Utah is known for the Mighty Five National Parks and some of the best downhill resort skiing in the country. The state’s largest cities by population offer a deep dive into religious history and culture, while the surrounding land features dramatic scenery, natural wonders, and outdoor activities.
Nicknamed “the Beehive State” as a nod to community, perseverance, and industry, Utah provides a high quality of life and cooperative work. The state is home to the famous Sundance Film Festival, giant salt lakes, and the Bonneville Salt Flats. With its biggest city hosting just 200,000 residents, Utah has a low crime rate and creates a rather suburban and rural feel for Utahns and visitors alike.
Here are the ten biggest cities in Utah, in order of the highest to lowest populations:
Salt Lake City, UT
Founded in 1847 by a group of Mormon pioneers led by Brigham Young, Salt Lake City was originally inhabited by the Shoshone, Paiute, Goshute, and Ute Native Americans. It’s the largest city in Utah, with the 2020 census reporting a population of 199,723 residents. It is located in northern Utah, just southeast of the Great Salt Lake.
Salt Lake draws in crowds with its beautiful vegetation, historical monuments, and rich religious history. The Mormon Temple features six grand towers that are a sight to behold. Learn more about Utah’s history by visiting the Natural History Museum of Utah, which has about 5,000 artifacts on display at any time.
The city is also home to an enthusiastic outdoor culture, including nearby ski resorts, Hogle Zoo, Liberty Park, and Tracy Aviary & Botanical Gardens. Salt Lake City is less than an hour’s drive to some of the country’s best ski areas, including Park City, Brighton, and Snowbird. Flaunting its versatility, it’s clear that SLC is an area of diverse activity that can accommodate the desires of any visitor.
Those that find themselves drawn to the fine arts can catch events like concerts and Broadway shows at the Eccles Theater, which offers seating for nearly 2,500 people. The Utah Museum of Fine Arts will scratch the same itch with a collection of nearly 20,000 items.
The hustle and bustle of Salt Lake City — and all its suburbs — contrasts spectacularly with its proximity to top-tier ski resorts and hiking and biking trails. It offers the luxury of the best of both worlds.
West Valley City, UT
Located just south of Salt Lake, West Valley City is a suburban home to 140,230 people as of 2020. It’s best known for hosting the Utah Grizzlies hockey team at the Maverik Center, a venue that seats 12,000.
Visitors and locals alike will find themselves endlessly entertained by major live music events at the USANA Amphitheatre and grand movie events at Megaplex Theaters. If you find yourself in need of more entertainment, visit the Utah Cultural Celebration Center for events, concerts, and festivals.
The suburb also boasts beautiful outdoor scenery. West Valley City showcases its natural beauty with golf courses, the nearby Jordan River Parkway Trail, and sprawling parks.
West Jordan, UT
West Jordan, one of the first-established SLC suburbs, had a population of 116,961 according to the 2020 census. It’s known for its historic sugar factory and fur industry — both of which no longer operate.
Popular activities here include visiting Gardner Village — a hub for shopping, dining, and events like the Woodland Fairy Festival. The village is named for Archibald Gardner, a Scottish immigrant responsible for the construction of the first flour mill in the town in 1853.
At Veterans Memorial Park, visitors can enjoy a playground, lawned areas, and a short-loop walking trail. The Conservation Garden Park showcases different landscapes that are ideal for Utah’s climate. It also demonstrates the most efficient use of water for garden maintenance.
Known for its abundance of outdoor beauty, Provo is situated in northern Utah on the eastern edge of Utah Lake. According to the 2020 census, it had a population of 115,162 people. Provo has a college-town feel, as it is home to the prestigious Brigham Young University.
It’s repeatedly recognized as one of the best places to live in the country with its endless natural beauty, delicious restaurants, and fast-growing economy. Tourists can immerse themselves in indoor wonders at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Covey Center for the Arts, or the Bean Science Museum.
Provo is a welcoming oasis for outdoor lovers. It features dramatic views like Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon and abundant fishing and sailing on Utah Lake. There are plenty of trails for hiking and biking, as well as a river for rafting and kayaking. Settled in 1849, it has a rich history and is sure to entertain any visitor, as it does for the locals.
Situated just north of Provo, Utah, Orem was home to 98,129 people as of 2020. The city experienced substantial growth in the 1940s when Geneva Steel Works was built as an inland steel producer.
It has developed the nickname, “Family City, USA”, and is known for the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. Mount Timpanogos Park provides 44 acres of walking trails and several pavilions for events. Keep exploring the outdoors in Nielsen’s Grove Park, a scenic space with plants, flowers, a pond, and picnic tables.
Visit Nickel City for exciting games and a slice of pizza. Catch a movie or a show at SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre — an amphitheater-style venue in SCERA Park. Grab a ticket to the Hale Center Theater for professional musicals and comedies. Warm up your legs for a day at Hang-Time Adventure Park, the largest trampoline park in the state.
Orem is also home to Utah Valley University, a public university recognized as one of the safest in the country. A high moral climate invites visitors from all over to enjoy the various attractions and surrounding beauty.
Sandy is another one of SLC’s large suburbs and had a 2020 population of nearly 97,000. It began as a small agricultural town and developed into a large city with the introduction of nearby mining and a railroad.
Visitors and locals can enjoy Wheeler Farm, a historic 19th-century farmstead in the nearby town of Murray. The Sandy Amphitheater draws crowds with live music, plays, and outdoor seating. America First Field is home to the Real Salt Lake club soccer team. This stadium can hold up to 25,000 people for large concerts.
Many find themselves enjoying the outdoors with a day at Sego Lily Gardens, a free garden venue that aims to teach the public about water usage and conservation. Other exciting outdoor activities include hiking the Bell Canyon Trail and attending the Sandy Balloon Festival.
St. George, UT
Known for its outdoor culture and proximity to awe-inspiring state and national parks, St. George is home to about 95,342 residents according to the 2020 census. A sought-after place to retire, it’s located on the Utah-Arizona border and is home to Utah Tech University.
Residents and visitors can take their pick between visiting Zion National Park, Snow Canyon State Park, Pioneer Park, and Red Hills Desert Garden. With several weeks/months/years’ worth of natural wonders to explore, the average outdoors person will never find themselves bored in this area.
Fortunately, this city does not end with outside attractions. Visitors who are keener on indoor exploration can visit the historic Brigham Young Winter House, the St. George Art Museum, or the St. George Children’s Museum. The St. George Utah Temple is awe-inspiring, with a lovely outdoor landscape and a visitor’s center open to the public.
The downtown district features historic buildings, dramatic water features, a carousel, events, and more. Visit ancestor square, the weekly farmers market, and several restaurants in this culture-rich area.
Ogden is home to around 87,321 people according to the 2020 census. The city is famous for crime boss Al Capone’s statement that he would not dare walk the streets of Ogden for fear of his life in the 1920s
Its Prohibition-Era speakeasies on historic 25th Street are now popular shopping and dining destinations. For pop culture fanatics, it’s worth noting that the city was one of the primary filming locations of the classic film, The Sandlot.
Ogden has something for everyone. Visit George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park to see over 100 dinosaur replicas and explore a natural history and paleontology museum. Or wander through Union Station, a historic train station converted into museums and galleries that celebrate the area’s culture and history.
Those that enjoy the outdoors will be excited to learn that the city is known as the gateway to several ski resorts, including Snowbasin, Powder Mountain, and Nordic Valley. Its proximity to the Wasatch Mountains makes it an excellent destination for sightseeing, hiking, and biking. The Ogden Nature Center has 152 acres of natural landscape, an educational center, and rotating exhibits.
Located between Ogden and SLC, and bordering the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, Layton was home to 81,773 people as of 2020. With beautiful views of the Wasatch Mountains and ample outdoor spaces, it’s widely recognized as a desirable place to live and visit.
Layton Commons Park is a peaceful 47-acre area with duck ponds, trees, playgrounds, picnic areas, and baseball fields. Hiking the Adams Canyon Trail will lead adventurers to a scenic waterfall.
Many enjoy the refreshing opportunities at Layton City Surf ‘n’ Swim, a public outdoor facility with lap and wave pools. Ellison Park also offers the option to cool down with its splash pad, in addition to a playground and sports facilities.
Ed Kenley Amphitheater provides music, theater, and dance shows that feature both local and international artists. The Hive Winery is a lively place to taste wines, ciders, and traditional meads.
South Jordan, UT
South Jordan is known for being the first district in the world to have two temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Founded by Mormon settlers in 1847, it now has a population of around 77,487 according to the 2020 census. It’s an SLC suburb located 18 miles south of the major city.
The community is home to several parks, two golf courses, and beautiful hiking and walking areas along water and under bridges. South Jordan also features ample rivers, streams, and lakes.
A visit to The District will lead to shopping, dining, and moviegoing at the Megaplex theater. The District’s Labyrinth features an immersive journey of 47 mini-games designed to challenge the mind, body, and spirit.
Explore the Gale Center of History and Culture to learn about the preservation and celebration of South Jordan culture. There are also community events — farmers markets, cookoffs, festivals, and outdoor movies — held throughout the year.
With activities, events, foods, and views for all tastes, Utah is certainly worth scheduling a vacation around (if not packing up and moving there!). It’s got dramatic landscapes of the national parks, massive lakes, and the Wasatch Mountain Range.
There’s no question as to why residents report a high quality of life. Those who visit and live in Utah experience endless opportunities for exploring natural wonders and historical lands.