The story goes that in 1847, when the trail-weary Mormon leader Brigham Young surveyed the Salt Lake Valley from Emigration Canyon high in the Wasatch Range, he declared, “This is the place.” Since the founding of Salt Lake City and the settlement of Utah, many other people have taken a look at this dramatically scenic state and agreed: Yes, this is the place!
Few places on earth combine such spectacular terrain and unusual history. The state hosts the majestic splendor of the Wasatch Range, the colorful canyonlands of the Colorado Plateau, and the remote deserts and arid mountain ranges of the Great Basin. This region beckoned as the "Promised Land" to members of the struggling Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1840s—a place where those faithful to the Book of Mormon could survive and prosper in a land of their own.
Today, this once insular state has put out the welcome mat—Utah's extravagant scenery and superlative recreational opportunities lure sightseers, mountain bikers, hikers, and skiers from around the world, many of whom stay on to make this beguiling state their home.
Utah presents some curious statistics: Although it ranks 34th among states in population, it is the sixth most urban state in the nation, a startling fact when you consider how utterly vacant—though dramatically beautiful—much of the landscape is.
The unyielding deserts, craggy mountains, and imposing slickrock formations that cover much of the state aren’t really fit for human habitation, and the majority of citizens live in a few large cities in the sprawling Wasatch Front metropolitan area.
A little more than half of the people living in Utah are practicing Mormons. To outsiders, the social homogeneity of smaller towns far from Salt Lake City, Park City, and Moab can seem off-putting, but the strong religious and cultural bonds that tie families and communities together in Utah are themselves noteworthy and increasingly rare in the fast-paced modern world.
The uniformity of the population stands in stark contrast to the diversity of the landscape and the abundance of opportunities for outdoor recreation.
From incredibly varied canyon country, remote and rugged mountain ranges, and glistening salt flats to ancient Native American rock art and cliff dwellings, fossilized dinosaur footprints, and old mining towns, the many fascinating sights and experiences of Utah are waiting to be discovered.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition