Utah is known for its many national parks and national monuments, mountain ranges, and the Great Salt Lake. It is also known for the Sundance Film Festival, frontier history, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Utah is famous for Salt Lake City, as well as the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Do you love national parks and the great outdoors? Or maybe you fancy a film festival or a pro basketball game? Do you love the old west and the pioneer spirit? If so, then Utah is the place for you. In this article, we will explore some of the things that make the state of Utah famous.
- What is Utah Known For?
- 1. Salt Lake City, Utah
- 2. The Utah Jazz
- 3. The Great Salt Lake
- 4. Bonneville Salt Flats
- 5. Mountains
- 6. Park City, Utah
- 7. Sundance Film Festival
- 8. The LDS Church
- 9. The Transcontinental Railroad
- 10. National Parks
- 11. Zion National Park
- 12. Bryce Canyon National Park
- 13. Canyonlands National Park
- 14. Colorado and Green Rivers
- 15. Capitol Reef National Park
- 16. Arches National Park
- 17. Moab, Utah
- 18. Dinosaur National Monument
- 19. Natural Bridges National Monument
- 20. The Blair Witch Project
- 21. Dutch Ovens
- 22. The Beehive State
- FAQs About Famous Utah Things
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What is Utah Known For?
1. Salt Lake City, Utah
Utah’s most famous city is also its largest and the state capital. This city in northern Utah has seen a lot of growth recently, both in terms of population and a trendy arts scene.
Football fans know Salt Lake City as the birthplace of the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young. Salt Lake City is also home to Real Salt Lake, a team in America’s Major League Soccer. The city is also known for its light rail system, commonly referred to as TRAX.
2. The Utah Jazz
Utah’s most famous sports team actually began in New Orleans, Louisiana, which is known for its jazz music scene. The team transferred to Salt Lake City, keeping the name because there was not enough time before the 1979-1980 season to go through with a name change. The name stuck, even though Utah has never been known for jazz music.
The team rose to fame in the 80s and 90s with the power duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone, as well as the coaching of Jerry Sloane.
During those years, a rivalry with the Chicago Bulls emerged, growing especially tense during the 1998 NBA Finals when the Bulls took the victory. Although the Jazz never won a championship, they were one of the most popular teams in the 1990s.
3. The Great Salt Lake
The Great Salt Lake gave its name to the nearby city and the surrounding Salt Lake County. Scientists believe it is all that remains of the massive prehistoric Lake Bonneville.
The lake’s salinity comes from having no outlets; the salt carried by the tributary rivers has no other place to go. The lake has a higher salt content than the ocean which increases buoyancy. This makes swimming here a unique experience as one floats very easily.
4. Bonneville Salt Flats
West of the Great Salt Lake, the Bonneville Salt Flats cover an area of 46 square miles! The flat terrain of this wilderness in northwestern Utah served as an ideal site for daredevils to set new world records for land speed. Famous for their stark natural beauty, the salt flats have also featured in several major motion pictures such as Independence Day and Pirates of the Caribbean: At the World’s End.
Everywhere you go in Utah, you will be surrounded by mountains. The Uinta Mountains in northeastern Utah are one of the few mountain ranges in America that run from east to west.
The Uinta Mountains are also the highest range in Utah. The Wasatch Mountains form the westernmost branch of the greater Rocky Mountains, also forming the eastern edge of the Great Basin area.
❓ Trivia Time: What states are the Rocky Mountains in?
6. Park City, Utah
East of Salt Lake City, tucked into the Wasatch Mountains sits one of Utah’s most famous winter recreation sites: Park City. The Park City Ski Resort is not only the most famous of Utah’s ski resorts but also the largest ski resort in America.
The city hosted skiing and snowboarding events for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Park City is also home to the famous Sundance Film Festival.
7. Sundance Film Festival
In addition to its peerless natural beauty, Utah also boasts contemporary cultural riches. It is home to the famous Sundance Film Festival, the largest independent film festival in the United States. The film festival proved so popular that spin-offs opened in international cities such as London and Hong Kong.
8. The LDS Church
The first early settlers to come from the eastern United States were the Mormon pioneers led by Brigham Young. While the official name of their faith is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, they are most commonly referred to as the Mormon church.
To this day, Utah occupies an important role in the denomination. Their main temple and central administration are located in Salt Lake City, Utah. A significant portion (around 60%) of the population belongs to the Mormon church, leading to the unofficial nickname of “The Mormon State.”
9. The Transcontinental Railroad
America’s first transcontinental railroad began with two teams working toward each other from the east and west. The two met in Promontory, Utah and, in a special ceremony on May 10, 1869, the final spike was driven in, linking the two railroads together. The first transcontinental railroad revolutionized travel, reducing transcontinental travel times from six months to only one week.
10. National Parks
Utah is a treasure trove when it comes to national parks, each of them showcasing Utah’s unique, rugged beauty. It would be an injustice to lump them all into one entry, so we will take a look at each of these fantastic parks and the remarkable rock formations that are found in them.
11. Zion National Park
While Arizona is known for having the most famous canyon in America, Utah offers its southern neighbor some stiff competition. Zion National Park in southwestern Utah can scarcely be topped for stunning beauty. Located in and around Zion Canyon, one finds sheer canyon walls, tall mountains, and much more. According to figures from the National Park Service, Zion received 5 million visitors in 2021, putting it as the 10th most visited national park in the country.
The most famous part of the park is The Narrows. Here canyon walls soar to a thousand feet, while the river that winds its way through the bottom of them measures only twenty feet wide in places.
Visitors must wade through the river in many places, but that only increases the sense of adventure for many people. Chest waders are available for rental in many places outside the park for those that would rather stay as dry as possible.
12. Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park sits 72 miles northeast of Zion National Park. Despite its name, Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon. Instead, it is a massive collection of natural rock amphitheaters. This park in southern Utah is famous for its hoodoos, and rock pillars formed by erosion and frost weathering.
Bryce Canyon National Park has extensive evergreen forests and alpine meadows within its territory. It is not as large or as popular as Zion National Park, but, for some, that makes it more enjoyable. One can find a wide variety of wildlife living in the park as well. In the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular in this national park.
13. Canyonlands National Park
Southeastern Utah is home to yet another national park filled with stunning rock formations and canyons. The park is divided into four districts, each with its own unique rock formations.
The Island in the Sky is a broad, flat mesa towering above the surrounding landscape. The Needles are a series of rock pinnacles jutting up into the sky. The Maze is a remote series of winding canyons and is considered one of the most remote and inaccessible places in America. The combined Colorado and Green Rivers carve canyons of their own and make for excellent kayaking and rafting.
14. Colorado and Green Rivers
There is more to these rivers than just their confluence in the Canyonlands National Park. The Colorado River is known for flowing south into Arizona, forming Lake Powell on the border of Utah and Arizona. The Green River begins in Wyoming, winding its way through epic landscapes before meeting the Colorado in Utah. The river gets its name from the greenish tint caused by the sediment in the water.
15. Capitol Reef National Park
Another of southern Utah’s famous national parks is Capitol Reef National Park. This national park takes its name from a white sandstone rock formation named Capitol Reef for its resemblance to the dome of the United States Capitol Building. The park is also well-known for its narrow slot canyons.
Capitol Reef National Park is also known for the Waterpocket Fold. The Waterpocket Fold is a “wrinkle” in the earth, nearly 100 miles long, formed by ancient tectonic activity. Petroglyphs carved by ancient Native American tribes can also be found at this park.
16. Arches National Park
As you can well see, Utah has more national parks than many US states, and, as such, is a veritable paradise for outdoors enthusiasts.
One of the most iconic of Utah’s five national parks is the Arches National Park. In the Arches National Park, one finds over 2000 stone arches, so the name certainly seems appropriate. The most famous and frequently photographed of these is Delicate Arch.
❓ Trivia Time: Which state has the most national parks?
17. Moab, Utah
This tiny town in eastern Utah is a major hub for outdoors enthusiasts. Moab is located right outside both the Arches National Park and the Canyonlands National Park. Local trails make for great hiking as well as mountain biking. Being such a popular base camp for adventurers, the town offers a number of trendy restaurants and accommodations to fit any budget and taste.
18. Dinosaur National Monument
In northeastern Utah along the border with Colorado, which is also known for its natural wonders, one finds the Dinosaur National Monument.
The national monument got its name from the abundance of dinosaur fossils found here. Another archaeological treasure on this site, but from more recent times, is the petroglyphs at McKee Spring on the grounds of the park.
19. Natural Bridges National Monument
Utah’s many national monuments often resemble its national parks, but on a smaller scale. Rock formations of all kinds, ranging from pillars to arches to bridges, abound. One such spectacular site is the Natural Bridges National Monument in southern Utah. Here one finds three “bridges” of rock spanning the gap between cliffs.
This site was Utah’s first national monument. Hiking is popular during the day and the site offers some of the best stargazing available at night.
20. The Blair Witch Project
Speaking of dark nights in Utah, the classic “found footage” horror movie The Blair Witch Project premiered at the Sundance Film Festival at midnight on January 23, 1999. Doubtlessly some of the viewers thought twice about camping in Utah’s many remote campsites after first seeing the film.
21. Dutch Ovens
Not every state has official kitchenware, but Utah does. The Dutch oven is the official state cooking pot, having been a stand-by for many of the settlers in the state’s early days. The simple design of the pot belies its many uses, being useful for everything from boiling to baking. To this day, Utahans proudly rely on Dutch ovens to prepare their grub, whether in the comfort of home or out on a camping trip.
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22. The Beehive State
Utah may not be famous for its honey or have a significantly higher population of bees than other states, but it chose the beehive as a state symbol. Why? The Utah State Capitol site relates in an article that the beehive has long been considered a symbol of hard work and communal strength.
The early pioneers and settlers in Utah faced difficult circumstances, but, through their determination and cooperation, established their homes, and, in turn, the state of Utah. In honor of the labors of their forebears, the people of Utah chose to adopt the nickname “the Beehive State.”
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FAQs About Famous Utah Things
What famous people are from Utah?
Comedian Roseanne Barr, NFL star Steve Young, and outlaw Butch Cassidy are from Utah.
What makes Utah special?
Utah is known for its high concentration of stunning rock formations found in its five national parks. No other state can boast a collection quite like that of Utah’s, all of which are relatively close to each other.
Now you don’t have to wonder “what is Utah known for” anymore!
As you can see Utah is a place like no other! We hope this article has helped shed some light on the many things that Utah is known for.