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What Utah Is Known For & Famous For
Utah is a place of great natural beauty, awe-inspiring scenery, and unique history and culture. Its specific cultural, historical, and natural circumstances make it one of the most distinctive states in the U.S. and worthy of every traveler’s attention.
Utah is most famous for its Mormon majority and the influence Mormonism has had on Utah’s social and political life. It’s also well-known for its natural parks and national monuments. Additionally, Utah is a popular destination for skiers due to its many resorts and ideal skiing conditions.
Let’s dive in and take a look at Utah’s most distinguishing features. We’ll see what exactly makes it stand out from other American states and what’s most remarkable about its culture, nature, and history.
Nicknamed the Beehive State
Beehives are ubiquitous in Utah, especially on state buildings, sculptures, and monuments. This has earned it its Beehive State nickname. You might think that it’s due to its honey production, but Utah is actually absolutely average in terms of honey production.
In Utah, beehives have a deeper symbolic meaning, especially for the Mormons. For them, a beehive represents a community in which everyone works together tirelessly for the benefit of the whole community.
The region wasn’t particularly hospitable when the first Mormons settled there. They had to abandon their personal ambitions and work together to build a strong community. This made “industry” the most desirable trait (it’s even the state’s motto), and beehives represent this industry.
The people of Utah have always claimed they have the perfect snow, which they dub the Greatest Snow on Earth. This is due to the ideal conditions for snow in the Wasatch Mountains around Salt Lake City. These conditions allow the snow to have the perfect balance of wetness and fluffiness.
The quality of the snow has allowed an abundance of skiing resorts around the city to thrive. Considering that its powdery snow makes you feel like you’re simply gliding across it, this is no wonder.
Sundance Film Festival
The Sundance Film Festival might be the most renowned cultural product of Utah. Starting in 1978, under the name of the U.S. Film Festival, it has been the most successful indie film festival in the U.S. and possibly in the whole world.
It has launched a couple of notable films into the mainstream, most notably, Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and The Blair Witch Project by Sanchez and Myrick. The Sundance Film Festival has become the premier film institution and a must-see for serious film lovers.
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is the capital and best-known city in Utah. It was, of course, named after the nearby Salt Lake and was always known for its strong Mormon majority and the influence of Mormonism on everyday life.
However, the city has been changing and opening up recently, which slowly turned it into a more modern and progressive city. In fact, Mormons are no longer the majority in the city, which might be surprising based on its reputation.
Another surprising thing is that it’s become a gay-friendly city, with a larger gay population than even Los Angeles. Therefore, Utah has turned into a modern city with a large diversity of different people, cultures, and events.
Mormons are probably the first thing that comes to mind when Utah is mentioned. This is perfectly reasonable since they founded the state, and it’s been organized and ruled according to Mormon principles.
While this has been changing recently, the Church of Latter-Day Saints still has a lot of influence, and the majority of the people in Utah belong to it.
Mormons settled around Salt Lake in 1847 under Brigham Young, who led 149 pioneers to Utah, fleeing persecution after their first leader, Joseph Smith, had been killed. Eventually, thousands of Mormons started flocking to the area and eventually built their own state there.
2002 Winter Olympics
It might have been the greatest snow on Earth that drew the organizers of the 2002 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City. Nevertheless, it was a good move because the state used the money gained from the Olympics to invest in its infrastructure.
The Winter Olympics even relaxed its strict anti-alcohol laws, and the games helped bring healing to the whole country, which was still recovering from 9/11.
Utah is rich in natural marvels, which has led to the creation of five national parks in the state. This is a pretty remarkable number as only California and Alaska have more national parks than Utah.
It would be very difficult to find such a diverse collection of forests, drylands, canyons, arches, and bridges anywhere in the world. Stepping from one national park into another must feel like stepping into a different world.
Utah’s national parks include:
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Zion National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Arches National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
I’ll go over the different national parks in more detail below.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park is a true geological marvel. This marvelous, almost unreal landscape features over 2,000 natural rock arches, which look like nothing else you can see anywhere in the world.
It’s a must-see location for anyone visiting Utah. The combination of textures, shapes, and colors is breathtaking, and the amazing sunsets will reinvigorate and inspire you.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is a spectacular national park with an awe-inspiring view of sharp, jagged rocks colored red, with breathtaking sunrises and sunsets over it.
This park draws more than two million visitors every year, who are attracted by the possibilities it offers for hiking, rock climbing, and cross-country skiing. Its wild, rugged, outworldly looks will not leave anyone indifferent, and its eerie beauty stays embedded in one’s memory.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands is another national park that will strike you with its stunning complexities of colors, textures, and areas. It was carved and shaped by water and is still separated into districts by the Colorado and Green rivers.
The four districts of the park are:
- Island in the Sky
- The Needles
- The Maze
- Horseshoe Canyon
It’s rather hard to cross from district to district, so it’s best to visit them on separate trips unless you wish to spend hours upon hours driving. However, the views and experience you get when visiting Canyonlands are worth any effort you might have to invest.
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park, situated in the south-central desert of Utah, is another remarkable natural wonder. It offers a striking contrast of surfaces, as green grassy areas meet formidable red rocks that tower over the flatter surfaces around them.
Its most defining feature is the Waterpocket Fold, a monocline or a “step-up” in Earth’s crust. It gives it its distinctive shape and dictates the landscape and geology around it.
Zion National Park
Zion is another national park with a fantastic combination of vivid colors, shapes, and areas. In Zion, great red cliffs of the canyon meet with green, lightly-wooded areas, which creates some pretty amazing views and draws numerous tourists.
It offers various opportunities for hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing, which draws many different kinds of people. It’s also permitted to swim in the Virgin river in some areas, which offers even more immersion in the natural marvels around you.
Angels Landing is a stone formation. It’s 1,488 feet (454 meters) tall, and provides a panoramic view of Zion Canyon. A narrow path cut into the solid rock leads to it, and considering the steepness, it may not be for the faint-hearted. However, the magnificent view makes up for the fright on the way up, and the adrenaline rush may be an additional motivation for some.
Utah’s riches don’t end at its national parks. The state is home to a wealth of national monuments, which is more proof of its cultural and historical richness. Traveling around Utah is unimaginable without visiting its renowned national monuments and state parks.
These national monuments include:
- Dinosaur National Monument
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
- Great Salt Lake
- Monument Valley
- Bears Ears
- Cedar Breaks
- Four Corners
- Timpanogos Cave
- Asley National Forest
- Fishlake National Forest
- Manti-La Sal National Forest
- Natural Bridges
- Rainbow Bridge
Below, I’ll discuss each national monument in more detail.
Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument is a fantastic place to travel with your kids or on your own if you’re a lover of dinosaurs and science in general. However, it offers much more than just that. The Dinosaur National Monument wasn’t just the home of dinosaurs, but also the home of natives, who left beautiful petroglyphs around the site.
In newer history, homesteaders and outlaws also found their shelter here, so it’s a good place to learn about modern history as well.
For someone who’s a lover of history and science, the dinosaur fossils and petroglyphs offer an unskippable treat. Even though it’s rather remote, the trip is more than worth it.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Grand Staircase-Escalante is another historical and natural wonder of Utah. It’s a true biological treasure spanning many different life-zones, but it’s also a rich cultural-historical site with a lot of material evidence of the native cultures that once occupied the area.
Great Salt Lake
Great Salt Lake State Park is an attractive and convenient location to visit when on the road to or from Salt Lake City. Even though the heyday of tourism on Salt Lake is long-gone, it’s still a pleasant area to visit and enjoy the peace and quiet, along with the majestic sunsets.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is a Navajo-run park that features gorgeous red rock structures, which are a typical Utahn sight. It’s been a popular filming location for western films, so you may have already seen some of its parts.
Bears Ears is one of the most important national monuments, as it’s sacred to many natives who rely on the area for ceremonial and religious purposes. It also offers many opportunities for activities such as camping, scenic driving, rock climbing, and paleontological exploration.
Cedar Breaks is a geological amphitheater that sits at around 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) of elevation. It’s a perfect place for hiking and wandering in nature, surrounded by pines, and enjoying the view of the clear night skies and the surrounding area.
The Four Corners monument marks the place where the states of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico meet. Incredibly, this is the only place in all of the U.S. where you can stand in four states at once. Most of the Four Corners area belongs to semi-autonomous native populations, predominantly Navajo, but also Ute, Zuni, and Hopi.
It doesn’t just mark the boundaries between the four states; it also marks the border between the Navajo Nation and the Ute Mountain Ute tribe. The natives still sell souvenirs and food close to the monument, so visiting it is a good opportunity to get to know their cultures.
Most national parks and monuments in Utah offer striking views and climbing to great heights on hills and rocks. Timpanogos Cave National Monument provides the opposite: going underground for a rugged caving experience and exploring wonderful geologic formations.
Ashley National Forest
Ashley National Forest is a large national forest that occupies parts of Utah and Wyoming. It offers a chance to get to see different types of wildlife up-close and to experience wilderness in a unique way. Ashley National Forest has varying elevations, including anywhere from 6,000 to 13,500 feet (1829 to 4115 meters).
Dixie National Forest
Dixie National Forest is another region that offers a scenic view of the unique Utah wildlife that captivates the eyes and hearts of its visitors. It’s in the divide between the Great Basin and the Colorado river and spans many different types of areas, from typical canyons of Utah to high mountain forests and Alpine Lakes.
Fishlake National Forest
Fishlake National Forest, named after nearby Fish Lake, is a large aspen forest that features an abundance of different wild animals and attracts many visitors every year. It includes large swaths of trees encircling mountain meadows, which creates unforgettable picturesque views.
Hovenweep is a great monument to Pueblo culture, as it features various thirteenth-century ruins left by the culture. It spans six abandoned villages, which were once home to 2,500 people. There, you can see some pretty impressive structures, such as multi-story towers balanced on the edge of the canyon.
Manti-La Sal National Forest
Manti-La Sal National Forest stretches from central Utah, across southeastern Utah, and into Colorado. It’s another region with pristine forests that offers more than 40 camping grounds and various activities such as hiking, camping, and shooting.
Natural Bridges National Monument is famous for its natural bridges that will make you stand in awe of them. Natural Bridges is a true testament to nature and its power of creation. You can view them from above or take a hike to marvel at them. They are named Kachina, Owachomo, and Sipapu, in honor of the Pueblo people who once lived there.
Rainbow Bridge is one of the largest natural bridges in the world, and it attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year. It’s also a sacred place to the native cultures and must be respected as such. This natural bridge is considered one of the highest natural bridges, with a span of 275 feet (84 meters).
Utah is a place of incredible historical and cultural wealth. It’s also home to some of the most amazing natural sites you can ever come across. Therefore, it’s worth visiting and marveling at its grandeur.
- Utah State Capitol: Beehive Sculptures
- Boston Times: For Real: Salt Lake City Is America’s Super Cool, Super Gay, Hipster Haven
- LA Times: Mormons Now A Minority in Utah’s Biggest County, New Figures Show
- History: Why the Mormons Settled in Utah
- Matador Network: 29 Awesome Things Utah Is Known For
- NPS: A Red-Rock Wonderland
- NPS: Discover Dinosaur
- NPS: A Lifetime of Exploration Awaits
- NPS: Geology, Wildflowers, and Night Skies at 10,000 Feet
- National Geographic: Everything to Know about Bryce Canyon National Park
- National Park Foundation: An Oasis Amidst the Desert
- Bureau of Land Management: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
- Bureau of Land Management: Bears Ears National Monument
- U.S. Department of Energy: Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Reservation
- USDA: Welcome to Dixie National Forest