The Fascinating Story Behind Logan, Utah

 Historic Main Street in Logan, Utah, is filled with shops and restaurants, but it retains its small-town charm.
Historic Main Street in Logan, Utah, is filled with shops and restaurants, but it retains its small-town charm. Explore Logan/Bullock PhotoArts
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Logan, Utah, is right in the center of the high-mountain Cache Valley, a favorite place for the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Indians, who roamed, hunted, and fished here for thousands of years. Next came the mountain men and trappers in the 1820s. They nearly depleted the area of its beaver population since hats and capes were all the rage in Europe and on the East Coast. The trappers stored their furs in "caches," a French word that means “to hide or store one’s treasure.” The caches were holes dug into the ground for their supplies and furs. Now you can find your own hidden treasure in Cache Valley.

Logan is now home to international high-tech businesses, farmers and ranchers, university students, arts lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts who still enjoy its small-town charm. The Wasatch-Cache National Forest is only 10 minutes from downtown and the world-class performing arts scene has earned Logan the nickname of Utah’s Heart of the Arts. All these facets of the community can be traced to the hobbies, innovation, and work ethic of the early pioneers who settled the valley in the 1850s.

Logan has been ranked as one of the safest cities in the nation plus the best place to be a kid, retire, and even start a business. Yet vacationers can still have much of the place to themselves.

Utah State University’s Old Main building, built in 1891, sits prominently on the Logan bench. Permanent settlement in Logan dates back to 1859, when Brigham Young organized a group to build a fort on the Logan River.
Utah State University’s Old Main building, built in 1891, sits prominently on the Logan bench. Permanent settlement in Logan dates back to 1859, when Brigham Young organized a group to build a fort on the Logan River. Explore Logan

The town itself dates back to 1859, when Brigham Young sent a group of settlers to Cache Valley to build a fort on the Logan River. By the following year, there were 100 houses in the development, which was named after Ephraim Logan, an early trapper who frequented the region. The town was laid out like Salt Lake City with wide streets and done on a grid system.

While the town of Logan wasn’t the only settlement in the Cache Valley, it soon became the largest due to its central location and abundant water, which served to supply both mills and irrigation. It became a place where farmers gathered to buy and sell their goods and eventually the city became the county seat. Early industry in the town included a sawmill, lime kiln, and a tannery. One of the first buildings built was a theater.

The first higher education came to Cache Valley when Brigham Young College was founded in 1878. After the passage of the Lund Act, the land-grant Utah State Agricultural College was founded 10 years later and its first students arrived in 1890. It’s now known as Utah State University.

People come from all over to rent horses to explore the beautiful mountains and vistas in Logan Canyon.
People come from all over to rent horses to explore the beautiful mountains and vistas in Logan Canyon. Explore Logan

You can explore more about the history of the region at the American West Heritage Center, a 160-acre living history center that focuses on life in the region from 1820 to 1920. Visitors are treated to a hands-on learning environment, as mountain men, farmers, and pioneers dress in period costumes and encourage you to try your hand at fun skills and activities common for the people who lived back then.

The Hyrum Museum in the southern Cache Valley, takes an even broader view of history, with information that dates back from the prehistoric Lake Bonneville to development in the mid-20th Century. You can also check out the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum in historic downtown Logan and take a tour of the Tabernacle, a great example of early Mormon architecture.

One of the first buildings built in Logan was a theater and the community has honored and built this tradition of loving the performing arts for generations. There are three historic live-performance theaters booked with great shows year-round. Ticket prices are unbelievably affordable, the scenery and costumes are spectacular and the performances are brilliant.

The natural resources that first brought settlers to the region are once again drawing visitors. Only this time, it’s with hiking boots, bicycles, and fishing rods. Due to its high elevation, summers never get too hot in Logan, which means hikers can enjoy the trails in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest spring through fall (see a complete trail map of the region to discover just how much there is to explore).

Hikers will find an abundance of scenic options in Logan Canyon.
Hikers will find an abundance of scenic options in Logan Canyon. Explore Logan/Monique Beeley

Camping, cycling, fishing, boating, horseback riding, and golf all attract people to the area in the summer months. When you’re not outside, you can take advantage of Logan’s burgeoning dining scene, which includes everything from fine dining to ethnic favorites and casual family-style diners.

The small town charm of Logan remains. It’s off the beaten path and thankfully so.

Originally written for Utah Office of Tourism.

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