Utah Vs Colorado: Which State Is Better To Live In?

Choosing whether to settle down in Utah or Colorado brings up many factors to weigh. From outdoor recreation to jobs and taxes, these two Rocky Mountain states have key differences. This in-depth guide will compare all aspects of life in Utah versus Colorado to help you make the best decision.

In brief: Colorado has legal marijuana and more progressive views, while Utah offers a lower cost of living but more conservative laws. Utah has world-class skiing and five national parks, but Colorado boasts the Rocky Mountains and booming urban hubs.

Keep reading as we dive into cost, lifestyle, climate and more to reveal how Utah and Colorado stack up for livability.

Cost of Living

When comparing Utah and Colorado, one of the most important factors to consider is the cost of living. Both states have their own unique advantages and disadvantages in terms of affordability.

Housing Costs

When it comes to housing costs, Utah generally has a lower cost of living compared to Colorado. According to Numbeo, the average price per square foot for a home in Salt Lake City, Utah is $258, while in Denver, Colorado it is $315.

This means that housing in Utah is more affordable, making it an attractive option for those looking to purchase a home or rent an apartment.


When it comes to taxes, both Utah and Colorado have relatively low income tax rates. In Utah, the state income tax rate is a flat 4.95%, while in Colorado it is a flat 4.63%. However, it’s worth noting that Colorado has a higher sales tax rate compared to Utah.

According to the Tax Foundation, the average sales tax rate in Colorado is 7.72%, while in Utah it is 6.78%. This means that consumers in Colorado may pay slightly more in sales tax compared to those in Utah.

Utilities and Transportation

When it comes to utilities and transportation costs, both Utah and Colorado have similar rates. The average monthly utility bill in Utah is around $110, while in Colorado it is around $120. Additionally, both states have well-maintained transportation systems, making it easy to get around.

Whether you prefer to drive or use public transportation, both Utah and Colorado offer convenient options.

Outdoor Recreation

Both Utah and Colorado offer incredible outdoor recreation opportunities, making it difficult to determine which state is better to live in for outdoor enthusiasts. Let’s explore some of the key outdoor activities available in each state:

Skiing and Snowboarding

When it comes to skiing and snowboarding, both Utah and Colorado are renowned for their world-class resorts and abundant snowfall. Utah boasts famous ski destinations like Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort, while Colorado is home to iconic resorts such as Aspen Snowmass and Vail.

Whether you prefer groomed runs or challenging backcountry terrain, both states offer a variety of options for all skill levels.

National Parks and Public Lands

Utah is often referred to as the “Mighty 5” state, thanks to its five breathtaking national parks: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion. These parks showcase unique geological formations, stunning landscapes, and ample opportunities for hiking, camping, and photography.

Colorado, on the other hand, is home to national parks like Rocky Mountain National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park, which offer diverse ecosystems and outdoor adventures.

Hiking and Mountain Biking

Both Utah and Colorado boast an extensive network of hiking and mountain biking trails. Utah’s Moa Mountain Bike Trail and Zion Narrows are popular among outdoor enthusiasts seeking thrilling adventures.

In Colorado, you can explore scenic trails like the Maroon Bells Loop or tackle challenging routes like the Colorado Trail. Whether you enjoy leisurely hikes or adrenaline-pumping mountain biking, both states provide ample opportunities to explore the great outdoors.

While it’s difficult to determine which state is better for outdoor recreation, it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Both Utah and Colorado offer a myriad of outdoor activities that cater to different interests and skill levels.

Whichever state you choose, you can rest assured knowing that you’ll have access to some of the most breathtaking landscapes and outdoor adventures in the country.

Urban Life

Denver vs Salt Lake City

When it comes to urban life, both Denver and Salt Lake City offer a vibrant and thriving atmosphere. Denver, the capital of Colorado, is known for its bustling downtown area, filled with skyscrapers, trendy bars, and a lively nightlife.

The city is also home to several professional sports teams, including the Denver Broncos and the Colorado Rockies, making it a haven for sports enthusiasts.

On the other hand, Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah, boasts a unique blend of urban amenities and stunning natural surroundings. With the majestic Wasatch Mountains serving as a backdrop, residents of Salt Lake City can enjoy breathtaking views and easy access to outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, skiing, and mountain biking.

The city has a well-developed public transportation system, making it easy for residents to navigate and explore all that Salt Lake City has to offer.

Denver Salt Lake City
Skyscrapers Stunning natural surroundings
Trendy bars and nightlife Easy access to outdoor activities
Professional sports teams Well-developed public transportation system

Ultimately, the choice between Denver and Salt Lake City depends on individual preferences. If you thrive in a bustling urban environment with a vibrant nightlife, Denver might be the city for you. On the other hand, if you appreciate a balance between urban amenities and natural beauty, Salt Lake City offers a unique blend that can’t be beaten.

Dining and Arts Scenes

When it comes to dining and arts scenes, both Utah and Colorado have a lot to offer. Denver is renowned for its diverse culinary scene, with a wide range of restaurants offering everything from fine dining to delicious street food.

The city is also home to a thriving arts community, with numerous galleries, theaters, and music venues showcasing local talent.

Salt Lake City, on the other hand, has seen a surge in its dining scene in recent years. The city is now home to a number of award-winning restaurants, offering a variety of cuisines to satisfy any palate.

In addition, Salt Lake City has a strong arts community, with several art galleries and performing arts centers showcasing the work of local artists.

Both cities also host annual food and arts festivals, where visitors can sample delicious cuisine and experience the vibrant arts scene. Denver’s “Taste of Colorado” festival and Salt Lake City’s “Utah Arts Festival” are just a few examples of the exciting events that take place throughout the year.

Job Market and Economy

When comparing Utah and Colorado, one of the key factors to consider is the job market and economy. Both states have thriving economies with plenty of job opportunities, but there are some differences to take into account.

Top Industries

Utah has a diverse range of industries that contribute to its strong economy. Some of the top sectors include technology, healthcare, manufacturing, and outdoor recreation. The state is known for its booming tech industry, with companies like Adobe and Qualtrics having a significant presence.

Additionally, Utah’s healthcare sector is experiencing rapid growth, providing numerous job opportunities in hospitals and medical facilities.

On the other hand, Colorado has a robust economy driven by various industries. The state is known for its strong aerospace and defense sector, with companies like Lockheed Martin and Ball Aerospace leading the way.

Colorado also has a thriving renewable energy industry, with a focus on wind and solar power. The outdoor recreation industry is also a significant contributor to Colorado’s economy, with tourism and leisure activities playing a vital role.

Unemployment Rates

When it comes to unemployment rates, both Utah and Colorado have consistently low numbers compared to the national average. According to the latest data, Utah has an unemployment rate of 2.8%, while Colorado has a rate of 3.4%.

These figures indicate that both states have a strong job market and relatively low unemployment rates, providing ample opportunities for individuals seeking employment.


When considering wages, it is essential to look at the cost of living in each state. While both Utah and Colorado offer competitive salaries, the cost of living in Colorado, particularly in cities like Denver and Boulder, is generally higher than in Utah.

However, it’s worth noting that wages in both states tend to be above the national average.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage in Utah is $51,750, while in Colorado, it is slightly higher at $54,980. These figures vary depending on the industry and job position.

It’s important to research specific occupations and industries to get a better understanding of the wage potential in each state.

Marijuana Laws

Legal Recreational Marijuana in CO

When it comes to marijuana laws, Colorado has taken a progressive stance. In 2012, Colorado became one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and older. This means that residents and visitors to Colorado can legally purchase and consume marijuana from licensed dispensaries.

The state has implemented regulations to ensure the safe and responsible use of marijuana, including limits on possession and driving under the influence.

Colorado’s decision to legalize recreational marijuana has had a significant impact on the state’s economy. According to a report by the Colorado Department of Revenue, the state collected over $1 billion in marijuana tax revenue since legalization.

This revenue has been used to fund various programs, including education, healthcare, and infrastructure projects. It has also created thousands of jobs in the industry, further stimulating the economy.

Furthermore, the legalization of marijuana has had positive social implications. Studies have shown that legalization has led to a decrease in marijuana-related arrests and convictions, freeing up law enforcement resources to focus on more serious crimes.

Additionally, the regulated market has helped to reduce the illegal drug trade and associated violence.

Restrictive Marijuana Policies in UT

On the other hand, Utah has taken a more restrictive approach to marijuana laws. While the state has legalized the use of medical marijuana under certain conditions, recreational use is still illegal. Utah’s medical marijuana program allows patients with qualifying conditions to obtain a medical cannabis card and purchase marijuana products from licensed dispensaries.

However, Utah has implemented strict regulations surrounding the use of medical marijuana. The state has a limited list of qualifying conditions, and patients must obtain a recommendation from a qualified healthcare professional.

Additionally, Utah has imposed restrictions on the types of marijuana products that can be sold, with a focus on non-smokable forms such as oils, capsules, and topicals.

It’s important to note that Utah’s restrictive policies on marijuana are influenced by the state’s conservative values and concerns about the potential negative effects of marijuana use. While some residents may feel that these policies are overly restrictive, others appreciate the state’s cautious approach to marijuana legalization.

For more information on Colorado’s marijuana laws, you can visit the Colorado government website. To learn more about Utah’s marijuana laws, you can visit the Utah Medical Cannabis Program website.

Politics and Regulations

Liberal Colorado, Conservative Utah

When it comes to politics and regulations, Colorado and Utah couldn’t be more different. Colorado is known for its more liberal leanings, while Utah tends to be more conservative.

In Colorado, there is a strong emphasis on progressive policies and social issues. The state has legalized recreational marijuana and has been a leader in renewable energy initiatives. With a Democratic governor and a history of voting for Democratic presidential candidates, it’s clear that Colorado leans left politically.

On the other hand, Utah is known for its conservative values and strong Republican presence. The state has a reputation for being fiscally conservative and socially traditional. Utah has a Republican governor and has consistently voted for Republican presidential candidates in recent elections.

It’s important to note that these generalizations may not apply to every individual or community within each state. There are certainly pockets of conservatism in Colorado and areas of progressivism in Utah.

However, as a whole, the political climate in each state tends to reflect these broader trends.


When it comes to LGBTQ+ rights and protections, Colorado has been a leader in progressive legislation. The state has implemented comprehensive anti-discrimination laws that protect individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Colorado since 2014, following a federal court ruling.

Utah, on the other hand, has been more conservative in its approach to LGBTQ+ rights. While progress has been made in recent years, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2014, the state still lacks comprehensive anti-discrimination laws that protect individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

It’s worth noting that public opinion on LGBTQ+ issues has been shifting nationwide, and this is reflected in both Colorado and Utah. There are organizations and advocacy groups in both states working to promote equality and fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

For more information on LGBTQ+ laws and protections in Colorado, you can visit the website of the One Colorado, an organization dedicated to advancing equality for LGBTQ+ Coloradans. For information on LGBTQ+ rights in Utah, you can visit the website of the Equality Utah, a nonprofit organization working to secure equal rights and protections for LGBTQ+ individuals and their families in Utah.


In conclusion, Utah and Colorado both offer stunning mountain scenery and abundant recreation, but have tradeoffs when it comes to politics, urban amenities and marijuana laws. With Utah’s lower cost of living but stricter social policies compared to Colorado’s progressive laws and booming cities, choosing comes down to your lifestyle priorities.

Considering all the factors from taxes to nightlife and regulations can lead you to the perfect Rocky Mountain state to call home.

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