Salt Lake City is fortunate to offer its residents and guests the bustling of a city metropolis as well as some pockets of lush, natural beauty. Red Butte Garden is not only a thriving botanical garden, but it is also a nonprofit organization located on the campus of the University of Utah in northeast Salt Lake City. The Red Butte Garden has declared that its “mission” is to help people feel connected to the Earth’s ecosystems and biospheres, all of the organisms that live in them, and the natural beauty of those living landscapes, while its “vision” is to become a community where people are inspired to educate themselves about the value of our ecosystems, and a community that protects, values and understands the world that is enriched by plants. With such community-based and education-focused programs, the Garden is truly a gem of Salt Lake City, with locals taking great pride in its maintenance and appearance.
How Big is Red Butte Garden?
Red Butte Garden sprawls over 100 acres of land divided into different areas that each focus on a particular ecosystem. More than just a pretty greenhouse, the Red Butte Garden is truly a living museum, with different plant collections such as one pertaining to the plants native to Utah, plants not native to Utah but that are able to thrive in the Utah climate, and another of plants with a longer history of domestication and use by humans.
There is native vegetation in addition to carefully crafted display gardens. There are display gardens, natural gardens, walking paths, and hiking trails, making Red Butte the largest botanical garden in the Intermountain West. Each carefully landscaped plot has something else to offer. With sparkling fountains scattered along the pathways, Red Butte Garden is the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts, botanists, painters looking for landscape inspiration, or even visitors just looking for a quiet place to spend some time outside of the busy streets.
Things to Do at Red Butte Garden
Aside from admiring the nature, there’s plenty to do. In fact, if you’re trying to check the whole area out in one day, plan on it taking up much of your day, as there’s so much to see. Open year round, Red Butte Garden also features an amphitheater. The park hosts a variety of attractions and exhibitions, rotating throughout the year, such as interactive animal presentations and flora shows, sculpture installations, and even art exhibits. Red Butte Garden offers private or group guided tours, holiday specials, and gardening classes. Red Butte Garden also hosts outdoor concerts, kid-friendly games and activities, educational lectures, and other community outreach activities. In the Garden, you could enjoy a picnic, attend a class, or some other event.
History of the Garden
The Garden has its roots – pun intended – in the early twentieth century. In 1930, Dr. Walter P. Cottam, the chairman of the Botany Department at the University of Utah, began pushing more increased use of the campus’ land for botanical research. Also the co-founder of the Nature Conservatory, Dr. Cottam spent over 30 years studying plants, particularly their ability to adapt to new environments and ecosystems. In 1961, his impressive work inspired the Utah State Legislature to formally recognize his work by declaring the University of Utah’s campus gardens as the State Arboretum, with the original documentation requiring the Arboretum to “provide “provide resources and facilities for cultivating a greater knowledge and public appreciation for the trees and plants around us, as well as those growing in remote sections of the country and world.”
As the University of Utah continued to expand in its own right, the new State Arboretum found a greater need for public educational facilities as well as their gardens. In 1983, the University formally dedicated the 100 acres that sit at the mouth of Red Butte Canyon to a regional, public botanical garden, changing its name to the Red Butte Garden & Arboretum and renewing its mission to not only teach about horticulture but environmental education and conservation in general, taking advantage of all the new opportunities the larger space provided.
In 1985, the Red Butte Garden & Arboretum officially opened to the public, and in the decades since, various sites have been annexed, thanks to community donations. Just a few of these additions include the the Walter P. Cottam Visitor Center, the Courtyard Garden, the Fragrance Garden, the Medicinal Garden, the Herb Garden, the Hemingway Four Seasons Garden, the Dumke Floral Walk, the Children’s Garden, the Richard K. Hemingway Orangerie, an amphitheater, a gift shop, and the McCarthy Family Rose Garden. All were funded by community donations.
The Red Butte Garden has since become one of the United State’s leading botanical gardens, attracting 200,000 visitors per year, 9,000 loyal members, and 300 volunteers, all of whom are drawn to the Garden’s 5 miles of hiking trails and more than 20 acres of display gardens. These beautiful floral displays, as well as their educational and outreach initiatives, have won awards and recognition across the state. Since its initial opening, it has since developed into a multi-purpose public facility for anyone looking for some exercise, recreation, botanical or environmental education, family activities, even a venue for weddings, photography shoots, and other special events.
What Are the Available Hours and the Cost?
The Garden is open daily to the public from starting at 9am and ending at either 5pm or 7:30pm, depending on the time of year. It is closed Thanksgiving Day and December 24 – January 1 and has adjusted hours for outdoor concerts. If you visit in December, January or February, you’ll enjoy half-price admission. Admission is free for members, free for students of the University of Utah, $10 for University of Utah staff, $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and military personnel, $7 for children and free for toddlers under the age of 3. Groups of 12 individuals or more will pay $1 less than the regular admission price for each person in the group. On a few more administrative notes, only service animals are allowed; the Red Butte Garden is not a dog park. There are designated smoking areas but the Garden identifies as a non-smoking facility.