States – Utah

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In recent years many retirees looking for retirement destinations are turning their attention to the mountain states, and for good reason. Utah was ranked the third best state to retire in by Bankrate.com in 2015.

It offers some of the world’s best natural scenery, outstanding outdoor recreation, and a healthy economy. Residents tend to be conservative and the crime rate is among the lowest in the country, partly attributable to the fact that 60% of the population are Mormon. 

Utah has a diverse landscape. There’s world-class skiing in “the best snow on earth” at resorts around Park City and Deer Valley. There are towering, red and orange desert rock formations in Arches National Park. Of course, there’s the Great Salt Lake, the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere.

Utah even has a miniature version of the Grand Canyon in Bryce Canyon National Park, with its rising spires and a natural amphitheater. Utah is home to five national parks, which offer a range of scenery and great opportunities for hiking and camping.

The cost of living is about 6% above the national average, but varies widely throughout the state. Affluent neighborhoods around metro areas like Park City are much more expensive, while many other parts of the state are less expensive.

Likewise, the median home price in 2015 was $213,400 which is close to the national median. Homes in and around major cities like Salt Lake City and Park City can reach $1 million or more, while those in other areas can be less expensive. Overall, home prices in Utah are steadily rising as more people move to the Beehive State. Utah’s unemployment rate is much lower than the national average, which is good for those looking to work parttime after retirement.

The total tax burden in Utah is about average, ranking 29th in the U.S. The income tax rate is a flat 5%. Social Security benefits and most other retirement income is taxable. There is a small credit for some lower income taxpayers. The state sales tax is 4.7% and many districts add their own. The property tax rate at 0.68% is 11th lowest in the country. There is a homestead exemption for those over age 65 with income below $30,000 per year.

The weather varies across the state. Summers are hot and dry, with plenty of sunshine. Winters can be long, severe, and snowy, especially in the northern parts, and the mountains get a lot of dry snow. The southern areas of the state have more mild winters.

Here are several places to consider for retirement.

Saint George

Saint George is located in the southwest corner of Utah and has become a popular retirement destination in the state. It offers a relatively mild climate in winter, nice natural scenery and clean, fresh air.

St. George is nicknamed “Utah’s Dixie” because early Mormon pioneers grew cotton in the temperate climate. There are outstanding recreational opportunities such as the eight golf courses in town and nearly 200 miles of hiking and bike trails in the nearby wooded mountains and in Zion National Park.

The population of the city almost doubled in population since the year 2000 to over 78,000 people, and the area has about 152,000, 32% of whom are over age 50. The metro area is one of the fastest growing in the U.S.

St. George is in a desert valley surrounded by mountains to the north and west and Zion National Park to the east. The Red Cliffs Desert Reserve tops a sandstone bluff that overlooks the town. The tree-lined streets of downtown have some good restaurants and shopping areas.

The town has an active cultural environment. There are many art galleries in and around the city. Tuachan outdoor ampitheater hosts Broadway productions each summer and concert series which attract nationally known musical performers. The St. George Arts Festival each spring features contemporary and Southwestern exhibits by many local, national, and international artists.

The city also sponsors Art in the Park and Concerts in the Park series with many musical performances and art displays. Additionally, there are many outdoor sculptures and statues around downtown, which are changed out regularly. The St. George Art Museum and Sears Art Museum and Gallery have exhibits from many artistic periods. The Split Rock Art Museum and Gallery displays southwestern contemporary art and photography.

The Rosenbruch Wildlife Museum, Tonaquint Nature Center, and the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site are good places to learn about the area. Brigham Young lived in St. George during the last years of his life and his winter home is a historical site. Healthcare is available at Dixie Regional Medical Center which offers 24-hour trauma and emergency services for the region.

Logan

Logan is a town of 50,000 at the northern end of Utah. It’s in the heart of the lush Cache Valley, a dairy farming region. The rural environment and scenic mountain valley are a big part of the appeal to residents. Founded by early Mormon settlers, the town also retains its heritage, with its central tabernacle and immaculate downtown.

There are many opportunities for hiking and biking in the nearby Wasatch and Wellsville mountain ranges. For skiiers, Beaver Mountain has the same great Utah snow as Park City but without the huge crowd and high cost. Nearby Bear Lake is sometimes called the Caribbean of the Rockies because of its bright turquoise color and white-sand beaches.

The median home price is just $145,000 and there are 219 days of sunshine per year. In the northern part of town is a shopping district with numerous shops and restaurants, including the Cache Valley Mall. Logan has the region’s largest and most comprehensive medical facility, Logan Regional Hospital.

Logan hosts the Utah Festival Opera which gives performances during the year. The Ellen Eccles Theatre hosts concerts, live theater, dance, and classic movies. Cache Valley Center for the Arts offers arts classes and sponsors numerous “Gallery Walks” through downtown that feature art, music, and food.

The Summerfest Arts Faire, held on Father’s Day Weekend,  features a fine arts festival with music, food and children’s activities. Utah State University located in town also hosts artistic and cultural venues including art galleries, concerts, plays, and public lectures.

The local farmer’s market, held each Saturday from May through October, was named one of America’s best farmers’ markets in 2009. For over 20 years, the market has been a place to buy locak produce, eggs, coffee, bread, homemade crafts and art, and hear live music.

There are two golf courses in town, with several others in the area. There is also an aquatic center run by the town, as well as an outdoor ice skating rink in the winter. The local fairgrounds hosts many rodeos, fairs, and other events. Around the town are many places for hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, canoeing, and picnicking. Logan Canyon also has rock climbing and snowmobiling.

Ogden

Ogden is in the northern part of Utah, a town of 85,000 at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains. The Ogden and Weber Rivers flow through the city.

The mountains and rivers offer many opportunities for outdoor recreation. An extensive network of hiking trails connects the city’s eastern side to the foothills and mountains of the Wasatch Range. The trails offer hiking, jogging, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing. There is also a system of paved trails running along the river banks. The cliffs above the foothills have rock climbing paths.

The eastern mountains also have three downhill skiing areas, and kayaking is a popular sport on the rivers. The reservoirs near Ogden are good for boating. Places in town for walking are Waterfall Canyon Trail and Beus Pond Park. There are several golf courses in town.

Other attractions in Ogden include Dinosaur Park and Museum, which has life-size recreations of prehistoric inhabitants of the area. Other informative attractions in town are the Ogden Nature Center and Ogden Botanical Garden, Hill Aerospace Museum, Union Station, Utah State Railroad Museum, and for when the grandchildren visit, the Children’s Treehouse Museum.

Ogden is a supplemental location of the world-famous Sundance Film Festival held annually in Park City. Ogden also holds its own film festival, the Foursite Film Festival. Other major events include a farmer’s market, the Ogden Arts Festival, the Harvest Moon Festival, and Ogden Winterfest.


For more information about retirement in Utah:

State overview in facts and figures

State taxes

State services for senior residents

Profiles of major cities

Retirement communities

Best regions for retirement