Is work going to be near downtown, the Denver Tech center area (southeast metro area) or elsewhere? That makes a huge difference for commute. Not surprisingly, so does budget. The west side definitely gives you proximity to the mountains for all of the activities up there, but the foothills communities (Evergreen / Morrison / Golden) for example can be quite a haul for a job in the tech center area. Roxborough (might be classified under the city of Littleton as you search) is beautiful (near Chatfield State Park and Roxborough State Parks) on the southwest side as is the Ken Caryl Ranch neighborhood (southwest as well and might be classified as Littleton). The Applewood neighborhood in Lakewood is also quite nice on the west side.
Keep in mind that Denver is a high desert city, so you have to go higher in elevation for more trees / etc. Of course, established city neighborhoods have plenty of large trees, but newer areas do not. Evergreen is at 6800 feet. Downtown Denver at 5280 -- that is why the different landscape. Morrison / Golden out west are about 5800 feet. Space is a premium in metro Denver, so you will pay for having space. It is easier as you move south a little (a neighborhood like the Pinery in Parker) and also Castle Rock depending on how much money you want to spend. These areas are also higher in elevation (Castle Rock at 6200 feet).
It is very hard to generalize as about anything is available for a price in metro Denver (except lakefront!) -- it depends on what you really want to prioritize most. I specialize in relocations and am currently working with a number of out-of-state clients. What you want is a good buyer's agent (it doesn't cost you anything) who can help you prioritize your criteria and start from a broad area like metro Denver and continue to narrow it and narrow it to communities, neighborhoods, and eventually a home.
If you give me an idea of your price, I can give you an idea of property taxes (coming from New Jersey, you will be quite happy!). Also, for renting feel free to check out http://www.padmapper.com.
The rental market (as well as the buying / selling market are very tight. Inventories are extremely low on both ends, so doing your searching now and learning is definitely the way to go. Feel free to let me know if I can be of further help.
Darrick Kizlyk - Realtor
EXIT Realty Denver Tech Center