Aerial view of the Arizona Williams city and the railway station in Arizona. Route 66.

The Best Small Towns to Retire in Arizona

Choosing to spend one’s retirement years in a new destination may be a challenging task. But for those looking for hot sun, stunning desert landscapes, and unique Western culture, then considering retiring to Arizona may just be the right decision. Also known as the “Grand Canyon State,” the splendid cultural and geographic beauty of Arizona is a place where all ages can find something to marvel at.

For retirees looking to escape the big city life, Arizona has plenty of smaller and charming towns where the best of the state can be appreciated in quieter but no less vibrant communities. So, if retiring to the desert is something of interest, then look no further than these wonderful small Arizona towns!


Official Visitor's Center in Wickenburg, Arizona. Editorial credit: Rosemarie Mosteller /
Official Visitor's Center in Wickenburg, Arizona. Editorial credit: Rosemarie Mosteller /

Known as the “Dude Ranch Capital” of Arizona, the town of Wickenburg was established in the 1860s and lies right on the border of Yavapai and Maricopa Counties. With a modest community of under 8,000 residents, spending time in Wickenburg is like stepping back to the days of the Old Wild West. Explore a number of restored 19th-century buildings and other landmarks in the historic district, which include the Jail Tree and the Vulture Gold Mine. Meanwhile, for those looking to spend their post-work life away from winter conditions, Wickenburg is certainly the place to be

With its very hot summers, there is always an outdoor adventure awaiting here when one is not looking to beat the heat. Enjoy opportunities for hiking, cycling, and even horseback riding in a charming desert atmosphere while a fine assortment of welcoming local businesses and tasty restaurants back in town make this a most friendly destination to consider retiring to.

Camp Verde

Sign at entrance to Fort Verde State Historic Park, in Camp Verde, Arizona. Editorial credit: PICTOR PICTURES /
Sign at the entrance to Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde, Arizona. Editorial credit: PICTOR PICTURES /

Just over 12,000 residents call the scenic town of Camp Verde home, where loads of hot Arizona sun and splendid desert surroundings are always on hand. For retirees looking to spend their post-work life enjoying the outdoors, then this Yavapai County locale is just the spot to settle in. Partake in such activities as hiking, biking, camping, fishing, and even horseback riding in sites across town, including the Prescott National Forest.

Meanwhile, there is plenty of historical intrigue to enjoy in Camp Verde, and visitors and retirees alike can explore such fascinating landmarks like the Commanding Officer Quarters (1871), the Montezuma Castle National Monument, and the Fort Verde State Historic Park, amongst others. Finally, one cannot forget about the annual July Corn Festival, where the sweet smells and special taste of this locally grown crop are always pleasing.


Welcome to Carefree, Arizona Desert Gardens and Sundial.
Welcome to Carefree, Arizona Desert Gardens and Sundial.

A planned community established in the 1950s, Carefree might be the perfect place for anyone looking to truly live a carefree life in retirement. With a population of just over 3,600 inhabitants and only some 35 miles from Phoenix, this sleepy community offers its guests and potential residents loads of Arizona’s famed climate and geography but in a laid-back and relaxing atmosphere. Enjoy an afternoon at a local spa, stroll along Easy Street, do some shopping, hit any number of available tennis courts, or simply savor a deliciously authentic Southwestern meal at the assortment of locally run restaurants.

With its very hot summers and warm winters, Carefree is perfect for the retiree who wants to leave the snow and cold behind. Meanwhile, do not forget to visit the Carefree Sundial, which was constructed in 1959. Measuring 90 feet in diameter, this sculpture is made from steel and copper and is one of the most unique photo spots in town.


Route 66 in Williams, Arizona.
Route 66 in Williams, Arizona.

The Coconino County town of Williams is also lovingly known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon” and is located along the famous Route 66 highway. With a modern history dating to the 1880s, just over 3,000 people call Williams home, which beautifully maintains an old-world charm. For potential retirees looking for a step back in time amidst the beautiful Arizona desert, then Williams should certainly not be overlooked. Explore a number of cute novelty shops and other boutique stores while plenty of inviting local restaurants, businesses, and small motel establishments really give this town a genuine feel of Americana.

Amongst the special attractions that delight tourists and residents alike include the Route 66 Gas Station Museum and Williams Depot Train Station, which have stories to tell about the growth of the Western United States. Visiting the Bearizona Wildlife Park is a neat way to see some local wildlife. Retiring to Williams has the perfect mix of hot weather, cultural allure, and small-town quietness that is often sought after by a busy work life.


Winslow, Arizona.
Winslow, Arizona.

Hot summer and warm winter temperatures define living in the town of Winslow, and retirees looking for the ultimate desert experience in a friendly small town should look no further. Established in the 1880s, just under 9,000 residents call Winslow home today. Full of great local businesses, shops, restaurants, galleries, and outdoor adventures, this Navajo County town is simply a most charming place to discover, whether as a visitor or a permanent resident. Spend time at the Clear Creek Reservoir or enjoy an informative day at the Old Trails Museum, which includes an impressive collection of Native American artifacts and other historical objects.

A visit to Standin’ at the Corner Park is always fun, where posing with a statue of an all-American with his guitar and flatbed truck captures the essence of small-town America in the West. Named for the lyric in the 1972 song “Take it Easy” by the Eagles, one can also be caught “Standing in the corner in Winslow, Arizona.” in a unique photo opportunity.


View of the Mogollon Rim from Payson, Arizona.
View of the Mogollon Rim from Payson, Arizona.

Gila County’s largest town, Payson is home to a population of just over 16,000 inhabitants and has also been called the “Heart of Arizona”. A scenic and inviting destination that was originally founded in the 1880s, those looking for outdoor adventure in their retirement years will certainly find an abundance in Payson. Surrounded by the Tonto National Forest, one can enjoy wonderful opportunities to go camping, hiking, and cycling in an environment that offers hot summers and warm winters.

For a dose of true American Western culture, several annual rodeos are presented throughout the year, which is one very special way to get immersed in the social uniqueness that is Arizona. Add in an exploration of several historic landmarks, and Payson really stands out as a well-rounded town that any retiree would certainly appreciate after years of hard work.

One of the Western United States’ most geographically splendid and culturally fascinating places, Arizona should feature highly on the list of destinations for a potential retirement. With its always sought-after hot weather, stunning desert ambiance, and welcoming small-town hospitality, choosing to retire to one of the Arizona towns may just be one of the best choices one can make. From the streets of Payson or “the Heart of Arizona” to the laid-back atmosphere of Carefree, these wonderful locales are ideal places to simply step back and enjoy the moment that is so earned in one’s retirement years. So come see these great Arizona towns and see why retiring here can be not just a dream but a reality!

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