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Home > Utah Travel Planner > Historic Utah
- Thinking of visiting Utah? - The very best of Utah, complete with itinerary
- Enjoy the "greatest snow on earth" - A key to all the greatest skiing in Utah
- Historic Utah - A guide to the many historic Utah sites
- Magnificent National Parks - Utah is well known for it's amazing national parks. Read this for more information.
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The history of Utah is as varied as the landscape of the state. Native Americans, explorers, cowboys, miners and Mormon pioneers have called Utah home throughout the years. In the process, the tools, buildings and even the artwork they left behind has educated us about the diversity of this great state.
Many significant historic sites are related to the settlement of Utah by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as The LDS or Mormon Church. Mormon historical sites can be found throughout the state and tell the story of how Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon emigrants reached Salt Lake Valley in 1847 and proceeded to settle many diverse parts of Utah. Elements of the Mormon culture and information about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are explained by visiting the sites.
We have highlighted a few of our favorite historic sites, but rest assured you will discover even more during your travels in Utah.
Northern Utah - Significant LDS sites
Logan: Visit a temple nestled in a hillside in the Cache Valley and the Logan Tabernacle located on Main Street. The Old Rock Church, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is now the Providence Inn Bed & Breakfast.
Salt Lake City: Visit a few of the homes of LDS Church President Brigham Young including the Beehive House and the Lion House. The adjacent homes housed Young’s large family. Tours are open to the public.
In the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, stop at Temple Square which is bounded by North Temple, West Temple, South Temple and Main Street. The square covers a 10-acre area. The core of the square is the magnificent Mormon Temple built between 1853 and 1893. Venture into the Salt Lake Tabernacle to view a performance by the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Inquire about performance times within the square.
Stop by The Museum of Church History and Art and The Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Exhibits and informational films tell the story of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints including art and artifacts collected from throughout the world.
Learn more about your heritage at the Family History Library of the LDS Church — the largest genealogical library in the world. The library, located at 35 North West Temple St., features millions of original records including the names of more than two million deceased people. No admission fees are charged and the public is welcome to use the library.
A visit to This is The Place Heritage Park allows you to go back in time and experience what life was like in the mid-1800s in Utah. The park is home to Old Deseret Village which features restored or recreated churches, homes, stores and other buildings a pioneer community would have featured. More than 150 cast members demonstrate pioneer life each day and allow you to become part of it during your visit. Also within the park is the This is the Place Monument, raised in 1947, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Mormon settlers. An informational center and mural tells the story of the 2,000-mile migration of church members. This is The Place Heritage Park, 2601 E. Sunnyside Ave., is located across the street from Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. Take the 600 South exit off I-15 and continue east on 800 South to the park.
At Ensign Peak stand in the spot where Brigham Young and seven other Mormon Pioneer men stood on July 26, 1847 to lay out Salt Lake City. A monument and park featuring walking trails and viewpoints is located on the peak located behind the Utah State Capitol.
Ogden, Bountiful, Provo, and Mount Timpanogos all have LDS Church temples that are historically significant.
BBIU Member Inns are in Manti
Fillmore: Visit Cove Fort, located just east of the I-15 and I-70 junction between Fillmore and Beaver. The fort, built in 1867, served as a way station for travelers. The restored fort features authentic furniture and artifact.
Manti: Even from miles away you can see the architecturally significant LSD Manti Temple on the hillside overlooking the Sanpete Valley. The temple was completed in 1888 and remains in use today. The Mormon Miracle Pageant calls Manti home.
Vernal: The restored Vernal Temple was used as a church, but was renovated for use as a temple in the mid-1900s.
Price: Visit one of the earliest cemeteries established in the late 1870s when Mormon settlements dotted the Price River valley. Several buildings on Main Street in Price are registered as historic sites.
Closest Member Inns are in: the Wasatch Back
Member Inns In the St. George, Zion National Park, and Cedar City
St. George: Visit Brigham Young’s Winter Home, where he escaped the snows of northern Utah. Tours of the restored home, which contains pioneer-style furnishings, are offered daily. The Mormon Temple in St. George was erected in 1877 and marked the first temple completed in the state. Tour the grounds and visitor center. Another site to visit is the St. George Tabernacle. The outside of the elegant building is made of red sandstone.
Santa Clara: Visit the Jacob Hamblin Home, a pioneer-era building where Mormon leader Jacob Hamblin was sent to teach Native Americans living in southwestern Utah. Daily tours of the home built of ponderosa pine and locally-quarried rock are offered daily.
In addition to the historical Mormon heritage sites, there are a wealth of places to visit to better understand the history of the state. Numerous Native American sites join with ancient dinosaurs and a rich mining tradition to make a visit to Utah special.
More places to see...
Railroad buffs should plan a visit to Golden Spike National Historic Site located just east of the town of Promontory along Utah 83 in the northern part of the state. The site marks the completion of the world’s first transcontinental railroad. It was on this site that on May 10, 1869 the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads met. Stand on the spot where the last spike was driven, attend a ranger program, watch a film and take the Promontory Trail Auto Tour. All activities can be completed in two hours or less.
Interested in visiting a ghost town? Then stop by what’s left of Silver City. Only 2.5 miles south of Eureka (southwest of Provo), you will find a small sign marking the turnoff to the once bustling mining town. The first silver mine was discovered here in 1869. The town had several silver producing mines until about 1890 when most mines encountered water. When the town’s richest mines started to close the town slowly faded away. Just when the town was about to fade away, a Utah man built a huge ore sampling mill reviving life into the dying town. Silver City lasted until 1915 when the mill closed its doors.
A few old foundations and some rusty mining equipment are the only signs of the once flourishing Silver City. If you choose to explore the area be very cautious of mine shafts and private property lines. If you do stumble across an open mine, do not enter it because these mines are very dangerous, contain deep shafts that cannot be seen and contain toxic air.
As long as you are in Utah’s west desert, be sure to stop by the most dependable watering spot there — Simpson Springs. Native Americans, early travelers and explores have depended on the springs for cool, clean water for hundreds of years. The springs were named after J.H. Simpson, an explorer who stopped in 1858 while searching for an overland mail route between Salt Lake City and California.
Later that year, a mail station, which was later used by the Pony Express and Overland Express, was built. The mail companies built small dams to improve the reliable, but limited supply of water. In 1893, gold mining started in the area making Simpson Springs an important stopping station for freighters and stages until the mid-1920s. In the 1930s, the springs became the water supply for the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp located to the south of the springs. The mail station still is still standing.
The Fielding Garr Ranch at Antelope Island State Park in the Great Salt Lake is located at Garr Springs, one of the strongest and consistent springs located on the island. Records show both indigenous people and wildlife used this water source decades before Fielding Garr built the ranch. Archaeological evidence shows there has been human activity at the springs for at least 1,000 years. The Island is accessed by a causeway located just west of the town of Syracuse, north of Salt Lake City.
Another famous springs in Utah was also the home of the Pony Express. From Salt Lake City, travel south on I-15 to the Lehi Junction, then west on Highway 73. Drive west through Fairfield to the Utah and Tooele line, turn left and continue driving west across the Faust cutoff of Rush Valley into the railroad town of Faust. Continue driving about 2.5 miles to highway 36 and head south for about half a mile to signs pointing to the Pony Express turnoff. A county-maintained dirt road leads to Simpson Springs Campground located about 25 miles west.
Want to see the largest man-made excavation on earth? Stop by the Bingham Canyons Mine. The mine has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the two man-made objects that can be seen from outer space - the other object is the Great Wall of China. Stand at the mine overlook which rests at 6,700 feet above sea level to get a feel for the true immensity of the mine, which is more than three quarters of a mile deep and 2 1/2 miles wide.
The history of the mine dates back to 1848 when two brothers, Thomas and Sanford Bingham, thought the area would be a wonderful place to raise cattle and cut timber. Soon the brothers would learn of the rich mineral deposits below the grounds’ surface. In 1863, ex-miners traveling with the Third California Infantry discovered the mineral wealth and organized the area as a mining district with Col. Patrick Conner.
In only a few years, the number of miners grew from a few hundred to a population large establish a town — Bingham Canyon. By 1914, the town’s population had grown to 10,000. The nearby towns of Bingham Canyon, Copperfield and Highland Boy and numerous small scattered camps housed about 20,000 residents. Miners have recovered gold, silver, lead and copper from the mine. In fact, more than six billion tons of material has been mined to produce more than 16 tons of copper metal since open-pit mining operations started in 1906.
From the Bingham Canyons Mine Visitor Center you can watch massive trucks deliver copper ore to a crusher before being reduced to the size of soccer balls and carted onto a conveyor belt that carries the ore to the Copperton Concentrator. Historical displays and artifacts are located within the center and a video is shown to explain the mining process.
The mine is located about 25 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.
East of Salt Lake City via I-80 and US 40 is the Eastern Utah City of Vernal, gateway to The Dinosaur National Monument. Utah shares the Monument with the state of Colorado, and houses an active dinosaur quarry.
Near Price, located on Utah 6, find access to Native American petroglyphs, pictographs, and settlement sites at Nine Mile Canyon (actually a 40-mile long trek that ends at US 40 near Myton). During your time in the area, visit the Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry.
The Wolfe Ranch Historical Site is located within Arches National Park, at the beginning of the trail leading to Delicate Arch. The ranch was settled in the late 1800s by John Wesley Wolfe. Today, you can still see the cabin Wolfe built when his daughter, Flora Stanley, and her family moved to the ranch in 1906. The Wolfe family stayed in the area until 1910 when they returned home to Ohio. The site has been added to the National Register of Historic Places due to its importance in local history. Located near the cabin is a significant panel of Native American Rock Art.
Another must-see is Edge of The Cedars State Park in Blanding. The museum houses one of the largest collections of Anasazi Pottery in the country. Blanding is also the first step in the Trail of The Ancients, a 100-mile loop showcasing the artifacts, and cultural remains, of these ancient peoples.
Now a Scenic Backway off of Highway 12 in South Central Utah, a road leads to Hole-In-The-Rock. This crevice in a high wall was used by Mormon pioneers who lowered their wagons piece by piece to the Colorado River below. The Town of Bluff was the eventual settlement of this tenacious group.
The ruins of Old Iron Town rest peacefully in a stream-filled valley about 25 miles southwest of Cedar City about 5 miles off Utah 56. Old Iron Town was once an industrious village centered around a coke oven, blast furnace and foundry utilizing local iron ore deposits. The ruins are protected and managed as part of Iron Mission State Park located in Cedar City.
Sign in at a stand located at the edge of the parking lot to receive a brochure for the park. Entrance is free. A series of trails outlined in the brochure lead visitors to the ruins. The most recognizable structure resembles a huge stone beehive. The 30-foot-tall structure is a charcoal or coke oven associated with smelters and mining operations. Inside you can view stones blacked by fires that burned more than 100 years ago. Fires burned for up to a week, depending on the fuel source used and produced a substance that was almost pure carbon. This fuel was used to run the nearby blast furnace
Another large stone structure was a furnace constructed to replace the first furnace (the old chimney can still be spotted in foundations of the foundry building.) Iron City contained a foundry, machine shop, brick schoolhouse, blacksmith shop and a pattern shop.
The first ironworks in Cedar City, previously known as Coal Creek, operated until the 1850s. Iron City resulted from developments a decade later and operated until the early 1870s.
For a look back at how the Great Depression impacted Utah residents stop at the Leeds Civilian Conservation Corps Camp north of St. George.
The camp, built in 1933, is the best remaining example of a CCC camp in Utah. The Great Depression hit Utah hard where unemployment averaged 25 percent in the 1930s, but was as high as 36 percent. The arid climate of Southern Utah made conservation work such as flood control and water resource development extremely important.
The remaining stone structures at the camp are but a few of those originally built. At one time more than 250 men were housed in frame barracks that were located to the southwest with other buildings such as a mess hall, library and showers. The men were usually from another state and served in the CCC for nine to 12 months. The Leeds CCC Camp was closed in 1942.
The town of Leeds is located just off of I-15 north of St George. To get to the Leeds CCC Camp drive through the center of town until you see a large historic sign the marks the camp.