Utah became the 45th state admitted to the United States on January 4, 1896. Perhaps the most well known demographic group in Utah are the Mormons, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. After being run out of Illinois, Brigham Young led the first band of Mormon pioneers, reaching the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. More than 70,000 pioneers crossed the plains and settled in Utah over the next 22 years. It wasn’t an easy place to settle, though. Young and his followers struggled to survive in the early days. But they kept moving forward; they thought the dry, arid desert land was desirable as a place where they could practice their religion without harassment.
It wasn’t long before Salt Lake City became the hub of a broad network of Mormon settlements. New church converts came from the East and around the world, and LDS leaders often sent church members on missions to establish other settlements throughout the West. They were able to support relatively large settlements after developing irrigation along Utah’s Wasatch front, running from Salt Lake City, to Bountiful and Weber Valley, to Provo and Utah Valley. Throughout the remainder of the 19th century, Mormon pioneers and missionaries were able to establish hundreds of other settlements in Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming, California, Canada and Mexico.
Not all was well with the Mormons in Utah, however. Mormons were often viewed as un-American and rebellious when people found out about their polygamous practices. In 1857, they were charged with accusations of abdication of government and general immorality. After receiving detailed reports of life in Utah, the administration of James Buchanan sent a secret military force to Utah. Known as the Utah War, the conflict that followed was also nicknamed “Buchanan’s Blunder” by the Mormon leaders.
Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park were established in the early twentieth century, making Utah a go-to destination for tourists to take in its natural beauty. The arid, rugged tableau was made famous as a popular filming spot for the mid-century western film genre. From these films, natural landmarks such as Delicate Arch and “the Mittens” of Monument Valley are easily recognized. During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, accessibility to the southern scenic areas was made easier with the advent of the inter-state highway system.
In addition to Bryce Canyon and Zion, Utah is home to three additional national parks: Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. After Alaska and California, Utah has the third-most national parks of any state. It is also home to eight national monuments: Cedar Breaks, Dinosaur, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, Bears Ears, Rainbow Bridge, and Timpanogos Cave. Utah boasts two national recreation areas: Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon. It has seven national forests: Ashley, Caribou-Targhee, Dixie, Fishlake, Manti-La Sal, Sawtooth, and Uinta-Wasatch-Cache, and numerous state parks and monuments.
A haven for outdoor activities, Utah is also a great place for skiing. The ski resorts are primarily located in northern Utah near Salt Lake City, Park City, Ogden and Provo. Deer Valley in Park City was consistently ranked the top ski resort in North America between 2007 and 2011 in a survey organized by Ski Magazine.