Arches National Park and other facts about Utah state

80 Unique Facts About Utah

Get ready to discover 80 general, interesting, and historical facts about Utah state, USA!

From its nickname, “The Mormon State,” you could correctly assume that there are a whole lot of Mormons in the state. But what else is Utah famous for?

Utah At-a-Glance

Location: Mountain West, U.S.; bordered by Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, and a corner of New Mexico.
Population: Over 3 million.
Capital: Salt Lake City.
Area: Approximately 84,900 square miles.
Language: English.
Religion: Majority LDS (Mormon), with a recent decline.
Climate: Varied, with arid and mountainous areas; hot summers, cold winters.
(Sources: State of Utah Official Website, Wikipedia)

General Utah Facts

1. Utah is a state that’s located in the Mountain West region of the Western United States.

2. Utah is also considered one of the Mountain States, which contains the Rocky Mountains, along with Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming. Arizona and New Mexico are sometimes also included.

3. Utah borders Idaho to the north, Wyoming to the northeast, Colorado to the east, Arizona to the south, and Nevada to the west.

4. The Four Corners Monument, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet, is at the southeastern corner of Utah.

5. Utah is one of 27 landlocked US states (entirely surrounded by land).

6. Utah covers 84,899 mi², (219,887 km²), making it the 13th largest state in the US, sitting between Minnesota and Idaho in terms of size.  

7. Utah is slightly larger than Guyana or Great Britain.

Aerial beach of a white salt beach on Great Salt Lake Utah
Salt Lake City is named after Great Salt Lake

8. Utah has a population of 3.42 million, the 30th largest in the US in terms of population. It sits between Connecticut and Iowa in terms of population, or roughly equivalent to Puerto Rico.

9. Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah. With 201,600 people, it is the 122nd largest city in the US. It is located beside and named after Great Salt Lake, which sits beside.

10. The state has been inhabited for thousands of years by various Native American tribes such as the Ute, Puebloans, and Navajo.

11. People from Utah are called Utahns and Utahans.

12. UT is the official abbreviation of Utah.

Buildings in Salt Lake City with mountains in the background
Mountain-backed Salt Lake City

13. There are two theories behind Utah’s name. The first is that the name originates from the Native American “Ute” tribe, or “people of the mountains”. The second is that it comes from “yuttahih” an Apache word for “one that is higher up”.

14. 55% of the people in Utah are Mormons. With more than 2 million members in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Utah has more Mormons than any other state. California is in the 2nd spot, with less than a million.

15. Nicknames for Utah include the “Beehive State” (used early on by Mormons to represent cooperative work), “The Mormon State”, and “Salt Lake State”.

16. The state flag features the Utah state seal on a solid-blue background. There’s a beehive at the center of the seal. A sego lily is growing on either side of the beehive, representing peace. A national flag represents the state’s support for the US, with the eagle representing protection in peace and in war. The dates 1847 and 1896 represent the reestablishing of the state and Utah gaining admission to the Union.

The flag of Utah
Utah’s state flag

17. Utah is the only state that has a cooking pot, the Dutch oven, as one of its state symbols.

18. The Rocky Mountain elk is the state animal of Utah, while the state firearm (yes, it has one) is the Browning M1911, due to the inventor’s ties to the state.

Random Interesting Utah Facts

19. Utah has the youngest population in the nation, with 33% of residents under 18, and the mean age being 31.3.

20. Utah, along with Mississippi, South Carolina, and Oklahoma, are the only states that allow death by firing squad for inmates on death row.

Red cliffs in Zion National Park Utah
Beautiful Zion National Park

21. There are five national parks in Utah: Zion (famous for its red cliffs), Bryce Canyon (known for its hoodoos and natural amphitheaters), Canyonlands (canyons, mesas, and buttes), Capitol Reef (more lunar landscapes), and Arches (with over 2000 natural sandstone arches and famous for its sunrises) National Parks. Here’s an itinerary for visiting all of Utah’s national parks!

22. Only California (9) and Alaska (8) have more national parks than Utah.

23. Monument Valley, or Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in Utah and Arizona, is one of the state’s most famous scenes, with its massive stone towers ranging from 400 to 1000 ft.

Two tall stone towers in Monument Valley Utah
Monument Valley, Utah

24. Utah is also home to six national forests (Uinta, Dixie, Fishlake, Wasatch-Cache, Ashley, and Manti-LaSal) and 43 state parks.

25. Utah is The only state in the US with parts of a national forest in each of its counties.

26. Great Salt Lake is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the largest terminal lakes (lakes with no outflow) in the world.

27. Lake Powell, Utah is the second largest water reservoir in the US after Lake Mead in Nevada. It is also a popular tourist attraction. It is created by the Glen Canyon Dam in neighboring Arizona. It is on the Colorado River, just like Hoover Dam and many others.

28. Salt Lake Utah Temple on Temple Square near the capitol building is the largest Mormon church in the world by floor area. The LDS headquarters, the Church Office Building, is also in Salt Lake City.

Exterior of the Salt Lake Utah Temple lit up at night
Salt Lake Utah Temple

29. Levan, Utah is considered the state’s navel. Interestingly enough, “Levan” spelled backward is “navel”.

30. Utah is famous for its skiing. Park City Ski Resort in Utah is the largest ski resort in the US.

31. An average of 500 inches of snow falls every year in the mountains around Salt Lake City.

32. Due to Utah’s desert-like climate and high elevation, its snow is usually powdery and dry. Hence the states claim to have the “greatest snow on Earth”.

33. The federal government owns over 50% of Utah.

Some ski hills on a mountain above a ski resort town in Park City Utah
Ski hills in Park City, Utah

34. Utah is the second-driest state in the US after Nevada.

35. Utah’s summers are extremely hot and long, while its winters are cold and short.

36. The highest point in Utah is 13,528 ft (4120 m) at Kings Peak, while the lowest point is 2180 ft (664 m) at Beaver Dam Wash.

37. The highest temperature ever to be recorded in Utah was 118°F (48°C) in Saint George on July 4, 2007, while the lowest temperature ever to be recorded in Utah was -69°F (-56°C) in Peter Sinks on February 1, 1985.

38. The Sundance Film Festival takes place every January in Park City, Utah. It’s one of the world’s top independent film festivals and the largest one in the United States.

A row of shops along the street in Park City at night
Park City, home of the Sundance Film Festival

39. Touched by an Angel, a popular TV series, was filmed in Utah.

40. Loraine Day was a well-known film actress from Roosevelt, Utah. From the Late 1930s to 1960, she starred in over four dozen films.

41. The notorious Western outlaw, Butch Cassidy, was born in Beaver, Utah.

42. Other famous people from Utah include actress Roseanne Barr, actor James Woods, singer-songwriter Jewel, basketball player and coach Byron Scott, and the band The Used.

43. Frank Zamboni of Utah invented the Zamboni (the machine that drives around and polishes ice rinks).  

A zamboni washing polishing the ice on a skating rink
We have Utah to thank for the Zamboni.

44. The man who invented the prototype for the all-electric television was Philo T. Farnsworth, who was also from Beaver, Utah.

45. Robert B. Ingebretsen didn’t just invent the DVD; he was also awarded a special Oscar for it by the Academy of Motion Pictures.

46. Salt Lake City police officer Lester Wire invented the electric traffic light.

47. In the early 1980s, Robert K. Jarvik invented the artificial heart at the University of Utah.

48. Utah native Walter Fredrick Morrison is the man who invented the popular Frisbee.

49. Moses Malone of Virginia was the first basketball player to go directly from high school to the pros when he was signed on by the Utah Stars. He is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

A far away view of all the buildings of the University of Utah
The University of Utah

50. The first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant was opened in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1952. The founder, Colonel Harland Sanders, was, of course, from Kentucky.

52. Utah is rich in natural resources, including potassium, molybdenum, lead, zinc, copper, gold, silver, natural gas, and oil.

52. Utah is the only state in the US that produces gilsonite, a pure form of asphalt used in various chemical products, drilling cement, and more.

53. You could technically be arrested if you hit a person in Provo with a stick, rock, snowball, or any other object.

54. It’s prohibited to drive on sidewalks across Utah state.

55. There’s a law against hunting elephants in Utah, not that you will see any there.

Historical Facts About Utah

56. About 75 million years ago, the Utah region was part of a landmass called Laramidia. It was swampy, hot, and full of dinosaurs. Naturally, Utah is one of the best places in the US to find dinosaur fossils.

57. The Anasazi people lived in the Utah region for just over one thousand years before disappearing. They lived in Utah in the 500s and disappeared in the 1300s.

An ancient stone house built into a cliff in Utah
Anasazi dwelling in southern Utah

58. Spanish explorer Juan Antonio de Rivera in 1765 was the first European to arrive in Utah. He found the Colorado River and claimed the land for Spain.

59. Mexico claimed Utah after gaining independence from Spain in 1821, along with parts of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, and Nevada.

60. The first European to find the Great Salt Lake was Jim Bridger in 1824

61. Led by Brigham Young, the first Mormon settlers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1846.

62. The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was signed and the US gained control of Utah in 1848 as a result of the Mexican-American War.

A railway line at Promontory Point in Utah
Promontory Point, where the railway lines met

63. The US federal government rejected the Provisional State of Deseret in 1850. Instead, they organized the Territory of Utah; originally, the territory included parts of present-day Colorado, Wyoming, and Nevada.

64. The first transcontinental railroad line was completed on May 10, 1869. It was completed when the Central Pacific Railroads and Union joined rails at the Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory. Today the site is preserved at Golden Spike National Historic Park.

65. On March 22, 1882, polygamy (a common practice among Mormons) was outlawed by the US Congress. To suppress polygamy in the territories, the US adopted the Edmunds-Tucker Act.

66. On January 4, 1896, Utah became the 45th state of the USA.

67. The Utah State Capitol was completed in 1915.

Exterior of the Utah State Capitol
The Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City

68. In 1919, Zion National Park, the first in the state, was established.

69. In 1966, the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona was completed, creating Lake Powell, which is mostly in Utah.

70. Between 1974 and 1975, several women disappeared in Utah. The women were all believed to be victims of Theodore “Ted” Bundy, the Green River Murderer. The women included Nancy Wilcox, Laura Aime, Debi Kent, and Nancy Baird.

71. On October 8, 1981, there was an attack at the University of Utah in which an explosive device was defused. The attack was later discovered to be by Theodore Kaczynski, dubbed “the Unabomber.”

72. The first US senator to fly in space was Jake Garn of Utah in 1985.

Expansive view of Lake Powell in Utah
Lake Powell

73. In 2002, Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympic Games. It was the 8th and most recent time the US hosted the Olympics (until LA hosts in 2028).

74. In 2004, a NASA space capsule carrying particles from the Sun crashed into the desert in Utah.

75. In 2013, a US federal judge scrapped the ban on same-sex marriages. Earlier in 2004, 66% of Utahns had voted in approval of the ban.

76. In 2015, Gary Herbert, the governor of Utah, approved bringing back the firing squad for executing those on death row.

77. In 2016, President Barack Obama designated the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

Two hills with cliffs at the top in Bears Ears National Monument Utah
Bears Ears National Monument

78. Utah suffered a heat wave in 2021, with temperatures reaching 107°F (42°C) in Salt Lake City.

79. According to a 2023 report, Utah’s Salt Lake could dry up in 5 years.

80. In 2024, Utah celebrated significant milestones in its film and television history. This year marked the 100th anniversary of the first movies filmed in Utah and the 50th anniversary of the Utah Film Commission, established in 1974.

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