Utah’s diverse landscape and geology provides every kind of recreational opportunity imaginable. The state’s horizon is painted with plateaus, mountains, and isolated hills and mesas known as buttes. These geological features rise and fall in dramatic fashion, from as high as 13,000 feet, to a sudden drop to ground zero. The rugged terrain of Utah is also full of deep, jagged canyons, caves, various rock formations, and expansive stretches of salt deserts. At the other end of the spectrum are the acres of forests, streaming rivers, and more than 3,000 pristine lakes of Utah.
Native American tribes like the Ute, Shoshone, and Piute were the first people to live in Utah. Archaeological evidence in the form of habitations and rock petroglyphs indicate that the area was settled at least 10,000 years ago. The first Europeans to discover the region were Franciscan priests in 1776 traveling from New Mexico to California. In the early 19th century, British and Canadian fur traders ventured into northern Utah in search of pelts.
However, Utah was not settled until the Mormons traveled across the country looking for a place to escape persecution. The religion was founded in 1830 in New York by Joseph Smith. But the Mormons were driven out from the state to state, eventually ending up in Illinois where Joseph Smith was killed by a mob. His successor, Brigham Young, decided to venture further out west in search of a land where they would not be persecuted. He led the group of refugees to Utah, where they settled in the present-day Salt Lake area. The settlement expanded to other communities, many of them now modern-day cities in Utah.
The construction of the railroad passing through the region, the introduction of the Pony Express mail service in Salt Lake City in 1860, and the gold rush of the 1870s and 1880s brought even more settlers to Utah. Many mining towns sprang up overnight.
Today, Utah has more than 2.2 million people and an economy that is based on mining, petroleum refining, and tourism. Many of the state’s residents are devout members of the Mormon Church, following the traditions of their pioneering ancestors.
Attractions by Region
Golden Spike Empire
Utah’s northwest is known as the Golden Spike Empire and encompasses the Great Salt Lake. Here, you can enjoy sunsets over the lake or watch Utah’s large buffalo herds at Antelope Island. You’ll find cities like Brigham City, Eden, and Ogden in this region. There are also a number of down-hill ski resorts and historic sites like the Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory Summit, the point where the final rails were joined to complete the first transcontinental railroad in 1869.
Utah’s north-central region is known as the Cache Valley, an agricultural area that encompasses the Wasatch, which is a rugged mountain range belonging to the Rocky Mountain chain. Much of the valley is green and scenic, highlighted by the Logan Canyon, at the top of which provides a spectacular view of the turquoise-colored Bear Lake. In the summer, this lake is a popular fishing and boating destination. In the winter, people go there to snowmobile. The main attraction of Cache Valley is probably the American West Heritage Center, a museum that retraces and recreates the American West. In general, the Cache Valley is full of opportunities for recreational activities with sites perfect for fishing, camping, boating, mountain biking, and even skiing at the popular Beaver Mountain Ski Resort. The main city in Cache Valley is Logan.
Great Salt Lake Country
Utah’s central east region is known as the Great Salt Lake Country. It encompasses Utah’s capital and largest city, Salt Lake City. The region is mountainous and desert-like. The main attractions of region are found in Salt Lake City, which is the state’s cultural center. You’ll find a number of modern shops, Mormon monuments and temples, and museums dedicated to the pioneers and Utah’s history.
East of the Great Salt Lake Country is Utah’s mountainland region whose main cities include Heber City, Park City, and Provo. This region offers world-class skiing, errie caves like the Timpanogos, and scenic roads and biking trails.
Utah’s northeast region is known as Dinosaurland, home to the Uinta Mountains and its glacier peaks, rock gorges, and pristine lakes. Miles of open space also dominate this region which was once roamed by cowboys and dinosaurs. The main attraction is the Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal with its dinosaur fossils from the Jurassic period embedded in the sandstones and quarries of a 200,000 acre site. The Flaming Gorge is another worthwhile attraction, centered around a reservoir created by man-made dams. The recreation area is great for camping, fishing, boating, hiking, and mountain climbing up the red rock cliffs. The main cities in Dinosaurland include Roosevelt and Vernal.
Utah’s west-central region is known as Panoramaland. This region consists of sparkling lakes, soaring cliffs, and various rock formations, and also encompasses the Great Basin Desert. You’ll also find mining ghost towns that have been restored. The main cities in Panoramaland include Nephi, Junction, Richfield, Manti, Teasdale, and Delta.
East of Panoramaland is Utah’s Castle Country region, which offers mountains, deserts, small towns, and geological formations that contain evidence of residents of Utah’s past – remnants of ancient Native Americans, dinosaur fossils, and relics of Utah’s old mining days. The main cities in Castle Country are Price and Green River.
Utah’s southwest region is known as Color Country because of the hues of the region’s national parks, which include the yellow and red canyonlands of Bryce Canyon National Park and the green and lush Dixie National Forest. Color Country is also popular for its year-round golf courses, from St. George Golf Course, to the Coral Canyons Golf Course at Zion National Park. The main cities in Color Country include St. George, Springdale, Panguitch, Tropic, Kanab, Mount Carmel, Cedar City, Escalante, Brian Head, and Beaver.
In the southeast region of Utah, you’ll find the Canyonlands. This region consists of millions-of-years-old rock formations that provide miles of vistas. The main draw of this region is the scenery of rocks and deserts. The region is home to the Canyonlands National Park and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The main cities are Moab, Monticello, and Teasdale.