In Utah, America confounds itself.
Once a largely unsettled territory of Spain and then Mexico, its desolately gorgeous canyons, deserts, mountains, and the Great Salt Lake became pioneers’ territory in the 19th century. In the 1840s and 1850s, the population influx suddenly became dominated by westward-traveling followers of that most American of churches, the Latter Day Saints. Their polygamy made the territory that would become the state of Utah a bloodily contested battleground. Church members, government soldiers, and Native American tribes engaged in a protracted battle for hegemony. After years of U.S. refusal to advance the region beyond territory status, the Latter Day Saints banned polygamy in 1890, and Utah was granted statehood.
Members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints remain a majority in the state, but it was Utah’s stunning natural surroundings that guaranteed its embrace in the popular American imagination. The southern parts of Utah that became Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks were tourist attractions from the early 20th century for their grand and unusual beauty. By the 1920s, they were officially recognized as national parks and remain among the state’s most popular destinations. Several other huge swaths of natural preserve, like Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands, Monument Valley and nearby outposts of civilization in towns like St. George, Moab, and Kanab in Utah’s south attract sightseers and adventurers from around the United States and the world. More than 60% of all of Utah’s land is protected as a national park or monument, keeping this vast range of prehistoric mountains, canyons, and deserts ruggedly pristine.
Meanwhile, the Wasatch Mountains provide a backdrop to the dense population center of the state in the northwestern corner, known as the Wasatch Front, home to around 2.2 million people. The mountains make for incredible scenery from within its urban centers, and host accessible ski resorts with such ideal conditions that this area was selected to host the 2002 Winter Olympics. The centerpiece of the Wasatch Front is Salt Lake City, the state capital and a quiet metropolis whose status as a Mormon religious hub is balanced by a lively and diverse population of non-church members. Church-related and other history museums, particularly the Natural History Museum of Utah, enrich the experience, while easy access to natural splendor like Antelope Island State Park and the mountains and their resorts makes these attractions obligatory. To the north of the Wasatch Front, the area around the university town of Logan offers a different flavor of Utah, with an emphasis on cowboy culture, mountain recreation, and hip restaurants.
Seasonally, in summer and winter, Park City across the Wasatch Range from SLC is a top-notch destination offering incredible skiing and upscale resort accommodations. The area was central to the Winter Olympics in 2002, and continues to serve as a crucial training ground for America’s skiing elite. The thriving recreation-based economy has also allowed for the establishment of a wide range of restaurants, spas, and other entertainment. For novice skiers and professional ski bums alike, along with almost any other breed of outdoor lover, this is one of the most fun and exciting luxury destinations in the American West.
Salt Lake City
Quiet, mountain-backed Salt Lake City exudes calm creativity. The heavy and noticeable influence of the Mormon Church has anything but stifled a unique zest for art, drama, music, and food. Even more significantly, the incredible accessibility of hiking trails and ski resorts in the Wasatch Mountains, as well as the huge and geologically unique Great Salt Lake, means every day offers the opportunity for exciting outdoor adventure.
Some of the most unique attractions here are related to the city’s status as the cultural center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For Mormons, ancestry is a matter of faith. As a result, the fascinating Family History Library was built to help church and non-church members alike plumb the depths of their archives and consult with genealogical experts to find some information on family histories going back generations. Visitors consistently find the Family History Library to be a pleasant surprise. Temple Square, in the center of SLC, is another major tourist attraction with beautiful gardens, interesting architecture, and tours with loads of LDS history.
Other museums relating to state history, beautiful parks, excellent shopping, and a wide range of dining options and accommodations make Salt Lake City an exceedingly comfortable place to visit. For those with a thirst for unique outdoor beauty and adventure, it’s hard to match.
6191 S. State Street
Murray, UT 84107