I mentioned yesterday that I visited Springdale over Memorial Day weekend. Like pretty much everyone who visits Springdale, I was there to see to Zion National Park, the entrance of which is just a short walk from the city’s downtown.
The visit to both the park and the city was enjoyable, and emphasized to me the massive economic benefit of outdoors activity. I know that not every weekend in Springdale is as busy as Memorial Day, but regardless, the entire town economy is basically built on tourism.
Zion National Park is filled with tourists on busy weekends. Those tourists also support the economy of the nearby town of Springdale.
Provo isn’t Springdale and the surrounding mountains aren’t Zion National Park.
But Provo does have incredible outdoors opportunities. For people coming into the city from flatter, or simply less striking environments, those opportunities can seem much closer in caliber to Zion than locals might realize. I know, for example, that when I arrived in Provo I was constantly struck by the suddenness of the east mountains. That effect gradually wore off, but I’m reminded of it when I’m working in court and hear out-of-towners comment on the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
The point is that Provo could have a stronger outdoor tourism economy. Places like Rock Canyon, Provo Canyon, Utah Lake and Deer Creek Reservoir, Timpanogos, etc. all should be major attractions for locals and for tourists. Smaller hikes like Stewart Falls, or sites like Cascade Springs similarly could be part of Provo’s brand.
Unlike places like Springdale, Moab, or Park City, tourism doesn’t have to sustain the entire local economy in Provo. Thanks to BYU and Nu Skin, tourism also already happens in the city. But the mountains and the lakes are a vast economic resource — among many other, less tangible things — that are only barely being tapped.
Provo’s mountains are striking, beautiful and filled with good hiking trails. But Provo still attracts significantly less outdoors tourism than other Utah cities.