Are you thinking about moving to Utah? I’ve lived here for the better part of a decade and created this helpful list of pros and cons of living in Utah.
Hopefully it answers some of your questions, if not, drop me a comment below!
Oh Utah, you beautiful thing.
The state world famous for it’s striking red rock and the mecca of outdoor recreation in America. But if your impression of Utah is just red rock and fitness junkies I can assure you there’s much more to the state than that.
Did you know there’s a healthy moose population in Utah?
As you read this, keep in mind that these are just my personal opinions and not everyone’s experience living in Utah is the same.
Ready to get started? Let’s jump right in.
Table of Contents: Living in Utah
Table of Contents: Living in Utah
- Pros & Cons of Living in Utah
- Pros of Moving to Utah
- Cons of Living in Utah
- Retiring in Utah FAQ
- Cost of Living in Utah
- Pros & Cons of Living in Utah (Summary)
Pros & Cons of Living in Utah
Pros of Moving to Utah
1. Utah is the Outdoor Recreation Mecca of America
If outdoor recreation is your life’s purpose then pack up the u-haul, moving to Utah is the only option for you. There are a staggering amount of world class outdoor recreation opportunities available to you living in Utah.
Utah was ranked the 6th most outdoorsy state last year and it’s no wonder why. Looking around, the place is full of nature nuts looking longingly toward the nearest mountain, lake, valley, slope, trail – you name it.
A whopping 72 percent of the population in Utah is involved in outdoor recreation of one kind or another.
Some of Utah’s most popular outdoor recreation activities include:
- Mountain Biking
- Rock Climbing
Moving to Utah you’ll realize that enjoying the great outdoors is a non-negotiable way of life.
2. Utah is stunningly beautiful
If the beauty of the place has anything to do with living in Utah, then rest assured, it’s here. Utah was ranked the 5th most beautiful state in America and the evidence is all around. Just flying into Salt Lake City you’ll and seeing the epic valley there is breathtaking.
But Utah’s stunning scenery continues far beyond Salt Lake City.
In Utah you’ll find the mighty 5 national parks, 5 empty and equally beautiful national forests (especially the Manti-La Sal), 44 state parks, 9 national monuments, 2 national recreation areas, comprising over 22 million acres of public lands.
3. The diversity of scenery is unexpected
Everyone is familiar with the red rock cliffs and canyons that have made southern Utah a world-famous tourist destination over the years. But hardly anyone seems to realize that there is so much more to the scenery in this state. Perhaps you didn’t even know?
Take Pando, a spectacular (especially in the fall) clonal aspen forest that’s quite possibly the world’s largest living organism. How about the Flaming Gorge (located in the northeastern corner of the state), a 200,000-acre reservoir full of trophy fish and stunning views.
Have you heard of the Mirror Lakes Scenic Byway? It’s a 42 mile drive through a sprawling forest teeming with moose and glassy, reflective lakes located in the high Uinta mountains.
Live in Utah long enough and you’ll discover things like prehistoric dinosaur tracks in the La Sals, wild and scenic rivers where salmon still runs, vast stretches of untamed wilderness, well-preserved ruins of ancient Native American civilizations, towering red rock cathedrals, and snow-capped winter playgrounds in the cottonwood canyons.
4. The real fun starts in winter (if you love winter sports)
One of the highlights of moving to Utah for me was the vibrant winter recreation scene. Most places in the west have great options for summer activities but not everywhere ranks as highly in winter.
Utah was ranked the #2 best state in the US for winter activities. Some of the most popular spots include Park City (home to the largest ski resort in the US) and Big Cottonwood Canyon (Alta, Snowbird, & Brighton are the big names here).
Downhill skiing is quite popular along with cross country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and pretty much all activities snow related (even ice fishing).
5. Utah is a happy, happy place
Looking to brighten your outlook? Consider moving to Utah, the 4th happiest state in the US (behind Hawaii, Maryland, & Minnesota). Personally I attribute this largely to all the time folks here spend to the great outdoors but there are other reasons Utah is a happy place.
Folks here are generally pretty friendly to each other. While it may be difficult to make good friends it’s rarely hard to get a friendly wave. There’s lots of sunshine (we’ll get to that in a minute) and a pretty good feeling of community.
6. Soak in the sunshine
Sunshine, blue skies, living in Utah means largely unfettered access to the source of all life on earth. Utah is the state with the 9th most sunshine in the US. If ninth place doesn’t sound like a lot to you then have a look at the numbers.
Compared to Arizona, which is the state with the most annual sunshine, Utah sees only 15% less of that magical orange orb each year. The exact number of days you’ll receive depends on where you live with southern Utah getting more of its fill than the northern parts of the state.
Salt Lake City (located close to the middle of the state) sees 238 days of sunshine per year with 125 of those being “bluebird days” (no clouds).
7. The Utah job market is on fire
Moving to Utah for the job market? Sounds like a smart idea! Utah currently has the second best job market in America making finding employment here a breeze.
The unemployment rate in Utah is currently just 2.1% making it the lowest in the country. The top employers in Utah are the University of Utah, Intermountain Healthcare, the State of Utah, and Walmart, each employing over 20,000 people.
The fastest growing areas of employment in Utah are technology (especially in the Salt Lake City area), healthcare, and energy.
8. Utah’s economy is second to none
That’s right, Utah has the top rated economy in the US. There’s something happening in Utah that’s catching on. Utah has the 3rd fastest growing economy in the nation with the states’ GDP growing by nearly 20% in the past 5 years.
If you expand the statistics to twenty years Utah’s economy has grown by an astounding 80%+.
On top of that, Utah’s economy was one of the least affected by the pandemic seeing a drop in 2021 of just .1% compared to the worst hit state of Hawaii which dropped 8%.
9. Living in Utah, expect cheap property taxes
Living in Utah one can expect to pay relatively little in property taxes. In fact, Utah has the 8th lowest property taxes in the US at just .56%.
With the average home in the state running you about $580,000, the annual taxes paid based on that average home price are about $3,000.
10. Living in Utah means living longer
Utah is home to the 9th longest life expectancy in the country which means living in Utah means living a little longer. Average life expectancy in Utah is 78.6 years according to the CDC.
I chalk it up to all that excercise in the outdoors!
Cons of Living in Utah
1. Utah lacks diversity
If diversity amongst the population is an important factor, then moving to Utah may not be just right for you. Utah was recently ranked the 7th least diverse state in the country.
The population of Utah is 77% white, nearly 15% Hispanic, nearly 3% Asian, 1.5% Native American/Alaskan, and 1.5% Black or African American.
2. Utah is really, really dry
Folks interested in moving to Utah should know that the state is quite dry. According to the latest statistics Utah ranked as the 2nd driest state in America.
Speaking personally, coming from the southeastern US before moving here, I did not realize how different it would be.
Something to know about living in Utah is that not only is there very little rainfall here, but the air is so dry I constantly have to apply lib balm to prevent severe chapped lips and lotion to my skin to prevent it from going full reptile.
If you have sensitive skin then I recommend visiting the state for a week or two to see how you hold up before moving to Utah. Over time I’ve adjusted by being vigilant but it was a transition for sure.
3. Summer is plagued by wildfires
It seems like it wasn’t that long ago when wildfires were an exception rather than the rule each year. No longer. Every summer, living in Utah it’s not a matter of if there will be wildfires but where, how large, and how many.
Utah is ranked the 6th most dangerous state to live for wildfires. In 2020, over 216,691 acres burned in Utah with the worst culprit being fireworks.
It’s been really sad to see some of my favorite places to recreate burn in the past five years. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t deeply concerned for what the next five years holds for us in terms of wildfires here.
4. Housing is expensive
A common complaint I hear from my fellow Utahns about living in Utah is in regards to housing. Like so many other places across the United States, housing affordability has become a major issue in Utah.
In fact, Utah currently has the 8th most expensive housing of any state in America.
The median home price in Utah is $588,862 which is 37% above the national median.
5. Living in Utah might mean low salaries
While Utah might have the lowest unemployment of any state in the country, it also has one of the lowest average salaries at just $49,306 (45/50).
Based on the cost of living in Utah falling squarely in the middle of states (26/50), the high and rising housing costs, along with growing inflation, this makes living in Utah an relatively expensive proposition.
6. Restrictive alcohol laws
After all these cons you’re probably ready for a drink, eh? Think again. Alcohol laws in Utah are about the strangest and most restrictive there are in the United States.
All liquor transactions directly to the public must happen at state run liquor stores (yes, it’s a monopoly).
While beer and wine can be picked up at most grocery stores and gas stations (phew), the maximum ABV allowed for these is 5% (prior to 2019 it was a mere 3.2%!). Getting higher gravity beers requires a visit to one of aforementioned state run liquor stores.
On top of that, expect small wine pours at restaurants (the maximum allowable is 5 ounces) and skimpy cocktails (1.5 ounces of primary alcohol is the max allowed) at the bar.
Ready to head back home to that expensive house? You better hope those pours were as light as the state requires. The legal BAC (blood alcohol content) in Utah is a paltry .05% (or 1 to 2 drinks) making it the lowest in the United States.
And if that wasn’t sobering enough, you probably guessed it by now, alcohol is really expensive in Utah (5th most expensive state in the US) thanks to the 5th highest alcohol taxes in the country.
7. Utah has some of the worst air quality in America
You’d think with all of the nature and public lands (42% of the state is public land), Utah would have great air quality. Sadly, this isn’t the case. Utah is home to the 5th worst air quality in the United States.
Part of this is due to Salt Lake City’s nasty inversions which trap pollution in the valleys during the winter. Part of this is due to the increasing amount of wildfire smoke that destroys the air quality in the summer. And part of this is due to the amount of pollution caused by vehicles, agriculture, and industry.
Despite having some of the worst air quality in the country, parts of Utah (like Capitol Reef National Park) has some of the best air quality in America.
8. The drought makes living in Utah drier
The drought in Utah has become a major issue of concern in recent years with lakes and riverbeds drying up.
According to NOAA, 99.4% of Utah is currently in some level of drought conditions with 90% of the state at a minimum D2 Severe Drought conditions and a whopping 50% of the state at D3 Extreme Drought conditions.
With the state projected to get drier and drier in years to come, the drought is worth a consideration if you’re thinking of moving to Utah.
Retiring in Utah FAQ
Is Utah a good place to live?
Yes, based on the great job market, stellar economy, and amazing access to nature/recreation, Utah is among the best places to live in the US.
Is Utah a good place to retire?
Yes, Utah is an especially great place to retire for outdoor lovers and folks who crave the sunshine.
Is marijuana legal in Utah?
No, recreational marijuana is not yet legal in the state of Utah.
What’s the population of Utah?
The population of Utah is 3,337,975 in 2021.
How many days of sunshine in Utah?
Salt Lake City (located close to the middle of the state) sees 238 days of sunshine per year with 125 of those being “bluebird days” (no clouds). Southern Utah sees more sunshine and northern Utah sees less.
Utah is the 9th sunny state in the US.
Cost of Living in Utah
Utah falls right in the middle (26/50 states) in regards to cost of living in the US. In recent years the cost of living has increased in Utah due to rising housing prices, inflation, and relative low salaries.
Pros & Cons of Living in Utah (Summary)
- Outdoor recreation is amazing
- Utah is a beautiful state
- The diversity of scenery is unexpected
- Winter sports and recreation are popular
- Utah is a happy place
- Lots of sunshine
- Great job market
- Best economy
- Cheap property taxes
- Long life expectancy
- Utah lacks diversity
- Utah is really dry
- Summer is plagued by wildfires
- Housing is expensive
- Low salaries
- Restrictive alcohol laws
- Bad air quality
- The drought