The Mormons' Promised Land - One of the Most Beautiful States in the United States

Snowy mountain ranges, breathtaking geological phenomena, endless desert formations, salt lakes stretching to the horizon and a dizzying amount of parks - meet the Mormons' Promised Land - One of the Most Beautiful States in the United States.

A religious minority suffering from persecution, wandering across the desert until reaching the Promised Land, economic and social prosperity accompanied by suspicion on the part of the majority - no, in this case it is not the Jewish people but rather one of the most fascinating minorities in the United States, the Mormon Church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The religious community that has gained worldwide fame - not necessarily positive - thanks to the great musical Book Of Mormon is tightly connected to the state of Utah and has established its religious and political center there. Much criticism has been leveled against the church, but at least for the choice of Utah as their promised land they deserve credit.

The Mormon capital is also the country with the highest population growth rate in the United States (an increase of 18.4 percent since 2010), due to its diverse economy, comfortable climate, rich cultural life and central location at a crossroads in the West. This is also the reason why the Mormon demographic majority in the state (55 percent of the state’s population, as of 2014) is shrinking, gradually changing the face of Utah. Paradoxically, it is the meteoric success of the Mormons that puts them on the verge of becoming a religious minority in their own country.

Salt lake city


First of all, Utah is simply a beautiful state (and has even won three rare Michelin stars in the past ) and diverse, often ranked in the first places in a non-binding survey I conduct among random Americans about the beautiful state in the U.S. in their eyes. This may explain why Utah has five national parks , More than any other state and like California and Alaska, which are much larger than it can be understood . The excellent and accessible tourism infrastructure and the wonderful hospitality of the residents of Utah (perhaps the nicest and kindest among the residents of the United States) make it in my eyes one of the attractive destinations for a trip.

 

Goblin Valley State Park

Roughly speaking, the trip we made in Utah was divided into two main parts:

The first part belongs to the Salt Lake City metropolitan area (Salt Lake City, and SLC for short) between the Great Dead Sea in the northwest, after which the city is named, and the Wasatch Mountains in the east, the metropolis is located in the north-center of the country In the state (in fact, over 70 percent of the state’s residents live in a Greater SLC). The tourist attractions in this area focus on the city itself, the alpine mountain range and the spectacular salt plains.

 

Wasatch Mountains

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The second part is reserved for the southern desert state mainly, which includes some of the most beautiful national parks in the United States, and in my opinion also in the world, as well as some very impressive state parks, whose fateful location alongside the other national parks deprived them of the title "national park" In any other country.

Salt Lake City is not only the capital of Utah, it is also the largest in it. The city, founded in 1847 by Brigham Young's successor to church founder Joseph Smith, was established as a city of refuge for the Mormon community, and is in fact the ultimate destination of the community of believers who had to wander across the United States for years due to persecution. Respectively, became the heart of Salt Lake City, religious and community organizations, which is present in every step of the visit there - Square Temple (Temple Square) is the geographic center of the entire city, and the heart stands the Salt Lake Temple, the largest and most important temples of the Mormon Church. This is a beautiful and special church that was closed for renovations until 2023.

Although the church is the most famous building in the square, the whole complex is worth a visit, and it is especially recommended to hold through one of the free guided tours conducted by Mormon volunteers from around the world (just go through the visitor center and say you are interested in the tour). For us it was a fascinating experience to hear from the believers themselves about the church and its history, and also to ask in our way difficult questions ("What is the status of women in the church?" "Why in the past did the church allow polygamy?" "How much does the famous musical teach about the church?"). The tour, conducted by young and enthusiastic believers, was fascinating to us, albeit one-sided, in the way of missionaries. The meticulous among you may notice the Star of David that adorns the Mormon Hall of the People (Assembly Hall), and symbolizes the connection that the Church attributes to the twelve tribes of Israel.


From Temple Square I would recommend going up North via Main Street and passing through the Mormon Church convention center and from there towards the impressive Utah Capitol building . The neoclassical structure was completed in 1916, and is an architectural testament to the economic power of the country and of Mormons in particular. The Capitol, beautiful in itself (and open for independent visits from Monday to Friday, 8: 00-17: 00), stands at the top of a hill from which there is a spectacular view of the entire city and the Wasatch Mountains.

From the Capitol you can descend towards the compact and charming Memory Grove Park , located in the heart of the River Creek. For me, parks are always a great opportunity to observe the residents of a city, learn about their habits, and maybe even catch an interesting conversation - and there is no better place to do that than in Utah. From the park you can return through the creek channel to the Temple Square, and you have a great day trip.

From SLC we set out for one of the most beautiful parks we have seen in our lives - Antelope Island State Park , which is actually an unusual island located on the Great Salt Lake. An original and wild view of salt lakes adorned with a thin layer of fresh water. Everywhere bison (rather than antelopes) roam free and of countless observations towards alpine mountains. You can definitely exhaust the park - which is about 40 minutes from the center of SLC - in a day, and these are the most recommended things in it:


Buffalo Point Observation: A short and convenient route (1.6 kilometers round trip, height differences of 67 meters) leads to a spectacular panoramic observation that is hard to overstate its beauty. An ancient landscape that left us speechless for many minutes. One can go on and on trying to find words for this beauty, but it seems to me that every literal description does injustice to reality.

Dooly Knob Trail : A longer and more challenging route (3.6 miles round trip, altitude differences of 215 feet) that provides wonderful views and views of the Dead Sea and mountains along its entire length. It is of course recommended to reach the peak of the altitude, but if you feel that it is big on you - you can definitely walk part of the route and return when exhausted. Another and longer option is to walk the Lake Side Trail Loop, a long trail (7.7 miles) but circular and relatively easy in the northwest of the reserve.

Ride on Antelope Island Road (about 23 miles to the end of the road in the south of the reserve): A pleasant ride in breathtaking views along the lake shore and through insane herds of bison.

An hour and a half drive from the city center to the west, on the border of the state of Utah with the state of Nevada, you reach one of the special places in the world - the salt plains of Bonneville (Bonneville Salt Flats). No, you're not in Bolivia nor on Jupiter. These are endless white salt plains that create the feeling that you are alone in the world. The salt surfaces are beautiful, especially when water is pouring on them, and the geometric configurations they create are simply spectacular. The exit point to the salt plains is not very clear, and in fact emerges from two possible points (depending on the rains) - the most convenient and successful is from the northern refreshment station on Route 80 and the other is a little further away . There is no set path - allow yourself to get lost in the salt plains and retrace your steps when you want to.

Bonneville


If you're on the verge of salt poisoning, this might be a good opportunity for a little change of direction - and what better way to do that than some alpine scenery. The contrast between the desert SLC and the cool green mountain scenery of the Wastach ridge less than half an hour’s drive from the city center is definitely refreshing. This is a great area for hiking (and wonderful for skiing in the winter) and cool here even when the city is hot from the heat. The trip options here are endless, and we chose to focus on two fun and beautiful trips:

Willow Creek Trail : A circular, light and pleasant trail (3.1 kilometers, height differences of 24 meters) that passes through a pastoral landscape of valleys, elegant houses and snow-capped hills. For a moment, if not concentrated, one can get confused and think that we have arrived in Switzerland or Austria and not in the middle of the American Midwest.

McPolin Nature Trail : A short circular route (2.3 kilometers, height differences of 41 meters) that passes through a charming valley and alongside farmland areas.

Now it's time to make our way to the Kingdom of Southern Utah Kingdom. A long three-and-a-half hour drive took us to Moab . The tourist town is probably named after the biblical land of Moab and the red rock that characterizes this area is definitely reminiscent of Petra and Wadi Rum. The reason for coming to this town is closely related to two beautiful and recommended national parks located in its vicinity.

Arches National Park is one of the most famous parks in the United States, featuring the largest concentration in the world of natural stone arches hence its name. The permanent landscape is deceptive, because the park actually changes frequently due to endless processes of erosion and weathering, when at any given moment parallel processes of arc formation and destruction continue. There is something a little pessimistic about it, since every wonderful rainbow we see will eventually end its life and be destroyed, but there is also something optimistic about it - because at the same time there is a different process of new rainbow formation.

utah


Barches has an endless variety of things to do, and these are at least in my eyes the most recommended:

The Delicate Arch: Probably the most famous arch in the park, and not in vain. A popular but not easy walking route (5.1 kilometers back and forth, height differences of 192 meters) leads to one of the most iconic landscapes - a huge and huge stone arch and behind it a beautiful ancient landscape of a red desert and snow-capped mountains. I would highly recommend starting the hike to the rainbow as early as possible as parking is limited and the route is mostly exposed to the sun.

Windows Loop and Turret Arch : A short, circular route (1.9 kilometers, height differences of 147 meters) that leads to two magnificent arches and extraordinary landscapes. Those who have chosen this route - do not miss the wonderful view Garden Of Eden which is close to the route.

Park Avanue Trail: A great and not difficult trail (2.9 kilometers back and forth, height differences of 91 meters) that passes through a stream channel located at the foot of special and impressive rock formations. The trail starts and ends on the main road of the park, so you can walk it only in one direction (and start at Park Ave Viewpoint to avoid unnecessary ascent) if you are with two vehicles.

The scenic road of the reserve (Arches Scenic Drive) is the only paved road that goes deep into the reserve, and it is worth driving the whole (about 25 km in each direction) for a general impression of the park. Rock and Courthouse Towers.

Zion national park

About half an hour drive from the town of Moab is the Canyonlands National Park . This reserve is sometimes pushed into a corner for two main reasons - its geographical proximity to Arches, which is far more famous than it, and its particular resemblance to another national park that deals with a magnificent canyon over the Colorado River: the Grand Canyon. To me, Canyonlands is simply a beautiful and special reserve, worth at least a full day hike, and very different from the Grand Canyon, even if it deals with a similar geographical motif. Its hiking style is mainly based on driving through the reserve roads and stopping at stunning vantage points on an endless amount of canyons that stretch out to the horizon, and this is truly an exceptional and highly recommended experience.

These are the things we recommend at Canyonlands National Park:

Grand View Point Trail: An easy but breathtaking trail on the edge of the cliff (2.9 miles back and forth, 49 meter elevation differences), leading to an observation point (though this is a bit misleading because the beautiful views continue throughout the trail).

Track Mesa Arch: circular route (1.1 miles, elevation of 27 meters) leading to a beautiful arc (yes, there are also here) and a beautiful view.

Shafer Canyon Overlook Trail : A short and beautiful trail (half a mile back and forth, 14 meter elevation differences) that leads to a wonderful lookout.

A line of observations on the reserve's main scenic road (Grand View Point Road): The recommended ones are Green River Overlook and Buck Canyon Overlook.

Adjacent to the national park is the state reserve named Creepy Dead Horse Point State Park (Admission for a separate fee of $ 20 per vehicle). The reserve is similar in its characteristics to Canyonlands, but it provides different and closer viewing angles to the Colorado River and artificial lakes in stunning colors, so I would not give it up. The Dead Horse Point lookout and the cliff-side walking route that exits from the Basin overlook Parking to the north (a flat route of about two kilometers back and forth) are highly recommended.

Zion national park


About two and a half hours west of Moab is the Capitol Reef National Park . This is a less impressive park than any of its siblings in Utah, but it is also an unfortunate result of its location next to such amazing nature reserves. The park is named after the cliffs of white sandstone in the shape of a dome, similar to the domes on the roofs of the Capitol buildings, and after the huge cliffs that block beyond - like a reef (hence the name of the reef) that blocks traffic from vessels. Capitol Reef is a long park (about 100 kilometers) and narrow (about 10 kilometers), and you can actually walk through it and be impressed by its views (free of charge) by driving on State Road 24, if there is not much time. Still, I would recommend devoting a few hours to the park focused on three main attractions:

A ride on the scenic road (Scenic Drive, about 8 kilometers in each direction) of the park, which leaves from the visitor center and gives the opportunity to look out of the car window for great views. A short stop in the restored village of Fruita , located near the visitor center. This is a living testimony to the pioneering life of the Mormons in Utah, who made it a rule to plant a root even in the remote places. The village was abandoned in 1955 but there are now quite impressive restorations of the agriculture that characterized the Mormon community in the place, and focuses mainly on fruits (Fruits, similar to the name of the village). It is especially recommended to stop at the Gifford House & Museum Store and stock up on an excellent American fruit pie in various flavors, baked with fruit grown on the spot. And finally, a beautiful and short walking trail (back and forth to each observation, about a kilometer in total) that leads to two great and different observation points - Goosenecks Poin t and Sunset Point. The exit point for the trail exits the Goosenecks Overloo k parking lot , which is the end of a short dirt road and a pass for any vehicle exiting the state road 24.

Navajo loop


A two-and-a-quarter-hour drive from the Capitol Reef will take you to Bryce Canyon National Park , a candy that is a must-see for any visitor to the state. What is there in it, actually, in this wonderful park? Well, an infinity of red, orange and white rock pillars (Hoodoos) create an extraordinary natural backdrop that probably does not exist anywhere else in the world. This is the reason why visitors are thrilled to visit Bryce, despite the fact that it is a relatively small park that does not require (in my eyes) more than a day of hiking.

Drive along the cliff edge (Route 63) and stop from time to time at breathtaking lookout points (really, there is no other word befitting this park). The length of the scenic road is 30 kilometers (from the town of Bryce to Rainbow Point, the southernmost observation point).

Walking in the mall itself: a different and unique experience, which allows you to walk between these beautiful huge pillars and not just look at them from above. A highly recommended route is the circular Navajo Loop and Queen's Garden Trail (4.7 miles, 197 feet high) that exits the Sunset Point Lookout parking lot.

 

Bryce canyon


Last on the list is perhaps the highlight of the Utah Nature Reserve, and one of the most beautiful in the entire U.S. - Zion (Zion, a name chosen because of the Mormon connection to the Bible) that combines two beautiful canyons: Zion and Kolob. It is difficult to exaggerate the drama of the landscapes in this national park - huge cliffs including narrow and beautiful valleys, brown-red desert deserts of the land and next to them deep green of the solid streams in the reserve. A real oasis. We spent two and a half days in the reserve (two days in Zion Mall and half a day in Kolob Mall), and these are the main things we recommend:

Drive on the scenic roads of the reserve (Floor of the Valley Road and East Kolob Canyon Road). I would recommend not to give up the scenic Kolob road, despite the relative distance - even if you do not plan to do a walking route there.

Beautiful hiking trails that must be done: Canyon Overlook Trail One-way and short trail (1.6 miles, elevation differences of 57 feet); The Watchman Trail, a wonderful and not easy route (5 kilometers, height differences of 197 meters); And the Timber Creek Overlook Trail in Kolob, a short and great trail (1.8 miles, elevation differences of 78 feet). Many also recommend the challenging Angels Landing Trail that we did not do due to the presence of a three month old baby with us.

Bryce canyon


Other recommended hiking trails:

The Riverside Walk, a pleasant trail along a flowing river (3.1 miles, elevation differences of 59 feet, the adventurous among you can continue to walk the Narrows, a trail of 25 miles); The Pa'rus Trail, a beautiful trail full of moose (5.5 kilometers, height differences of 48 meters).

We signed the hike in Utah in a state park hidden to the tools called Snow Canyon . This is a great park, which sometimes seems like it was built by humans, otherwise it is difficult to explain the extreme color contrast in it. This is a small and beautiful park, and in my eyes not to be missed, especially if you find yourself in southwestern Utah. I would especially recommend getting lost in the stone dunes (there is such a thing, you will understand when you arrive) on the route - Petrified Sand Dunes. Please note - there is apparently a trail, but in practice it is irrelevant, just allow yourself to frolic around the area, and the way back is always very simple to navigate. Yes, this is the first time in my life that I recommend going beyond the existing path.

At the peak of the trail we met an 88-year-old woman, a farmer who grows potatoes, and her stepdaughter, originally residents of Idaho, who decided to move to Utah years ago. "There's no better place to live than Utah," the older woman says. "Ever since I got here I'm feeling twenty years younger. Look at me, I've even reached the top of the track." At the summit, with the spectacular scenery and the amiable older woman, it was hard not to understand what drew Mormons to that promised land, almost 200 years ago, and what made one 88-year-old woman challenge the laws of biology and reach such a high.

Canyonlands

Champions Tips:

Did you come to Las Vegas? It is possible and desirable to combine your trip with a trip in southwestern Utah (and especially in the Snow Canyon, Zion and Bryce), a few hours drive from the city. In general, Las Vegas can be a great starting point for a comprehensive trip to Utah.
Utah National Parks are very popular, so it is highly recommended to book accommodations in advance (especially in Moab and Springdale, the base station for Zion National Park).
In the summer it is not possible to enter with a private vehicle to mark, but only through shuttles of the reserve (which sometimes need to be booked in advance). Take this into account and plan your trip accordingly.
It is possible and desirable to use Salt Lake City and Moab as a base for fun star treks with family. Southwest Utah will need to get around.

Navajo

1 comment

It seems like you left a lot out in your intro regarding Mormons Promised Land, like why they were “persecuted,” their involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, The LDS Native American Placement Program, stealing resources from Native Americans already living there and more.

Ashley November 02, 2021

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