas and the problems caused by those ideas to Washington.
Washington has recently implemented policies and regulations that dramatically reduce it’s place as a desirable location for Homesteading.
Washington, especially Eastern Washington, is facing a water crisis where the amount of water available will soon be surpassed by the population needing to use that water.
Already in parts of Eastern Washington the State is installing meters on private wells which get their water from underneath land owned by private citizens.
It is just a matter of time until the State starts charging those private citizens for the water pumped from beneath their land!
I currently know of a situation in Eastern Washington where a private landowner has been told that he has to have the source of water on his land developed and approved by a fast approaching date.
Or the State will deny him the use of the water coming from the spring that is on his private property!
Since a Homestead lives or dies on the availability of water and the cost of using that water, Washington State appears to be on a course that is not favorable to Homesteading in the future.
For those who must Homestead in Washington, the best areas in the past were Eastern Washington north of Spokane County in Stevens County and Pend Oreille County.
In Western Washington the best areas were along I-5 and over to the coast, the very areas in harms way of the Cascadia Subduction Zone today.
The State of California is another one that has areas of breathtaking beauty from the mountains to the coast line.
Its a State that used to be a haven for Homesteading with large areas suitable for establishing a homestead from Central California northward and from the mountains in the center of the State to the Coast.
Sadly those days of California being a haven for Homesteading are no more.
Prolonged droughts and well meaning but flawed policies have devastated the water situation in much of California’s prime areas for Homesteading.
Northern California faces the same threat as Oregon and Washington from the Cascadia Subduction Zone.
With one of the highest tax rates in America, California is no longer a place to consider establishing a modern Homestead.
America’s Southwestern States
A State with many areas of stunning beauty, Colorado has lots of mountains and good supplies of water due to the winter snow pack in those mountains.
The best area for homesteading is in west central Colorado near Montrose.
The elevation is lower and the growing season longer here.
Much of Colorado is near sites that would be Military targets in the event of a war; Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs for example.
Areas near Ski Resorts will be much higher priced than those away from Ski Resorts.
Beware of the areas in Colorado that have oil and gas wells.
These could be terrorist targets and with the presence of these wells it makes it harder to find good well water that is uncontaminated by oil or gas.
Arizona, New Mexico And Nevada
Arizona has more population than it has available water for it’s population.
There are areas where there is a moratorium on well drilling.
Unless you find land with a well already on it that has a good flow of water, at least 20 gallons per minute, it is best to consider homesteading somewhere else.
New Mexico has multiple military sites and areas that would be military targets in the event of a war.
The only reasonable location for homesteading is in northern New Mexico where the Mountains from Colorado extend down into New Mexico.
Nevada’s barren deserts and military sites like Area 51 and the Nevada Nuclear Test Site leave little practical areas for homesteading here.
The best area would be the farm and ranch valleys near Carson City.
Alaska And Hawaii
Alaska is called the last American Frontier.
Anyone who wants to set up a Modern Homestead there needs to pick the area for their homestead carefully.
Much of Alaska is a wilderness with unforgiving bitter cold winters.
Because of the large distances that food, clothing and other goods need to be transported to this region, prices for these things are much higher than in the lower 48 states.
For those who feel the call of America’s last frontier, two of the best areas to look for Homestead Property are around the Matanuska Valley some 35 miles north of Anchorage and along the Southeastern portion of Alaska around Juneau.
Good land for homesteading will probably go for a premium price in Alaska and Homesteaders will be dealing with a shortened growing season.
Hawaii is a place that many associate with paradise.
It does have many beautiful areas and I have read reviews of the Islands by people who consider it a great place to Homestead.
These reviews focus mainly on the smaller islands and not on the Islands of Oahu and Hawaii.
Hawaii is the site of more than one volcano since becoming an American State.
As a chain of Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it does not have the best prospects for safety and long-term stability of a Homestead.
For those whose dream is to Homestead in the Hawaiian Islands, they need to understand that there is a fairly high density of population in most areas and that the Islands are by no means self-sufficient.
Many items necessary for a Homestead will need to be transported from the lower 48 states or other locations making their cost very high.
Perhaps a few acceptable locations can be found on the smaller Islands of Kauai, Molokai and Maui.
Is there free land in the American West?
None of the American Western States have free land.
What states allow you to live off the grid?
When you get outside of a city or suburban area that has public utilities, especially electricity, you can live off the grid in any State.
What are the worst states to homestead in the American West?
Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington are the worse States to homestead in the American West.
The reasons why are in the above article.