Utah at a Glance
Utah, the land of snow-capped boulders and ice-glazed hoodoos. Where emerald gorges forge new passageways deep in the red rock canyons. Where sandstone arches, sculpted by the elements, the Earth and time, rise like portents in the desert. From the tip of King’s Peak to the rapids of the Colorado River, the Beehive State would have been more aptly named the Land of Astonishments. In the abundant natural beauty of the mountainous West, Utah’s beauty stands tall among giants.
All this beauty comes at a surprisingly affordable price — Utah’s cost of living is only slightly above the national average, and the unemployment rate has remained consistently low for the past six months. And business is booming. Utah’s economy has consistently been praised as one of the strongest in the nation, and industries from hospitality to aerospace to tech have all found solid footing in the state. So, if you’re considering a career change, you’ll be in good company in the Beehive State.
Utahns certainly know how to make the most out of their free time, too. Virtually any sport that can be done outdoors is done outdoors in Utah, so if you’re moving here, pack your snowmobile, hiking boots, jet ski, golf clubs, crampons, helmet and your sense of adventure. You’re in for the time of your life.
Why People Are Moving to Utah
Utah is becoming an increasingly popular state to call home. In the past 12 years,the population has increased by 18%, adding over 41,000 people between 2021 and 2022 alone.
Distinct Four-Season Weather
With four distinct seasons, one of the biggest draws for the Beehive State’s 3,380,800 residents is certainly the natural beauty. But a close second may be the semi-arid weather — Utah is one of the nation’s driest states, which means crisper air and bluer skies under which to enjoy the many outdoor splendors. But, the peculiar topography and geography of this vast state makes it prone to extremes — lows have dropped to almost -70 F in the northeast and highs have nearly reached 120 F in the southwest.
And then there’s the snowfall. Abominable or not, snowmen will feel right at home in the wonderland of the Wasatch Mountains in the northeast. In fact, most Utahns make their home in and around these peaks — 85% of Utahns reside within 15 miles of them. The region has some of the world’s best powder, and up to 500 inches of snow can fall in the resorts above Park City and Salt Lake.
The cities themselves are another story. Northeastern towns might only see between 16 and 24 inches of snow, and the southwest corridor usually picks up 10-14 inches, but central and southeastern areas will see as few as 8 inches annually. The plus side is that this low snowfall in the cities keeps them easily navigable through the winter months.
One major downside of this nature-filled state is the winter air quality. Because of the position of the mountains, fine particulates can accumulate in the air in Utah’s valleys during the cold months.
Warmer weather arrives everywhere by April, but how hot you’ll get depends on which region of Utah you reside in. Daytime temps will be anywhere from warm to oven-hot, but nighttime temperatures can plummet nearly 40 degrees. In the central corridor near Bryce Canyon, it might only get up to 83 F on an average July day, but by nightfall you’ll be enjoying nippy, 48-degree air. If you’re hiking at Zion, on the other hand, expect those southwestern daytime temps to breach 100 F, and evenings to dip only into the mid-60s F at night.
If you’re moving to Utah, the most pleasant times of the year to relocate are usually from May-June and September-October.
Healthy Economy and Job Market
Utah’s economic outlook is second to none. The Beehive State has maintained an AAA bond rating since Standard & Poor’s was founded. Utah is currently ranked as the nation’s best economy, where it was also named #2 for GDP growth and employment. Utah has earned virtually all the top economic accolades, in fact, from being named America’s Economic Star by the Wall Street Journal to earning the top spot on WalletHub’s list of best places to start a business.
Given this sunny economic outlook, it comes as no surprise that the unemployment rate in Utah — which has held steady at 2.4% since September of 2022 — is consistently lower than the national average and currently one of the lowest in the country. In 2022, the mining/logging industry saw the greatest growth, followed by construction, leisure/hospitality and education/health services.
With diverse economic anchors, from tourism to aerospace/defense, the job market in Utah is robust. Utah is home to Hill Air Force Base, Falcon Hill Aerospace Research Park, and corporate powerhouses like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Utah State University is a nationwide leader in the development of new aerospace technologies.
The life sciences industry in Utah supports over 40,000 jobs in the state and generates an annual $9.6 billion in sales. Industry giants Merit Medical, Myriad Genetic and BioFire and were all founded here. Research in the field is supported by numerous Utah institutions of higher learning, including the University of Utah Health.
As the site of the historic “fourth node” of the Internet, Utah’s tech market continues to amaze. Tech jobs have increased 6% annually on average, thanks to state stalwarts like Dell EMC and Google, as well as newcomers like Qualtrics and Vivint.
Manufacturing is already the fifth-largest industry in Utah, but the state is also investing in the development of advanced manufacturing fields, including advanced materials and design. It’s also worth noting that the financial sector has grown more than 18% in five years.
Affordable Cost of Living
The cost of living in this Western beauty is — surprisingly — only slightly higher than elsewhere in the U.S., according to MERIC. Home prices are the major outlier, though. In 2022,median home value in Utah was $551,400 — significantly higher than the national average of $385,500. But the median household income in Utah — $79,133 — is the fourth-highest in the nation, and the poverty rate is below 9% — the second-lowest in the country.
With a low rate of excessive drinking and a high rate of exercise and community involvement, Utah took the number-one spot in America’s Health Ranking’s 2022 report. Healthcare in Utah is also more affordable than the national average, according to MERIC. Utahns spend less than 92¢ on healthcare for every dollar other Americans do.
The state has one of the highest life expectancies, too, according to the CDC. Beehivers can expect to see their 78th birthday, at least, making it the ninth highest in the nation.
Best Places to Live in Utah
Between the national parks, the mountain resorts and the fun city life, there are so many great places to live in the Beehive State.
Salt Lake City
With a city population of 200,478 and a metro area population of over 2.5 million, Salt Lake City is Utah’s largest metropolis. roughly three quarters of the residents of the state call this area home. And it’s easy to see why — how do you top the chill vibes of a bustling college town with a backdrop of the Wasatch Mountains? Downtown Salt Lake has dozens of cool restaurants, microbreweries and art galleries, along with a welcoming and offbeat vibe.
In the last decade, Salt Lake City has grown by 20,000. With that increasing population have come rising housing costs. The median home value was $534,900 in 2022. The median gross rent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is $1,141. The city has a highly educated population — nearly 50% of residents have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher — and a relatively diverse one, too, compared to other areas of the state.
As the host of the 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake is a world-renowned training center for elite athletes. The U.S. Olympic Training Sites just outside the city are a mecca for winter sports enthusiasts, from snowboarders to cross-country skiers (learn more about these venues below.) The city provides easy access to the mountain resorts nearby, which are also popular destinations in the summer for bikers and hikers.
The Great Salt Lake is, naturally, the region’s most iconic element. This massive inland wonder has been threatened of late — anyone in the area can attest to the frightening rate with which its saline banks have receded in the last few years. The record snow and rain in the West in 2022 and 2023 seem to be providing at least temporary relief, but the city’s efforts to mitigate water use will likely be ongoing, particularly as the population continues to grow.
Salt Lake City is the powerhouse of the state’s economy. The University of Utah is one of the area’s largest employers, helping to provide a well-educated workforce for the area’s major industries. Diverse enterprises like Myriad Genetics, Extra Space Storage and Overstock are all based in Salt Lake, as is the Church of Latter Day Saints.
In the center of the Utah Valley, Provo was founded as a Mormon enclave in 1850 and is now one of Utah’s five largest cities. Brigham Young University (BYU) was founded here in 1875, well-known for its nationally ranked business school. The University’s 35,000 students comprise a sizable portion of the city’s population of 114,084, which has remained steady over the past 10 years.
Much like Salt Lake, Provo has gob smacking mountain views and access to some of the most coveted areas in the region, including Utah Lake and the second-highest peak in the region, Mount Timpanogos (elev. 11,753′).
It’s also a big tech base. Home security company Vivint is based in Provo, as is one of the two bases for survey giant Qualtrics. There are also several cultural stops of note in this red brick mountain town. BYU has three museums on its campus, including the Museum of Art, the Bean Life Science Museum and the Museum of Paleontology. If you’re looking for a fun stop to make with the kiddos, the Provo Pioneer Village in North Park brings history to life in a fun and engaging way that young ones, especially, will love. Housing is far more reasonable in Provo than in Salt Lake: rent in Provo averages $973/month, while the median home value is $328,500.
Utah State University is located in the small, northeastern town of Logan, and roughly half of the town’s 54,436 residents are enrolled in degree programs at the school. With its enviable location in the Cache Valley — a destination for fly fishing and snowmobiling — and its comparably modest cost of living, Logan’s population has expanded by more than 10% in the last decade. The median home value in the town is $238,400 and rent averages only $870 per month. But poverty in the city is rampant — over 26% of residents live below the poverty line and the median household income is only $46,761.
A favorite destination for animal lovers in Logan is Zootah, where wild residents like lynx, black swans and spiny-tailed uromastyx dazzle you. One of the best new events in Logan is the Cache Valley Cheese & Dairy Festival.
It’s hard to say which of Utah’s features is its most distinctive, but the Red Rock region of St. George is surely a fierce contender. This southwestern desert gem is just two hours outside of Vegas and worlds away from the slopes of the northeast. This town of 99,958 has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 10 years, adding nearly 30,000 new residents. Housing in St. George is on par with the state average. The median home value is $344,200 and rent averages $1,157 a month.
As an arid paradise outside Zion National Park, St. George lures mountain bikers by the masses, but golfers also descend on these red clay greens in droves. The Dixie Red Hills Golf Course started the trend in the 1960s with a nine-hole venture. Now, there are now eight courses in the region, both public and private.
Just north of the city, the Kayenta Art Village has transformed the area into a true creative enclave, with painters, potters and jewelers who may just invite you into their studios to watch them work. If you are looking for a career outside the studios and the links, SkyWest airlines is based in St. George. Other large employers in the region include Intermountain Healthcare, Xanterra Parks & Resorts and Walgreens Boots Alliance.
Unique Experiences and Events in Utah
Utah is home to nine national monuments and five beyond-spectacular national parks, all of which are in the state’s sparsely populated southern triangle. Thanks to low light pollution in these areas, many of the parks are designated Dark Sky destinations, which means you and your favorite stargazers will have an unparalleled view of the constellations and a good chance of seeing a shooting star or two.
Arches National Park
One national park with a name that speaks for itself is Arches in Moab. It took 65 million years and numerous forces of nature to transform the landscape into the sandstone sculpture park we behold today. There are several destination hikes of note in this area, including the Windows Viewpoint, the Broken Arch Trail and the Sand Dune Arch Trail.
Canyonlands National Park
Also in Moab, Canyonlands National Park boasts one of the most diverse landscapes of any of Utah’s parks, with four distinct regions to explore. We find this park to be the most adventuresome, mysterious and inviting, whether you’re paddling through Cataract Canyon, shrouded in shoulders of stone, or you’ve geared up for an off-the-grid week in the Maze.
Bryce Canyon National
Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for its hoodoos — magical rock columns that look like stone figures, descending out of the hills in the valley below. No place on Earth has more hoodoos than Bryce Canyon — the views here will leave you truly awestruck. Some say it’s better than the Grand Canyon! Bryce Point is the most popular spot to gaze over what’s known as the Bryce Amphitheater.
Madeleine L’Engle fans looking for their tesseract are most likely to find their portal into the time/space continuum at Capitol Reef’s Waterpocket Fold. This famed geologic monocline — that’s a big wrinkle in the Earth — formed over 50 million years ago. It resulted from movement along a fault line deep in the Earth, which caused one enormous rock layer to rise up and then fold over another one. As water erodes the layers of sandstone within, they form pockets of water, hence the name. This geologic quirk has made Capitol Reef National Park one of the most otherworldly landscapes to explore.
Zion National Park
One of Utah’s most distinctive features is its slot canyons — wondrous, water-sculpted passageway through the mountains — and Zion National Park is one of the best places on Earth to go canyoneering. This multi-disciplinary practice combines hiking with rappelling, swimming and wayfinding. If you’re up for the challenge, you’ll travel through some of the most incredible pathways in Zion.
If you’re not ready for this level of excitement, you and your family can hike The Narrows anytime (weather permitting) but prepare to get wet — the trail is an actual river! Children find this spot irresistible, so it’s a great way to get them hooked on hiking if they seemed like reluctant adventurers in the past.
Dinosaur National Monument
If 50-million-year-old rocks are young for your taste, you’ll be cheered to know that the Dinosaur National Monument’s fossils are more than 150 million years old. And while Michael Crichton’s idea of a Jurassic Park can seem like a thrilling idea (or just one destined to end terribly), we prefer to engage with these ancient giants in bone form only. Humans can walk around, while the dinosaur crew remains permanently embedded in the walls of the Quarry Exhibit Hall. This seems like the safest way to meet the meat-eating Allosaurus, with its three-inch, serrated teeth, or the mega-headed, narrow-snouted, carnivorous Torvosaurus, whose name translates to “savage lizard” in two languages. But we’d definitely bring a 30-ton Apatosaurus home with us. Please, Mom? It only eats vegetables.
Utah State Parks
In addition to these national sites, Utah also has more than 40 state parks. Swimming and kayaking are popular at Sand Hollow, while seeing historic artifacts and learning about the Indigenous tribes of the region is the highlight of Fremont Indian State Par & Museum. If you’re looking for a spot to set your rod and reel — even in the ice — check out the waters of Yuba State Park. No matter what activity you have in mind, there will likely be a park for it in Utah: golfing, camping, birding, white water rafting, skiing, fossil-hunting, hiking or just chilling out. If you get bored in Utah, it’s kinda on you.
If your family loves winter sports, some of the best places in Utah to visit are the U.S. Olympic Training Sites. The Utah Olympic Oval, home of the 400-meter rink with “the fastest ice on Earth,” is open to the public. So, if you’ve always wanted to try out speed skating or perfect your triple lutz, this is the place to do it. It also offers lessons for anyone who simply wants to perfect the art of … not falling down.
Utah Olympic Park is where you can really get in on the action, though. With six Nordic ski jumps and a sliding track for bobsled and luge, you can test your skills — and your tolerance for heights — at a world-renowned facility. An Olympic-size swimming pool at the base of the hill offers a safe-ish landing spot for those aerials-in-progress. For those at peace with their acrobatic limitations, the sidelines are a place to experience the excitement vicariously. If you are really jonesing for those Gs, sign up for a winter bobsled experience. A professional pilot will ferry you and your most intrepid friends down an official track at 70 mph. Fair warning: You will not get an amateur tourist experience in this sled — Santa is not at the helm, after all. Instead, you’ll experience exactly what competitive riders do.
Other Outdoor Wonders
Downhill skiers, snowboarders and the cross-country set have their pick of peaks for training and play. There are numerous winter resorts in Park City and Big Cottonwood Canyon. But be prepared for crowds — about six million snow-loving skiers descend these peaks each year. Many parks are also open during the summer months. some even offer extreme sports camps for kids. With well-groomed tubing lanes, a concrete park and an indoor action sports hub, Woodward Park has some of the best facilities inside and out. Remember, a family that parkours together, rules TikTok together.
If you’re just looking to ski in peace, Solitude Mountain Park lives up to its name. This local fave offers a less crowded ski experience and is great for quick getaways. Other parks offer ziplining, mountain coasters and gondola rides. It can be worth it to invest in something like the Ikon Pass, which grants access to multiple parks throughout the season.
Learn more about these attractions and others in the mountain West in our Regional Guide to the Non-Coastal Western U.S.
Other Experiences Only in Utah
More than 60,000 Native Americans from 50 Tribal Nations reside in Utah. Several sites offer insightful experiences to help newcomers better understand the historic and contemporary traditions of these diverse cultures. At This is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake, the Native American Village demonstrates Native American life before the arrival of Mormon settlers.
The Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Art is unique in several regards. The collection of folk art is state-owned (a rarity), and it displays historical and contemporary works from self-taught Utahn artists from all cultural heritages, from recent immigrants to members of Indigenous Nations. In addition to permanent institutions like this across the state, there are also Native American festivals and pow wows throughout the year, which are open to the public.
A visit to the American West Heritage Center in the picturesque Cache Valley offers a better understanding of the European settlement of the Utah territory, focusing on the period from 1820 to 1920. The center offers family-friendly fun — like Farm Animal Days — where even the hardest, Grinchiest of hearts will be melted by baby chicks, lambs and calves. The Native American exhibit provides a good overview of the history of the Northwest Band of the Shoshone Nation in the area, while other living history elements like the Mountain Man Camp and the Jensen Historical Farm will give youngsters a glimpse back to the days of yore. Kids of all ages (including the young at heart) can try their hand at tomahawk-throwing, spoon-whittling and quill-pen-writing.
Stargazers can get a stellar night sky experience during the day at the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City, where you can stand on one of Jupiter’s moons or build and launch your own rocket. Those who prefer to explore the depths rather than the heights should visit the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, where you can feed penguins, pet stingray and even practice yoga with the sharks. Namaste, hammerheads. Namaste.
One of the wildest ways to see Utah’s rich wildlife is on a horse-drawn sleigh at the Hardware Wildlife Management Area. Each winter, you can take one of these special rides through Blacksmith Fork Canyon to see elk at their year-round residence. The area is also popular for fishing, hunting and camping.
When they’re not tearing up the slopes or reeling in lunkers from the Blacksmith Fork, Utahns will most likely be watching someone else perform feats of athleticism, on and off the slopes. Minor league baseball and motocross are very popular in Utah. But if ice hockey is your jam, you’ll be spending a lot of time rooting for the Grizzlies in Salt Lake. Plus, the Utah Jazz relocated to Salt Lake in 1980 from New Orleans, much to the delight of NBA fans. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who discovered the joy of pro soccer, the Real Salt Lake is the state’s MLS team.
Locals’ Favorite Eateries
This may come as a shock to some, but the Beehive State isn’t known for its honey. The state moniker was bestowed to honor the collaborative Mormon work ethic, rather than the production of the golden sweetener. But even though Utah ranks only 24th in the nation for honey exports, there are still plenty of hives to dip into. Miller’s Honey has been in operation since the late 19th century. Local Honeyman sells native Utah wildflower honey and a seasonally available desert blossom variety, but also works with beekeepers in neighboring states to provide specialties like Marsh Mellow Dream, produced by bees in Oregon feeding on a blossom called Meadowfoam, and a medicinal honey from Australia called Manuka.
If you’ve fallen on hard times — first, we are sorry — but second, Utah has the perfect remedy for you! Funeral potatoes. A humble bag of frozen hashbrowns is transformed into a starchy heaven on Earth by baking in a broth-enriched bechamel, a healthy heaping of your favorite cheese and a topping of your crunchiest potato chips. Funeral potatoes may not bring back the dead, but they have been proven to revive the living.
If you’re moving to Utah, chances are you are moving from a state that serves ketchup with their French fries, or possibly cheese sauce or steak sauce. But in Utah, your fries will be accompanied by none of these things. Rather, they are served with fry sauce. The state burger chain Arctic Circle pioneered the radical combination of ketchup and mayo, and Utahns never looked back. You might even be offered fry sauce with some deep-fried funeral potatoes at a state fair.
When Utahns aren’t eating potatoes, they have a lot of other great dining options. Salt Lake, especially, has made a name for itself in the culinary world.
Valter’s Osteria is an authentic Italian splurge, with impeccably prepared favorites, like carbonara with house made pancetta and pork tenderloin scaloppine with a porcini ragu and chianti-port sauce.
Oquirrh’s imaginative dishes, meanwhile, are prepared with locally sourced ingredients and elegantly plated on well-crafted earthenware, but we’d happily eat their chicken pot pie out of a 50-year-old Pyrex or a cardboard box it’s so good. Ditto for the radiatore with ramp pesto.
Log Haven has been a favorite haunt for special occasions since 1920. The rustic romance of the architecture and surrounding mountainside make this spot sought after for weddings and celebrations.
It’s well worth the trip outside Salt Lake to visit the little-known town of Boulder (yes, Boulder, Utah) and, specifically, Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm. Partnering with several local farms, this woman-owned establishment serves Utah favorites with a Southwestern flair, like green chile meatballs, spicy cowgal chipotle meatloaf and a bison tenderloin with a poblano crema.
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