Quick Facts About Utah
Inhabited first by the ancient Pueblo, named for the Ute and settled again by the Mormons, the Beehive State’s history is as complex as its red rock canyons are deep. Utah’s natural resources have always been a draw. From the white-brined shores of the Great Salt Lake to the feet-deep powder in the northern Wasatch Mountains, this is a state to bask in natural beauty.
People visit Utah for skiing, hiking and cycling, but they move here for the community. In fact, the United Van Lines 46th Annual Movers Study showed that the top three reasons people relocated to Utah were for family, lifestyle and careers.
Utah’s economy is unusually diversified, which means that traditional sectors like mining and agriculture are supported by manufacturing, transportation, finance and, of course, tourism. About 11.3 million people visited Utah’s five national parks in 2021, and the state’s mountain resorts were inundated with 5.8 million skiers, stoked to hit the slopes.
The laid-back, outdoorsy vibe combined with the rugged, industrious nature of Utah residents has built a robust and reliable state economy, one that feeds and is fueled by the state’s creative scene: food, music and visual arts are all big forces in this Western giant.
Whether you’re drawn to the constellations over Bryce Canyon, the sapphire skies over Park City or the breweries and pubs in between, Utah is a state of wonder for residents new and old.
Living in Utah
The population of the Beehive State is booming. An estimated 3,380,800 people now live in Utah, an increase of nearly 20% over the past 10 years. New residents have been lured by Utah’s growing economy, the promising job market and, of course, the numerous natural wonders.
As one of the largest and least-populous states in the country, many people are drawn to the sheer amount of space the state affords. There are only 39.7 people per square mile in Utah — that’s less than half the population density of the United States. Whatever the first draw to Utah may be, it’s the independent and aspirational spirit of the state that keeps people here.
In a state as large as Utah, the weather can vary dramatically from north to south and east to west. Understandably, things naturally get colder and snowier at higher elevations. Generally speaking, the climate of Utah is dry and desert-like, especially during July and August. Overall, rainfall is paltry — even in the northeast corner near Park City, averages barely top 20 inches. In the winter, ski resorts within the Wasatch Mountain range can see up to 500 inches of snow every year, thanks in part to the lake effect generated when storms blow over the Great Salt Lake. But residents at the base of the mountains are usually spared this inundation.
All the state’s national parks are in the central and southern halves of the state. Situated in what’s typically considered high desert regions, they see extremely high highs in the summer, offset by dramatically lower lows. Unlike neighboring Colorado, Utah gets hot everywhere during daytime hours in the summer, especially in the southern climes. Temperatures can exceed 100 but plummet after dark. Generally speaking, wherever you are in the state, expect at least a 25 °F difference between night and day. Hikers are cautioned to avoid exposed trails during peak daytime hours and advised to carry at least a gallon of water per person. Flash floods can occur in the warmer months, too.
The best time to visit or move to Utah is in the spring and early fall, from April to mid-June and from late August to mid-October.
Economy and Job Market
Utah’s economic outlook is second-to-none at the moment, ranking in the top three states for the best economy, growth, job opportunities/employment and outlook, where it also earned the #3 placement in overall rankings.
The unemployment rate in Utah has stood at 2.4% since August 2022 — the lowest in the nation. Considering the population boom in the state, it’s no surprise that the construction industry saw the biggest job growth in the state in 2022, followed by mining, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality.
The one area where the state receives poor marks is for air/water quality and pollution. U.S. News & World Report ranks it at #47, nearly the bottom of the barrel. The mountainous terrain can cause airborne pollutants from fossil fuels to accumulate and linger persistently, especially during the winter months.
Additionally, Utah faces water problems year-round. Roughly half of the state’s rivers, streams and lakes are considered compromised, making them unsafe for humans to swim in or fish from, and threatening the other animals dependent on them. The lack of environmental regulation, compounded by the state’s ongoing drought, seems to be the culprit behind Utah’s water problems. Waterways are polluted by waste from humans, pets and cattle and by chemicals and other industrial toxins.
Utah Cost of Living
The cost of living in Utah is just slightly above the U.S. average, with housing and transportation as the two largest expenses. Median home prices in the state in 2022 topped $550,000 — nearly $200,000 over the national average. At $1,171, the median gross rent in Utah is on par with the rest of the nation. Offsetting these costs (somewhat) is Utah’s median household income; at $79,133, it’s the fourth highest in the country. The state’s poverty rate is also the second lowest.
Healthcare costs in Utah are lower than the national average. The state topped America’s Health Rankings list for its overall performance. Areas where the state shines include low rates of excessive drinking, smoking and social isolation. But the organization cited many challenges in eldercare. Seniors struggle to afford care and find geriatric care providers, and it found they do not receive proper cancer screenings. Despite these issues, the CDC ranks Utah ninth in the nation for life expectancy — residents here live to be over 78 years old, on average.
Best Places to Live in Utah
Salt Lake City
With a city population of 200,478 and a metro population of 2.5 million, Salt Lake City is Utah’s most populous area. The home of natural treasures like the Great Salt Lake, cultural gems like the Hogle Zoo, the Natural History Museum of Utah and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts — not to mention a burgeoning food scene — Salt Lake City is mountain cosmopolitan at its best.
Upwards of 36,000 college students live in the city, attending Westminster College, the University of Utah (one of the state’s biggest employers and other academic institutions. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine a college town more fun than Salt Lake City. Although the slopes are only a short drive away, the city experiences a small fraction of the snow that the resorts receive, so students can easily stumble from bar to bar unhindered.
Salt Lake City is a powerful economic engine in the state, with wide-ranging industries and interests. The city is the headquarters of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Corporations like Overstock, Extra Space Storage and Myriad Genetics also have headquarters in the metro area. The city government is actively promoting the manufacturing industry here to further diversify the economic base.
Though housing in Salt Lake City is pricy, that hasn’t deterred folks from moving here. The city has gained roughly 20,000 new residents in the last 10 years. The U.S. Census Bureau reports a median home value of $380,200 in 2020, but realtors say sale prices averaging far higher. The median gross rent in Salt Lake City is on par with national averages at $1,141. The population of Salt Lake is more diverse than in other areas of the state, and it’s also highly educated — nearly 50% of residents have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Just 45 miles south of Salt Lake City, Provo is nestled on the eastern edge of Utah Lake in the jaw-dropping Utah Valley, just south of Sundance. With enviable access to rafting, hiking, skiing and the famous Provo Canyon, the city has been ranked one of the country’s best towns ever by Outside magazine. But it’s also got a terrific downtown scene, where red brick shops and restaurants draw lively crowds all day long against the backdrop of Mount Timpanogos.
Provo’s population of 114,084 has held relatively steady over the past decade. Brigham Young University is the city’s largest employer and contributes nearly a third of the city’s population — roughly 35,000 students are enrolled here across the undergraduate and graduate programs. Provo may be something of Salt Lake’s little sister, but it certainly pulls its weight big-time in business. The survey-building company Qualtrics is co-headquartered here (it’s other base is in Seattle), and smart home security giant Vivint is also based in Provo. Housing in this city is more affordable than in Salt Lake City, too. The median home value in Provo is $328,500 and rent averages $973/month.
Situated 80 miles northeast of Salt Lake City is the small city of Logan, home of Utah State University. Its 28,000 university students comprise a significant portion of the city’s population of 54,436, which has grown by roughly 5,000 over the last 10 years, as people are slowly discovering that one of Utah’s best-kept secrets is the Cache Valley. Housing in Logan is far more affordable than in the larger cities to the south. The median home value here is $238,400 and rent averages only $870 per month.
You can get a great introduction to the region at the Jensen Historical Farm at the American West Heritage Center, which explores the histories of Native Americans, pioneers and even mountain men through living history exhibits. Kids can try milking cows or panning for gold, and no one can resist the site’s annual baby animal days. (We dare you to try.) The Logan River, teeming with rainbow trout, is a popular destination for fly-fishing. If you’re more into motorized adventures than meditative ones, treat your crew to a day at Logan Canyon Snowmobile Complex, where you can take in the scenery at high speed on snow-covered trails.
Located deep in Utah’s southwest corner, St. George is the heart of the state’s red rock region. This warm and arid terrain finds closer kin with the desert outside of Vegas (just two hours away) than it does with the white-capped peaks of the Wasatch. What Park City is for skiers, St. George is to mountain bikers, who ride in in droves for the easy, scenic trails at Bearclaw Poppy and the electrifying “roller coaster of dirt” at Green Valley. For those looking for more languid adventures, try paddling through the mineral-green waters of Sand Hollow, just a short drive from downtown.
All this beauty has drawn new residents by the thousands. With a population of just under 100,000, St. George has welcomed nearly 30,000 newcomers over the past 10 years. Housing here is steep, though. The median home value is $344,200 and rent averages $1,157 a month. Some of the city’s biggest employers include regional airline SkyWest, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Intermountain Healthcare, Walgreens Boots Alliance and the state of Utah.
Fun Things to Do in Utah
Word-Class Outdoor Experiences
Utah is home to some of the country’s most unusual landscapes, and there’s no better place to explore them than in the 40-plus state parks as well as the amazing national parks and monuments, including Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. Visitors come to Utah from around the world for hiking, fishing, rafting, cycling and stargazing.
One place you can do them all is along Flaming Gorge National Scenic Byway. Located on the Wyoming border in the northeast corner of the state, this vast recreational area encompasses a reservoir of the Green River, which is perfect for paddleboarding and kayaking, though anglers also find it heavenly. Rainbow trout are the most common catch, but you’ll also find lake and brown trout, smallmouth bass, channel catfish and the sought-after kokanee salmon.
Hikers are treated to stunning views of the mountainsides and canyons on the area’s numerous trails. Cyclists enjoy a 75-mile high-altitude route through this varied terrain, seeing bright wildflower and cactus blooms in the spring and summer and changing leaves in the autumn. The area is ringed by small towns, so lodging and entertainment — including rodeos — are never far away.
Arches National Park in Moab has the highest concentration of naturally formed stone arches in the world. Thanks to the unique composition of park’s sandstone, combined with millennia of rock-squeezing and salt-flow and erosive rainfall, you and your family can enjoy over 2,000 of these geologic sculptures.
Moab’s other claim to fame is Canyonlands National Park — a site that may be less traveled but is by no means lesser-than its more famous neighbor. Just west of Canyonlands is Capitol Reef — perhaps Utah’s most overlooked treasure.
Known for its pink cliffs and tawny hoodoos — the dynamic columns of weathered stone that make this park feel like a giant sandcastle — Bryce Canyon has one of the most magical landscapes in all of Utah. When the skies are clear, you can see all the way to Arizona from this park, thanks to the clear air and high elevation.
Learn more about these destinations in our National Parks of the Southwest guide.
With vestiges from ancient seas and one of the world’s most extensive archaeological collections of dinosaur skeletons and fossils, Utah is packed with primordial wonders. If your family is especially paleoenthusiastic, take them on a week-long, fossil-filled adventure on the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway. Beginning at the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City and concluding with the Moab Giants Dinosaur Park and Museum, you can hike, bike and paddle your way through the land of prehistoric giants. The journey includes a stop at Dinosaur National Monument, where you can see fossils, petroglyphs and even go rafting on the Yampa or Green Rivers.
But dinosaurs weren’t the only early inhabitants of the region. Over 10,000 years ago, the ancient human population thrived at what is now Hovenweep National Monument. The remnants of the ancestral Pueblo’s granaries, kivas, homes and towers — dating back over 700 years — show how sophisticated and advanced these societies were.
One of the Top States for Winter Activities
As the 2002 host of the Winter Olympics, no state is better equipped than Utah for winter recreation. Downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating and tubing are all popular in the area. New residents whose families are particularly outdoorsy may want to get a Salt Lake Ski Super Pass, which gives you access to resorts around the state, or an IndyPass, which grants access to over 100 resorts across the country.
Utah is famous for its snowy slopes, so you’ll find no shortage of ski resorts, from budget-friendly to luxe. Robert Redford’s Sundance Mountain Resort is one of the more intimate of the high-end establishments, with cozy lodging, artful dining experiences and a commitment to sustainable practices. Those who want to see but not ski the slopes should try the winter zip line tour, a zero- to 65-mph adventure cruise above the snow-blanketed mountainside.
One of the local family favorites is Beaver Mountain, which offers affordable season passes, night skiing and snowboarding. It’s also home to the Adaptive Center for Common Ground Outdoor Adventures, which can provide adaptive lessons, assistive equipment and two-, three- and four-track skiing to ensure that people of all abilities can enjoy the slopes to the fullest.
In Park City — just 30 miles outside of Salt Lake City — Woodward Park is one of the coolest, kid-approved places on Earth. It has the state’s longest tubing lanes, freestyle terrain parks to show off your boarding madness and an indoor adventure facility that’s fun all year round. It even offers extreme sports summer camps, so your child can build their BMX skills or perfect their parkour techniques.
Though Salt Lake City was the official host city for the 2002 games, Park City is home to the Utah Olympic Park. It’s here that young hopefuls come to train. However, the park is also open to the public, ensuring you can show off tricks on the halfpipe courses, test your bravery on the Nordic ski jumps and — if you’re really daring — try the winter bobsled experience. You’ll be guided by a professional driver — but don’t expect a smooth ride. This is the real, 5G deal on an Olympic sliding track — not a theme park simulator.
Other Experiences Only in Utah
If you have to spend time indoors in the state, fear not — there are loads of entertaining and enlightening activities for you and your crew.
No place on Earth has more certified Dark Sky locations than Utah. A great place to learn about what you might spy in the night sky is the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City, where immersive exhibits provide a hands-on understanding of our planet and beyond.
If you’re looking for an aquatic escape in this landlocked state, visit the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, where you can meet some of the ocean’s most fascinating species.
More than 50 Tribal Nations call Utah home. The 60,000-plus members who reside here today are descendants of the area’s earliest inhabitants. The Native American Village provides an important introduction to the diverse Indigenous cultures of the territory, including the Shoshone, Piute, Ute, Goshute and Navajo. Visitors can participate in making traditional crafts, hear stories from interpreters inside a hogan and even take a guided trail ride on horseback.
Utah may only have a couple of professional sports teams, but don’t let that fool you — Utahns go bananas for everything from motocross to minor league baseball. In Salt Lake City, you can catch the ECHL’s Grizzlies slicing up the ice. The Utah Jazz, which plays at Vivint Arena, has been on court in Salt Lake since the franchise moved here from New Orleans in 1980. Utah’s MLS team, Real Salt Lake, follows the state’s unofficial obsession with certifying everything saline as genuine.
But don’t forget about the state’s creative side. Utah hosts world-renowned events like the Sundance Film Festival, and it’s also home to numerous art museums, including the Southern Utah Museum of Art and the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. Plus, there’s groundbreaking land art here, too, like Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty and Nancy Holt’s famous Sun Tunnels, both of which offer a revolutionary way of engaging with and reorienting our relationship with the landscape.
Eat Utahns’ Favorites
While much of Utah’s splendid terrain is either snow-covered or arid sandstone, the state’s ranches and farms produce exceptional grass-fed beef, chicken, pork and dairy. There’s salt of course, from the mines of an ancient sea, which Redmond’s calls “real,” plus cider, wheat and all manner of sweets — the approved indulgence for confirmed teetotalers.
Salt Lake City and Park City have built a world-class reputation for their cuisine, and dishes like Oquirrh’s house-made rigatoni with braised lamb and 350’s crispy pork belly confit keep hungry locals and tourists lined up at the door. Mazza’s — a Salt Lake Middle Eastern institution — has drool-worthy shawarma brightened with pickled turnips. If you’re looking for fine dining, the seven-course tasting menu at the inspired Table X will make you look at red cabbage in an exalted new light forever.
It’s no surprise that this outdoor oasis has an excellent beer scene. Uinita, Squatters, Proper and Bewilder breweries bottle some of the best suds in the state, but Templin’s Big Smoke Rauchbier — with its malty, bruleéd finish had us over the HighWest old fashioned barrel it was aged in.
One of Utah’s favorite comfort foods is the discomfortingly named casserole, “funeral potatoes.” This tater-on-tater potluck staple is traditionally prepared with frozen, shredded hash browns baked in a cheesy bechamel enriched with chicken broth and sour cream and topped with crushed potato chips (kettle-cooked hold up the best).
Speaking of potatoes, one condiment French-fry-eating newcomers will become fast acquainted with is Arctic Circle Fry Sauce. Like the Dairy Queen of the Mountain West, this fast-food chain turned a simple combination of ketchup and mayonnaise into pink gold.
But the Beehive’s state’s real gold is for the bees. While Utah’s moniker doesn’t derive from an abundance of small, collaborative honey-makers, money-makers have capitalized on the symbolism imposed on the territory by the first Mormon settlers in the region and turned that cachet into a lively market for the natural sweetener.
Utah still only ranks 24th in honey production, even beaten out by its own neighbors in the Dakotas and Montana, but the raw honey from Millers, the Weed Family, the over-the-top-tongue-in-cheeky Beeutahful Bees and other small producers certainly warrant a lot of state buzz.
Baking nerds will want to make a beeline to Central Milling Company, which has been growing and grinding its own wheat into organic flours for several generations. Sure, they have your (ahem) run of the mill all-purpose flour, but they also carry high-protein whole wheat flour, high extraction type 85 wheat flour (for the sourdough enthusiasts in your household) and even produce a whole Khorasan flour — an ancient grain with a distinctive golden hue, a sweeter flavor profile and better gluten production than durum. They sell five-pound bags for the genuine home enthusiast and 50-pounders for those deep in dough.
Planning Your Move to Utah
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