My Utah Travel Video Playlist
Approximately 62% of Utah residents report to be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or LDS (Mormons), which greatly influences Utah culture, politics and daily life. The LDS Church’s world headquarters is located in Salt Lake City. Utah is the only state with a majority population belonging to a single church.
The state of Utah began with the Mormon pioneers. Following the death of Joseph Smith in 1844, Brigham Young became the effective leader of the Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormon church, in Nauvoo, Illinois. In October of 1845, Brigham Young agreed with the Governor of Illinois, Thomas Ford, that the Mormons would leave by the next year, to address the growing conflicts between the Mormons and their neighbors.
Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers reached the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. For the first few years, Brigham Young and the thousands of early Mormon settlers in Salt Lake City struggled to survive, but they felt the arid desert land was the place where they could practice their religion without harassment. Over the next 22 years, more than 70,000 Mormon pioneers crossed the plains and settled in Utah. Salt Lake City became the hub of a “far-flung commonwealth” of Mormon settlements.
Prominent settlements in Utah included St. George, Logan, and Manti, as well as Parowan, Cedar City, Bluff, Moab, Vernal, Fillmore, Nephi, Levan, Spanish Fork, Springville, Provo Bench (now Orem), Pleasant Grove, American Fork, Lehi, Sandy, Murray, Jordan, Centerville, Farmington, Huntsville, Kaysville, Grantsville, Tooele, Roy, Brigham City, and many other smaller towns and settlements. Brigham Young had an expansionist’s view of the territory, and called it Deseret – which according to the Book of Mormon, was an ancient word for “honeybee”. This is symbolized by the beehive on the Utah flag, and the state’s motto, “Industry”.
Beginning in the early 20th century, with the establishment of national parks like Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park, Utah became known for its natural beauty. Southern Utah became a popular spot for filming Western movies set in arid, rugged landscapes. During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, with the construction of the Interstate highway system, access to the southern Utah scenic areas was made much easier. Tourism is a major industry in Utah. With five national parks, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion, Utah has the third most national parks of any state after Alaska and California. In addition, Utah features seven national monuments, Cedar Breaks, Dinosaur, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, Rainbow Bridge, and Timpanogos Cave, two national recreation areas, Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon, seven national forests, Ashley, Caribou-Targhee, Dixie, Fishlake, Manti-La Sal, Sawtooth, and Uinta-Wasatch-Cache, and numerous state parks and monuments. The Moab area, in the southeastern part of the state, is known for its challenging mountain biking trails, and is a prime area for RV boondocking and camping.
With the establishment of the Alta Ski Area in 1939, and the development of several other ski resorts in Utah’s mountains, Utah’s skiing destinations have become world renowned. The dry, powdery snow of the Wasatch Range is considered some of the best skiing in the world, in fact, Salt Lake City won the bid for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
In 1957, Utah created the Utah State Parks Commission, with four parks. Today, Utah State Parks manages 43 parks, and several undeveloped areas totaling over 95,000 acres of land, and more than 1,000,000 acres of water. This provides many excellent RV and tent camping opportunities. Utah’s state parks are scattered throughout the state; from Bear Lake State Park on the Utah/Idaho border, to Edge of the Cedars State Park deep in the Four Corners region, and every place in between.
During the late 20th century, the state of Utah grew quickly. In the 1970s growth was phenomenal in the suburbs of the Salt Lake City area. Continuing to today, many areas of Utah continue to see strong growth. Northern Davis, southern and western Salt Lake, Summit, eastern Tooele, Utah, Wasatch, and Washington counties are all growing very quickly. Management of transportation and urbanization are major issues in state politics, as development consumes agricultural land and wilderness areas, with increased urban density creating air pollution.