21 Interesting and Fun Facts You Didn’t Know About Utah

Written by Justin Sexton
Published: November 20, 2023
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Starry Sky behind the Ear of The Wind, a hole in a rock formation in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on the border of Utah and Arizona, United States

Starry Sky behind the Ear of The Wind, a hole in a rock formation in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on the border of Utah and Arizona, United States.

©Harry Beugelink/Shutterstock.com

Utah is a Western state in America home to plenty of nature, animals, and even sports. The state even has some of the most beautiful snow on Earth. For those who may want to get away from the fast-paced lifestyle of cities like Los Angeles, Reno, Phoenix, and San Francisco, Utah is surely the place to be. Keep reading to learn more about some interesting facts about Utah.

1. Where Does Utah’s Name Come From?

The state’s name is derived from the indigenous word Ute. Ute means “people of the mountains”. The name has a history that stood through the different eras of the pre-Columbian, Pueblo, Utes, and Navajo people. It even withstood the times the land was a part of the Spanish/Mexican empires and the Mormon colonization. Now it’s recognized as an official state since 1896.

2. It’s Home To The Oldest Western American Amusement Park

A video covering one of the newest rides at the third-oldest amusement park in the United States.

Lagoon Amusement Park, which is in Farmington, Utah, is the oldest Western American Amusement Park. It’s the third oldest amusement park in the nation. Lagoon is 18 miles north of the state’s capital, Salt Lake City. It has eleven rides and several of them are unique. Colossus The Fire Dragon is the last Schwarzkopf double-looping roller coaster in the United States. They have a feature attraction called Primordial. Primordial is an exhibit that is an interactive dark roller coaster ride/3-D shooter game that’s inside a massive mountain.

3. Utah Is Known To Have The Greatest Snow On Earth

Utah

It snows in the Wasatch Mountains in Utah.

©yoshimedia/Shutterstock.com

Many tourists and even natives have claimed that Utah has “the greatest snow on Earth”, but why would they say that? What makes Utah snow credible is based on its geography. Utah is the second driest state in America only behind Nevada. The storms come in from the Pacific Ocean and pour when they reach the mountains. Thanks to the cool and dry conditions along with the high altitude, it helps the snow crystalize into what we know as “fluffy powder.” They also get additional moisture from the state’s large lakes and can make storms continue for an additional day or two after the main storm has passed.

The Cottonwood Canyons are some of the snowiest places in the world. Alta averages 551 inches of snow annually! On average, Utah has 18 “powder days”, which means 12 or more inches of snow in a 24-hour period.

4. The Golden Winter Day In Utah Is January 13

According to the state’s historical data, January 13th is the golden winter day for the best skiing conditions. Why? It’s the day that has the highest probability of receiving snowfall. Utah can get snow even in April too.

5. Utah Is Home To America’s First Department Store

The first department store in the United States isn’t Macy’s. It’s not Lowes or Home Depot. It is certainly not Walmart. The first department store in America belonged to the Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI) in 1868. The 130-year-old establishment lasted until 1999 when they were bought out by Macy’s. While the store was around, it carried a variety of goods including food, household utensils, farming equipment, and fabrics.

6. This Is The Only State Where Every County Has Some Part Of A National Forest Park

Ashley National Forest

Ashley National Forest.

©MackieSlab/Shutterstock.com

Utah is a large state filled with nature. It’s filled with so much nature that every county has some part of a national forest park in it. The different national parks are the Manti-La Sal National Forest, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Dixie National Forest, Ashley National Forest, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, and Red Cliffs National Conservation Area.

7. Utah Is Home To Over 600 Vertebrae Animals.

A majestic elk standing in the middle of a grassy meadow.

Bull elk use their antlers to attract female elks and to intimidate rival bull elks.

©iStock.com/Matt Kaminski

As the state is home to several national forest parks, it is home to many vertebrae animals as well as insects and invertebrates animals. The official animal of Utah is the Rocky Mountain Elk. It’s a subspecies of elk that has provided meat and leather for Utah residents for many years. Elks can be seen in the mountains or forest areas. They have 14 different species across North America.

The official state insect is the honey bee which is a part of the state’s eblem. The official state fish is the Bonneville cutthroat trout. It was an important food source for the Native American tribes and Morman colonizers. Now, their official state bird belongs to the California gull. It has its own monument in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Now, the largest animal in Utah belongs to the mountain bison. They can weigh around 2,000 pounds. Due to hunting and degradation issues, the state has launched conservation programs to protect its population.

8. Utah Is The Home Of The First Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant.

Contrary to popular belief, Salt Lake City is the home of the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant franchise. However, Colonel Harland Sanders began selling fried chicken from his dining table in North Corbin, Kentucky in 1930. Eventually, the colonel opened his first official Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant establishment in 1952 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The rapid business growth wore out the aging colonel, so he sold it to some investors. Nowadays, KFC is the second largest fast-food restaurant establishment only behind Mcdonald’s.

9. Utah is The 13th Largest State In The United States

Zion National Park, Utah.

©ae0816146146/ via Getty Images

In regard to square miles, Utah is the 13th largest state in America at 84,899 miĀ². Utah sits between Minnesota and Idaho on the list of largest states in America.

10. The Great Salt Lake Is The Largest Salt Lake In The Western Hemisphere.

Salt Lake City, Utah, USA at the Great Salt Lake

Salt Lake City, Utah, USA barren landscape at the Great Salt Lake.

©Sean Pavone/iStock via Getty Images

The Great Salt Lake is northwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s the largest salt lake in the Western Hemisphere and the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River. Great Salt Lake Park is at the southeast end of the lake and entry to the lake park is 5 dollars. Salt Lake City has some amazing camping sites. It is also the largest lake in the state of Utah. Great Salt Lake is also the eighth-largest lake in the world with a surface area of 1.087 million acres. As stated earlier, the Great Salt Lake plays a great part in impacting the amount of snow Utah gets.

11. Utah Has A Large Morman Population

55% of the Utah population are Mormons. More than 2 million people are a part of the Church of The Latter-Day Saints in the state. Utah has the most Mormons in the United States. California is second with less than a million people as Mormons. So why does Utah have so many Mormons?

Well, thousands of Mormons in the mid-1800s saw a westward expedition as a way of finding their promised land. Thousands of Latter-Day Saints were seeking hope at the time after their church founder was murdered. Their new leader Brigham Young and the saints fled different states due to anti-Mormon hostility. The Mormons relied on reports from Western explorers on the low population at the Great Salt Lake. They fled to the Great Salt Lake regardless of reports of agricultural unsustainability and hostile Native Americans residing at the lake.

When they got to Utah, the land was still a Mexican territory at the time. Eventually, Mexico ceded the land in 1848 as a result of the Mexican-American War. In 1849, Brigham Young proposed a land map of Deseret (a word from the Book of Mormon meaning “honeybee”) to Congress representatives. It was his way of creating a peaceful land for the Mormons. The “Deseret” land would have encompassed present-day Utah, New Mexico, most of Nevada, the city of San Diego, along with some of Colorado and Arizona. Instead, Congress appointed Young the land size of modern-day Utah and the president appointed Young as their first governor. After decades of pushback and issues between the Utah territory and Congress, Utah became a part of the United States in 1896.

12. Utah Has The Third Most National Parks In America

With five national parks, Utah has the third most national parks in the United States. Only Alaska (8) and California (9) have more national parks.

13. It’s Home To The Second Largest Water Reservoir In The United States.

The largest reservoir in Utah, Lake Powell, was created in 1963 as part of the Glen Canyon Dam Project.

Lake Powell is the largest reservoir in the state. It stretches 186 miles of land (161,390 acres) with 254.1 square miles. It’s only behind Lake Mead in Nevada as the largest reservoir in the Untied States. Lake Powell is 558 feet deep. That’s the lowest depth level it had in almost six decades. The area has gone through severe drought in the last seven years. Lake Powell was impounded by the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963. More than 2 million people visit the massive lake annually. People camp around the lakeside often. The ecosystem is home to over 315 different bird species and 14 different fish species.

14. Utah Is Home To The Largest Ski-Resort In The United States.

senior in winter on snow to cross country skiing with skis

Senior in winter on snow to cross-country skiing with skis.

©Lisa-S/Shutterstock.com

Utah is home to the largest skiing resort in the United States in the Park City Ski Resort. The Park City Ski Resort is located in Park City, Utah. It’s 7300 acres of a large mountain and fluffy snow that’ll satisfy any adventurous snow skiers. They provide plenty of winter and summer activities for visitors that truly make it a year-round destination for in-state and out-of-state residents to check out. Staff at the Park City Ski Resort also hosts a skiing school for newbies and people curious about how to ski and snowboard.

15. The Highest Point In Utah Is Over 1,300 ft!

A video of a YouTuber trekking Utah’s highest point.

The highest point in Utah belongs to Kings Peak at Ashley National Forest. Kings Peak is 13,528 feet above sea level. It’s one of the taller mountains in the United States, but far from the tallest. The tallest mountain in the United States belongs to the Denali mountain in Alaska. Denali Mountain is the only American mountain that is over twenty thousand feet above sea level. Adventurers constantly go hiking and mountain climbing at Kings Peak Year-round.

16. Park City Is Home Of One Of The World’s Biggest Film Festivals

The Sundance Film Festival happens every year in Park City, Utah. It’s the largest international film festival in America as it attracts close to 50,000 people annually. Sundance Film Festival was launched in 1978 as an initiative to bring more filmmakers to Utah. For the first three years, the Sundance Film Festival took place in Salt Lake City and it moved to Park City in 1981. Before the festival was called Sundance in 1984, the film festivals were called names like the Utah/US Film Festival and the US Film and Video Festival. Sundance’s popularity grew so much that spinoff festivals took place in areas like London, Hong Kong, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

17. Utah’s Home To The First US Senator To Fly Into Space

Jake Garn from Utah was the first US senator to fly into outer space in 1985. He flew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery during the NASA mission STS-51-D. Garn joined the space expedition as a way to see if the money being funded for the space expeditions was being spent well. Outside of his space adventure, Garn was a member of the Republican party. He is a University of Utah alum earning a Bachelor of Science in business and finances in 1955. Garn served as a pilot in the Air Force and retired in 1979 to get into politics.

18. Utah Was The Last State To Host The Olympics (… Until 2028)

Salt Lake City skyline Utah in USA

Whether you’re looking for beautiful mountain hikes or downtown shopping, there are so many fun places to visit in Salt Lake City, Utah.

©iStock.com/f11photo

Salt Lake City was the last American city to host the Olympics back in 2002. It was the eighth time in Olympic history that a city in the United States hosted the Olympics. In 2028, the Olympics will take place in Los Angeles, California.

19. Utah Is Home To A Famous Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Large enough to fit the Statue of Liberty under its arch.

The famous Rainbow Bridge

©ejanenisa99/Shutterstock.com

Utah is home to one of the world’s largest natural bridges, The Rainbow Bridge. The Navajo Native American Tribes see this bridge as a sacred spot. They view it as a symbol of deities responsible for creating rain, rainbows, clouds, and the overall essence of desert life and so do the 85,000 annual visitors. It is 290 feet tall and 270 feet wide. The Rainbow Bridge is on the edge of Lake Powell, the largest lake in Utah.

It was formed by erosion of sandstone by water flowing from the Navajo Mountain towards the Colorado River. As it’s on the edge of Lake Powell, people can reach the bridge by boat, foot, or horseback. There are several trails around the bridge. The most common trails belong to the 14-mile trail from the Navajo Mountain Trading Post and the 13-mile trail from the abandoned Rainbow Lodge.

20. A Very Large Natural Salt Pan Is In Utah

A video covering the history of the Bonneville Salt Flats and some of its features.

The Bonneville Salt Flats are a densely packed salt pan located in Northwestern Utah. It’s in Toole County and is one of the largest salt flats west of the Great Salt Lake. It is open to the public and is home to several speed records. About 90% of the flats are common table salt and it holds approximately 147 million tons of salt. It’s 12 miles long and 5 miles wide.

It’s a famous filming spot for some popular movies such as Independence Day, Top Gear, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. The flats are also home to several world lands peed records. The very first land speed record was set there in 1914 by Teddy Tetzlaff. It is home to the annual US Flight Archery Championships.

The goal of flight archery is simple: shoot some arrows with bows at the greatest distance possible without hitting a specific target. Two of the flight archery world records were set at the flats in 1977 and 1987.

There are several racing competitions that take place at the Bonneville Salt Flats on the Bonneville Speedway. Some of those events are “Speed Week” in mid-August, “World of Speed” in September, and the “World Finals” every October. These types of events welcome motorcycles, cars, and trucks. The event promoters also contribute to maintaining the surface of the salt flats. There are several vehicles named after the Bonneville Salt Flats.

21. One Of The Biggest Holes On Earth Is In Utah

An informational video on the Bingham Canyon Mine.

The Bingham Canyon Mine is southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. It is the largest man-made hole in the world as it has produced more copper than any other mine in history. How much? More than 19 million short tons/17 million long tons. This specific mine has been in production since 1906. The pit is almost a mile deep (0.75 miles) and 2.5 miles wide. It covers 1,900 acres to this day. It was also registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

The mineral of copper ore was first discovered in 1848 by two brothers Sanford and Thomas Bingham. They reported the findings to the Latter-Day Saints leader Brigham Young. The extraction of the ore began in 1863 and over the next decade, mining was confined to copper-gold, lead-silver, and placer-gold. The mines in the 19th century were relatively small compared to the massive hole that people know today.

After several significant events at the mine such as the formation of mining companies, the Bingham Canyon Mine expanded rapidly. The 21 differnet mining companies eventually consolidated into two major mining companies. All the residential populations around the mines decreased as the mining space grew and grew exponentially. The growing mining space even swallowed up several mining camps. It is so huge now, the hole is visible to the naked eye from an orbiting spaceship. it’s also one of the world’s most productive mines. Overtime, there have been several environmental issues with the mine for differnet ecosystems.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Larry N Young/iStock via Getty Images


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About the Author

Justin is an A-Z Animals Writer that loves to cover places, unique natural disasters, and travel. He has eight years of experience as a writer in the medical and media fields. He wrote for the likes of VCU Health, theMSQshop, PayDay LA, and Comic Book Resources under the penname Jay Guevara. Although he's a full time writer, Justin graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2019 with a Bachelors in Health, Physical Education, and Exercise Science with a background in Community Engagement. After spending over two decades in Richmond, Virginia, Justin now resides in the suburbs of Rancho Cucamonga, California. He's a dedicated gymrat. He's also a two-time poetry author who's influenced by rappers Joe Budden and IDK along with Dante Alighieri.

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