Recreation and Tourism

Recreation is an activity done for enjoyment and/or fitness. Tourism is the social, cultural, and economic phenomenon of visiting places for pleasure.

Related resources for County planning include:



Map of Data

Download mxd

The ESRI mxd file of the services used to create the above map.

Resource Information

Outdoor recreation and tourism are a significant and growing component of the Mountainland region economy. According to U.S. Department of Commerce, industries supporting travel and tourism provided 50%, 28%, and 12% of all private employment for Summit, Wasatch, and Utah counties respectively. From 1998 to 2014, arts, entertainment, and recreation grew from 3,168 to 6,410 jobs, a 102.3% increase [1]. Tourists and travelers spent a record $7.8 billion in the Utah economy during 2014, and the tourism industry supported an estimated 137,192 jobs [2].

Utah Office of Tourism

The Utah Office of Tourism Industry Site provides research reports regarding economic benefits of tourism and recreation-related spending in Utah. Information by county includes:

    • City and county monthly tax distributions
    • Utah tourism rankings by county
    • Year-over percent change by county
    • Tourism profiles by county

Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation

Planning resources from the Office of Outdoor Recreation include:

  • The Outdoor Recreation Vision document describes Utah’s goals for promoting outdoor recreation. Counties may wish to include similar goals in their resource management plans.
  • Statewide 10-Year Plan (forthcoming). Regional summits will be held to engage communities, user groups, and the outdoor industry in order to provide a platform to give input for the statewide plan.
  • The Waypoint Grant Program makes grant monies available with a 50/50 match to communities to build outdoor recreation infrastructure. This was a pilot program in 2015; future grants are dependent on approval of funding from the State Legislature. Counties can apply for funds and promote awareness of the program.
  • Statewide recreation infrastructure map hosted by AGRC (forthcoming). Here is a link to the ArcGIS Online known trails data layer.
  • The Utah Search and Rescue Assistance Card (USARA Card) offers expense-paid rescue to individuals (e.g., hunters, hikers, and other backcountry enthusiasts) for an annual fee. Money raised by the program will support the Utah’s Search and Rescue Financial Assistance Program. County search and rescue teams will receive reimbursement for equipment, training, and rentals from the program (such expenses are often borne by the counties). Once the USARA card is available for purchase, marketing materials will be available to counties for promoting the program.

Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation

Planning resources from the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation include:

    • State Park Resource Management Plans
    • State Park Visitation Data
    • Grants for parks and trails
    • The 2014 Utah State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) provides information about statewide recreation participation, satisfaction, and perceived needs based on a public opinion survey and a survey of municipalities. The SCORP includes information about funding sources for local outdoor recreation facility development including parks, OHV trails, and nonmotorized trails.
    • The LWCF Projects data shows the location of outdoor recreation projects that have been funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The State Park data, the Park Recreation Points data, the Recreation Opportunities data along with the trail and routes data can be used to identify areas of the county that have abundant or scarce outdoor recreational opportunities.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

In addition to managing fishing and hunting on public lands, UDWR also manages state-land Wildlife Management Areas, privately-owned Cooperative Wildlife Management Units and a private land walk-in access program. UDWR maintains a recreation access mapping application online showing access locations for all types of outdoor recreation activity including hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, boating, bicycling, and ATV riding among other activities.  

State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration

Many of the State’s trust lands are open for recreation uses such as hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and OHV riding. The agency’s map gallery includes some recreation maps.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management

The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has a 5-year (20162020) recreation and visitor services strategy in Utah called “Connecting with Utah Communities.” The vision of the strategy “is to build upon and expand BLM-Utah’s collaboration with local, regional, and national organizations to provide outstanding and sustainable recreation opportunities on Utah’s public lands that produce lasting benefits from the places Utahns live, work, and play. Accomplishing this will require BLM-Utah to reposition itself both internally and externally.”[3]

U.S. Forest Service

The Forest Service provides a Recreation Planning Resources website with resources for planning professionals.

OHV Resources – The Ride On Designated Routes Campaign

The Mountainland counties are among the most popular statewide for motorized recreation. The organization Tread Lightly! created a multi-agency and multi-state campaign to promote riding on designated routes. The program for Utah included research in 2012 regarding OHV owner’s opinions and attitudes regarding stewardship and management of public lands, as well as baseline data regarding OHV participation and a survey of public land managers. Reports are available from the program’s website.

Best Management Practices

The following are examples of goals and policies from local and regional plans that counties may want to consider as possible planning goals.

Snyderville Basin [4]

  • Create a system of community parks, trails, and recreation facilities to service the entire population and visitors including community parks, non-motorized community trails, recreational open space and public recreation facilities.
  • Ensure adequate capacity is provided at trailheads located throughout the Basin to provide points of staging and support facilities to serve multiple user groups.

Mountain Accord [5]

  • Develop a recreational system which is balanced, sustainable, and provides a range of settings that accommodates increasing demand for year-round outdoor recreation opportunities.
  • Preserve special and unique recreation areas and settings to maintain opportunities for solitude and naturalness.

Utah County [6]

  • Establish recreational areas for the general public which encourage a sense of community and are pleasant and relaxing.
  • Use of off-road vehicles and recreational shooting should be accommodated in areas determined to be appropriate for such uses.

Wasatch County [7]

  • Off-highway vehicles should be used responsibly, and the management of off-highway vehicles should be uniform across jurisdictional boundaries. Laws related to the use of off-highway vehicles should be uniformly applied across all jurisdictions.
  • Develop opportunities for off-highway vehicle trails, roads or areas specifically designated for that purpose.

Economic Considerations

Recreation and tourism is a significant economic consideration for counties in Utah. In 2015, visitors from within the United States and abroad made more than 7.5 million visits to Utah’s BLM managed federal lands, supported 4,447 Utah jobs, and contributed $460 million in economic activity to the state [3]. A comparison of the first 8 months of 2013 to those months in 2014 shows that travel exports increased by nearly 6-percent. This increase was 84-percent faster than other U.S. export growth. In 2013, the tourism industry was Utah’s second largest export, with nonresident spending at $6.4 billion [8]. 52.5-percent of the total taxable sales in Summit County were tourism generated in 2013. For Wasatch County, tourism generated 41.9-percent of the total taxable sales [8].

The Western Rural Development Center offers good insights into conducting a cost-benefit analysis for small communities interested in tourism development.

Planning resources with information about the economics of recreation and tourism include:

  • Headwaters Economics, Inc.
    • The Economic Profile System tool enables anyone to generate county-level reports from multiple data sources (US Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis) using the most recent data available. Reports related to multiple resource management planning topics can be generated, including the economic impacts of tourism.
    • The Data Viz website provides recent reports and data summarizations created by Headwaters Economics. An example related to recreation is a report and data regarding benefits of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, 20112014.  

A Forest Service publication regarding nonmarket economic values in benefit-cost analysis of public forest management.[9]

Impact Considerations
  • Determine the regional economic impacts of recreation and tourism.
  • Assess how recreation opportunities can be provided for all user groups (recreation opportunity spectrum) and persons of all abilities.
  • Determine the interactive effects of recreation land use and other public land uses (energy development, livestock and grazing, mining, wildlife habitat) [10].
  • Assess how the counties resource management plans impact recreation activities and visual-resource conditions on public lands, including changes in recreation opportunities, visitation, and facilities.

Data Download
  GIS Data Map Service Web Map Document  Tabular Data  Website
Data NameData ExplanationPublication DateSpatial AccuracyContact
Boat ramps
Boat ramps, including State Parks1/18/20131:24,000AGRC
Golf Courses
Golf courses digitized form Utah Golf Course Association information20091:24,000AGRC
Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
Local parks projects statewide that have received Land and Water Conservation Fund grantsUpdated annuallyunknownUtah Division of State Parks
Land Ownership
Surface Land Ownership; use Admin field to identify administrative agencyUpdated Weekly1:24,000State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA).
GIS Group
Local Parks
Non state and non federal parksData Download; 1/18/2013

Map Service; 1/18/2013
1:24,000AGRC (compiled from local sources)
Recreation Access in Utah
Use to locate properties for various recreational activities.VariableUnknownUtah Division of Wildlife Resources
Ski Areas
Ski area locations, boundaries, and lifts11/16/20151:24,000AGRC
Existing and proposed motorized and non-motorized trailheads5/27/20151:24,000AGRC
Existing and proposed motorized and non-motorized trails5/27/20151:24,000AGRC and Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation
USFS Recreation
Roads and Trails, Recreation Sites, Boundary Data and other informationVariableVariableUnited States Forest Service,
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest,
Ruth Ann Trudell
GIS Database Manager
USFS Roads
National Forest System Roads

Map Service Metadata
Download Data; April 10, 2015

Service; Updated Daily
VariableUnited States Forest Service,
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest,
Ruth Ann Trudell
GIS Database Manager
Utah Highest Peaks
113 tallest summits, from 2010 GNIS Placenames20101:24,000AGRC derived from USGS GNIS Placenames


  1. Headwaters Economics. 2016. A Profile of Industries that Include Travel and Tourism for Utah, Summit, and Wasatch Counties. Accessed August 31, 2016.
  2. Utah Office of Tourism Industry Website. Accessed January 21, 2016.
  3. US Bureau of Land Management. 2016. Connecting with Utah Communities: BLM-Utah’s Recreation and Visitor Services Strategy, 2016-2020.
  4. Summit County. 2015. Snyderville Basin General Plan.
  5. Mountain Accord. 2014. Mountain Accord, Vision, Goals, and Metrics.
  6. Utah County. 2014. Utah County General Plan.
  7. Wasatch County. 2016. Wasatch County General Plan.
  8. University of Utah Bureau of Economic and Business Research. Utah Economic and Business Review. The State of Utah’s Tourism, Travel and Recreation Industry. Jennifer Leaver. 2014.
  9. Swanson, Cindy Sorg; Loomis, John B. 1996. Role of nonmarket economic values in benefit-cost analysis of public forest management. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-361. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 32p.
  10. Cole, David N. 1986. Resource impacts caused by recreation. In: The President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors (U.S.): a literature review. Washington, D.C.: The Commission: Management 1-11.