Part of the Front Range Urban Corridor, Denver is the 19th-most populous metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in the country, according to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau last year. With a population growth of nearly 20% since the 2010 census, the mile-high metro is bound to see its fair share of worsening commuter traffic.
Using a methodology similar to our previous studies in this series, we set out to identify the top 10 commuter towns within a radius of five to 50 miles from Denver. We ranked the cities based on commute time, housing value, school ratings and crime rate. The weight attributed to these metrics emphasizes the importance of short commute times and housing affordability, which accounted for 40% and 30%, respectively, of each city’s overall score.
Because the majority (83%) of workers in the Denver metro area drive to work, we only scored the average commute time by car to keep the ranking as relevant as possible. Drivers from the top 10 cities on the list below spend a minimum of 23 minutes on average commuting to work in Denver; there’s a 19-minute difference between the shortest and longest commute times.
Littleton: Highest-Scoring Commuter Town Near Denver
Located just a few miles south of downtown Denver, Littleton is a family-friendly suburban pocket with a nearly 130-year history. The city landed first on our list with an overall score of 81.5 points—six points ahead of Englewood, which came in second. Littleton tied with Westminster and Arvada for second-shortest commute time—a 20-minute drive into Denver on a Monday morning—for which the city earned 37 out of a maximum of 40 points.
Littleton’s above-average GreatSchools.org rating of 6.7 garnered 12.2 points for this metric, ranking second for quality of educational opportunities among the cities on our list. Notably, Littleton also ranked second-best for the safest community in this top 10; the city scored 12.6 points for its crime rate of 88 violent crimes per 100,000 residents—which is significantly lower than the state average (see methodology).
Because Denver consistently ranks among the top cities to live in in America, it’s no surprise that property values in the metro increased. This is where Littleton lagged a little behind, ranking seventh for housing affordability with a median home price of $338,900.
Englewood: Quickest Commute into Denver
Englewood’s closer proximity to the metro center gave it an edge over Littleton in terms of commute time. The city garnered the full 40 points for this metric, boasting a 16-minute average drive into Denver—the shortest among the towns on our list and tied with Wheat Ridge.
With an overall score of 75.3, Englewood secured its place as the second-best commuter town near Denver. The city is also home to the third-most affordable housing market in this top 10; its median home price of $266,100 garnered a score of 25.2 points out of a maximum of 30. Englewood boasts a Walkscore.com walkability score of 63 to make it the most walkable city in Colorado, and a bike score of 59, for which it ranks sixth in the state.
Home to a water park, year-round golf course, concert hall, arts museum and many hiking trails, Englewood has plenty to offer for residents whose spare time is freed up by their quick commute.
Louisville: Safe Community, Great Schools
Louisville is the smallest municipality in our top 10, with an estimated population of a little more than 20,000 residents. Located nearly 20 miles north of Denver, the city garnered the second-lowest score for commute time in our top 10—29.6 points—only a four-point lead over Parker, which logged the 10th-best commute time to Denver.
Although the city’s average commute time of 30 minutes doesn’t rank in the top half of our list, Louisville did score highest for quality of educational institutions and community safety, both aspects that may be worth the longer drive to work into Denver. The town’s schools are also rated above average at 7.5 out of 10 on GreatSchools.org, which earned the city the maximum of 15 points for this metric in our ranking.
Among the cities on our list, Louisville also boasts the lowest crime rate—just 74 crimes per 100,000 residents—well below the state average of 397.
Northglenn: Most Affordable Housing Market
The city of Northglenn is one of the youngest Denver suburbs. Built as a master-planned community by pioneering local developer Jordon Perlmutter in 1959, the town was incorporated 10 years later.
Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, Northglenn is home to nearly 40,000 residents who enjoy life in small neighborhoods with easy access to schools, retail, entertainment, parks, lakes, outdoor recreation facilities and more. With a median house price of $227,700, the city ranked highest for residential affordability among the cities on our list, garnering 28 points out of the maximum of 30.
The city’s average commute time to Denver is 22 minutes—tied with Thornton for the third-quickest of the top 10—which earned Northglenn a score of 35.6 points out of 40. However, the city lagged behind in terms of school ratings and community safety, therefore landing ninth on our list with an overall score of 66.9 points out of 100.
Other Cities in the Series
Denver is the eighth city we researched as part of our Best Commuter Towns series. Check out the others to see the top cities for commuters working in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle.
We analyzed data on towns located between five and 50 miles from Denver. Each town was awarded points based on the following metrics: commuting time, housing values, crime rate and school ratings.
Points for commute time, housing cost and crime rate were awarded inversely proportional to their value. Points for school ratings were awarded directly proportional to their value.
Entries could earn a maximum of 100 points across the four metrics as follows: 40 points for commute time, 30 points for housing value, and 15 points each for crime rate and school ratings.
The average commute time by car was calculated by Google Maps directions. We considered the shortest typical trip time for arriving in Denver by 08:00 a.m. on a Monday.
Housing values are based on a five-year Census estimate (2013-2017) of the median price of owner-occupied housing units.
FBI crime rates indicate the number of violent crimes committed per 100,000 residents. We only included towns that have a violent crime rate lower than the state average of 397 crimes per 100,000 residents.
School ratings were calculated based on the average score by town for schools that had a review on GreatSchools.org in August 2019.
Cities with less than 10,000 residents (based on 2017 Census estimates) were excluded from the list.