Street in Ferndale, California. Editorial credit: mikluha_maklai /

7 Most Affordable Towns to Retire in Northern California

Northern California encompasses 48 of the 58 counties in the northernmost part of the Golden State, with the San Francisco Bay and the Greater Sacramento area being the most populous. This region is famous for many things, including the ancient redwood trees, scenic coastlines, and snow-capped peaks.

As a retirement destination, Northern California presents a variety of incredible selections, but nothing beats spending your golden years in the small-town gems, which are the heart of California’s true adventure. In these towns, you will be spending time navigating scenic trails that meander through the redwoods and admiring spectacular sunsets while enjoying the perks that make them amazing retirement spots. Discover the 7 most affordable towns in Northern California to retire in.

Rio Vista

Car Show on the streets of Rio Vista Ca. Editorial credit: Photo_Time /
Car Show on the streets of Rio Vista Ca. Editorial credit: Photo_Time /

Rio Vista is one of the most beautiful waterfront towns in Northern California and makes a perfect retirement destination, thanks to its incredible blend of affordability, safety, and breathtaking natural scenery. The housing expenses are in the range of $490,000, which is decent compared to state standards.

Retiring in this California riverside town comes with its own highlights, including Brannan Island State Recreation Area, where retirees can partake in fishing, boating, and observing wildlife. Meanwhile, the Rio Vista Museum makes it easier to know about the town’s background with artifacts from the time when Rio Vista was founded. And lastly, the RioVision Gallery, with its impressively displayed artwork, acts as a community meet-up space.


Williams, California. In Wikipedia.,_California By Dcoetzee - Own work, Public Domain,
Williams, California. In Wikipedia. By Dcoetzee - Own work, Public Domain, Wikipedia

With around 5,600 people calling Williams their home, retirees can expect a cozy, welcoming community in this town. There are also many places worth checking out, so people can spend their time here without getting bored. Sacramento Valley Museum is an excellent place to learn the fascinating history of the region, thanks to the amazing exhibits and incredible artifacts from the 19th and 20th centuries. When your family visits, buy them some souvenirs at Granzella's Gourmet & Gifts, which has amazing items, including Italian pottery, food, gift baskets, coffee, and more. Williams Flea Market is the place to get good produce and catch up with residents between Thursday and Saturday.

Costing around $367,000, the dream of purchasing a personal space is not out of reach in Williams. Williams Health Clinic is also in the vicinity, adding to the advantages of retiring here.

Bass Lake

 This wooden sign sits at one of the entrances to the Bass Lake area of the Sierra National Forest in California.
This wooden sign sits at one of the entrances to the Bass Lake area of the Sierra National Forest in California.

Only 17 miles from Yosemite National Park’s southern entrance, Bass Lake is the heart of California’s adventure and makes a perfect retirement spot for seniors who wish to reconnect with nature. But it also comes with a price. Retirees should keep aside at least $680,000 for a property.

Talking about things to do, the 3.1-mile Willow Creek Trail takes around two waterfalls, the Devil’s Slide and Angel Falls, and features multiple wildflowers and birdwatching opportunities on the way. Then, there is the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway, which starts near Bass Lake and comes with beautiful meadows, lush forests, and endless views. Since Bass Lake is a gateway to one of California’s most stunning national parks, retirees can add Yosemite, where they can swim, boat ride, hike, and camp, just to name a few, to their bucket list.


Fall vineyards near Healdsburg, California.
Fall vineyards near Healdsburg, California.

While $1.13 million is expensive when it comes to housing costs, Healdsburg is worth the price for retiring. When you have just moved into the town, Healdsburg Museum should be the first stop to know your retirement destination a bit better through displays containing documents, photographs, and artifacts. Retirees can spend their time tasting wines from some of the best vineyards in the area. Seghesio Family Vineyards have been taking pride in their zinfandels since 1895, and Williamson Wines brings the French taste to this town in Sonoma County. When in need of socializing or just basking in the chatter of the town, there is no better place than Healdsburg Plaza. The park setting with gazebos, trees, and benches is the ideal location for concerts and family picnics.


Lassen Peak (Mount Lassen) from Lake Almanor's meadow near Chester.
Lassen Peak (Mount Lassen) from Lake Almanor's meadow near Chester.

Chester, a cozy small-town gem nestled on the spectacular shores of Lake Almanor, is famous for being a base camp for Lassen Volcanic National Park. What also makes Chester a perfect place to spend your sunset years is its affordability, with a typical home being priced at $375,000, which is nearly half the average home value in California.

Chester is home to plenty of attractions, and whether a nature lover, history buff, or art aficionado, there is something for everyone. Lake Almanor allows retirees to enjoy fishing, boat riding, and birdwatching in the area. Take a glimpse into the local culture through a beautiful collection of photographs and artifacts at Chester-Lake Almanor Museum. The option to take a trip to the nearby Lassen Volcanic National Park, an outdoor lover’s paradise with plenty of fun activities, including hiking, camping, and fishing, is also on the go.


Storefronts line Main Street in the historic Victorian Village of Ferndale. Editorial credit: Conor P. Fitzgerald /
Storefronts line Main Street in the historic Victorian Village of Ferndale. Editorial credit: Conor P. Fitzgerald /

Surrounded by breathtaking farm countryside on California’s Redwood Coast, there is never a shortage of things to do in Ferndale, and you can easily have access to Centerville Beach County Park, where retirees can have a day out in the sun. A drive through the Lost Coast Scenic Drive is another good idea to see a fairytale of spectacular ocean vistas, scenic views, redwoods, and a perfect chance to experience the only coastal wilderness in the Golden State. Lastly, check out the Ferndale Museum to get an insight into the Victorian era.

Retirees will have to plan their expenses if they hope to get themselves a house to retire in Northern California, as the average housing price is around $624,000. Additionally, the Ferndale Community Health Center takes responsibility for all medical requirements in the area.


Mount Shasta as seen from McCloud, CA.
Mount Shasta as seen from McCloud, CA.

McCloud, originally a lumber company town, has a long, rich history dating back to 1895, and seniors interested in living in a historic location with scenic surroundings will find living here enjoyable. The small community of under 1,000 residents is a haven for recreational opportunities, thanks to its setting in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, with fishing, hiking, golfing, and camping being the top activities for retirees.

There are several beautiful attractions to explore in McCloud, including The McCloud Heritage Junction Museum, where you will learn about the town’s fascinating history through an impressive collection of artifacts. Retirees can also enjoy golfing at McCloud Golf Club, a 9-hole golf course situated in the shadow of Mt. Shasta. Lastly, the town is very affordable, with the average per sq feet price being just $249 for a house.

Northern California is one of the most diverse regions in the United States, and whether you are interested in a beachside experience or retiring among some of the most majestic mountains in the state, there are many options to explore. Each of the most affordable small towns to retire in Northern California has a promising lifestyle for seniors, from the small yet diverse population of Bass Lake to the quiet and peaceful atmosphere in Chester.

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