Ensign Peak Park, Salt Lake City, Utah

The monument at the top of Ensign Peak.
The monument at the top of Ensign Peak

Ensign Peak Park, the Foundation’s first project, was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on July 26, 1996. Dedication occurred one-hundred-and-forty-nine years to the day after Brigham Young and eight associates climbed the peak on July 26, 1847, two days after the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley. The park includes Ensign Peak, the identifying landmark which Brigham Young had seen in vision arriving in the valley, and approximately 66 acres of surrounding open space.

Ensign Peak Park
Ensign Peak Park

While located only about 1 ½ miles north of Temple Square in Salt Lake City, the park is a delightful natural area with an entry plaza, woods, meadows, trails, view points, rest areas, native wildlife, and a small amphitheater. Many commemorative plaques throughout the park explain the area and the important history of Ensign Peak in the settlement of Salt Lake City and surrounding Territory.

Development of the park was undertaken and completed by the Foundation in cooperation with Salt Lake City Corporation on land owned by the city. All design and development work was executed by the Foundation and was funded from generous private donations.

The Foundation continues to provide and fund the cost of ongoing maintenance and improvements to the park through its direct involvement and through coordination of community efforts including Eagle Scout projects and other group and individual volunteers.

The Ensign Peak Nature Park is visited yearly by thousands, including many youth groups.



Articles & Resources

Graffiti vandals hit historic Ensign Peak

Author(s): Andrew Adams
Published in: Deseret News
Publication Date: Monday, June 24 2013

Click here to read the story.

Park at Ensign Peak dedicated

Author(s): R. Scott Lloyd
Published in: LDS Church News
Publication Date: August 3, 1996

Near the foot of the peak where President Brigham Young and eight others raised an “ensign to the nations,” his modern-day successor, President Gordon B. Hinckley, dedicated a newly completed park and improved trail to the summit on July 26.

The Ensign Peak Historic Site and Nature Park was dedicated 149 years to the day after President Young and his exploring party ascended the “conical-shaped mountain” he had seen in vision and named it Ensign Peak. From there, they surveyed the Salt Lake Valley and began to lay out the new city. (See related article, pages 8-9.)Nearly 1,000 people attended the program, at which the Ensign Peak Foundation presented the new facility to the people of Salt Lake City. Since 1989, the foundation has worked to raise the more than $460,000 for the park. Efforts to promote public awareness have included an annual July 26 program and hike to the top, beginning in 1992.

Besides President Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie, attending the dedication were President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Frances; President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Ruth; and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve, and his wife, Barbara. Elder Ballard is chairman of the Church committee to organize next year’s Pioneer Sesquicentennial.

The committee has supported the Ensign Peak project as part of the sesquicentennial. In fact, the Church next year will construct a memorial garden on land it owns near the peak to complement the park. (Please see April 27, 1996, Church News.)

Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt presented a pioneer tribute with reference to the state’s centennial occurring this year. City Councilman Tom Godfrey accepted the park on behalf of the people of Salt Lake City.

A “Pioneer Band” directed by Robert C. Bowden of the Mormon Youth Chorus and Symphony and consisting of several symphony members, provided spirited music.

A chorus of 215 young people from Carbon County, Utah, each holding a flag of one of the nations of the world, sang two selections. Then they carried the flags in a procession to the top of the peak.

At the conclusion of the dedication, as hundreds of helium balloons were released, the flags appeared on the peak while the audience below and the chorus on the peak sang “High on the Mountain Top” (Hymns, No. 5). The familiar hymn by Joel Hills Johnson and Ebenezer Beesley was inspired by Ensign Peak. The singing was directed by Bill Beesley, great-grandson of Ebenezer Beesley. Bernard A. Johnson, 90, grandson of Joel Hills Johnson, was present with his son, Bernard M. Johnson.

President Hinckley, in a humorous reference to the fanfare by the Pioneer Band introducing his address, said, “Maybe we could try that in general conference.”

Expressing gratitude to the foundation and the city for what has been done with the peak, President Hinckley noted: “There have been scores of proposals over the years concerning Ensign Peak.” They included, he said, a proposal to build a road to the top and put a building there, and another to erect a concrete cross on the peak.

“There have been a number of proposals to put advertising on the face of the peak with neon lighting. How that would have looked! . . . I’m glad none of that has ever happened.”

In contrast to past proposals, the newly completed project honors the “millennial vision” of President Young and the other leaders “drawn from the words of Isaiah that an ensign would be established in the mountains, and the people should flow unto it,” President Hinckley said.

“Now I’m glad to see that things are as they should be, in my judgment, with reference to the peak: a nature park, a place to which people may go leisurely, learning as they climb, and when they reach the summit, of pondering and thinking and reflecting as they look across this great valley, which has become a metropolis in the mountains.”

In his dedicatory prayer, President Hinckley said: “Through the efforts of many good people, the monument on Ensign Peak has been refurbished and its surroundings beautified. Leading to it is a plaza from which a trail goes where the visitor may make his or her leisurely ascent, learning from appropriate plaques placed along the way. We pray that through the years to come, many thousands of people of all faiths and all denominations, people of this nation and of other nations, may come here to reflect on the history and the efforts of those who pioneered this area. May this be a place of pondering, a place of remembrance, a place of thoughtful gratitude, a place of purposeful resolution.”

During the program, three tableaus were presented. One honored the American Indian residents in the area who predated the pioneers. It featured Shoshone Nation drummers and dancers. Another portrayed Brigham Young’s encounter with mountain man Jim Bridger, who gave him a discouraging assessment about the fertility of the area the Saints eventually settled.

In the third tableau, President Young and the eight men who climbed the peak with him on July 26, 1847, were portrayed, each by a descendant. The eight were Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Ezra T. Benson, Willard Richards, Albert Carrington, William Clayton and Lorenzo D. Young.

Reading from pioneer journals, Richard Lambert, a descendant of both Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff, said:

” ‘We left our horses about two-thirds of the way up, and after a rocky climb we succeeded in gaining the summit. Wilford Woodruff, the first to reach the top, assisted Brigham Young in the hike. Still wearing the travel-worn clothing from our 1,300-mile journey across the plains our small group now stood on the peak Brigham Young had seen in vision before we left Nauvoo. Using a spy glass we surveyed the valley, stretched out 1,000 feet below us. On the west glistened a large lake. Streams flowing from the eastern canyons, looking like ribbons of willows, emptied into a river which Brigham Young named the Jordan River. We could see sturdy timber in the surrounding mountains with which to build our homes and barns. From this vantage point on top of the peak we began to lay plans for the future city.

” ‘Brigham declared: ‘We will build a temple down there at the base of this peak, and the stream below will be known as City Creek, because we will build a city right where it runs.’ Gazing at the valley below, Brigham proclaimed: `This is the place where we will plant the soles of our feet. Here in the midst of the Rocky Mountains, we have found the place where Joseph Smith prophesied we would prosper and find peace.’

” ‘George A. Smith added, ‘On this peak is a good place to raise an ensign.’ Brigham’s reply was, ‘It would indeed, an ensign to the world. We will call it Ensign Peak.’ Prompted by President Young’s words, Heber C. Kimball took off his yellow bandanna, then said to Willard Richards, ‘Willard, may I use your walking stick a moment?’ Willard obliged. Heber tied his bandanna to the end of the stick, lifted it to the sky and shouted, ‘An ensign to all the world!’ All present responded enthusiastically. It was a moment of deep commitment.’ “

A ribbon cutting at Ensign Peak Park Plaza, shown to the audience on a large television screen, was conducted by female descendants of the nine original hikers. They ranged in age from 6 to 89.

‘Day Has Dawned’ to Beautify Peak

Author(s): R. Scott Lloyd
Published in: LDS Church News
Publication Date: April 27, 1996

Its day has come! So proclaim organizers of an effort to improve and memorialize Ensign Peak, the conical-shaped mountain on Salt Lake City’s northern boundary that symbolizes prophecies of the latter-day gathering of Israel.

Ground was broken April 17 for construction at the site, which will include an entrance plaza, information stations, hiking trails and a nature park. Reseeding and reclamation work along the trail has been under way since March.Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke to assembled guests, as did Mayor Deedee Corradini of Salt Lake City, which owns Ensign Peak. Elder Ballard is chairman of the Church’s Pioneer Sesquicentennial Committee, which recognizes the project as a part of next year’s observance of the Pioneers’ arrival in the Salt Lake Valley.

Dedication of the park by President Gordon B. Hinckley is scheduled for July 26, the 149th anniversary of the hike to the top by President Brigham Young and other Church leaders, when President Young named it Ensign Peak.

The project is sponsored by a civic group, the Ensign Peak Foundation, which has been raising funds for several years. To complement the project, the Church will construct a memorial garden on land it owns near the base. A sesquicentennial project, the garden will be completed in 1997 and will present the history of the peak and the Pioneers who established the city and built the Salt Lake Temple.

“This is a great, significant, important historical site in our lovely city,” Elder Ballard declared, “and we believe that it is going to be a statement on our part, 150 years later, of our appreciation and love for those who paid such a price to establish what we now enjoy in this beautiful valley of the Great Salt Lake.”

Mayor Corradini said the project is important because it adds another official park to the city and because it observes not only the Church Pioneer Sesquicentennial but also the sesquicentennial of Salt Lake City. “We will be celebrating as well, and to think that this is the place where our city was laid out, from this peak, and the vision for the future of our city took place on this peak, it holds tremendous historic significance for Salt Lake City as well.”

J Malan Heslop, president of Ensign Peak Foundation, outlined the history of Ensign Peak. He noted that Brigham Young and his associates, arrived in the valley July 24, 1847, a Saturday, attended Church services on Sunday, and then hiked to the summit on Monday.

“One of his party said, `This would be a place to raise an ensign!’ ” Brother Heslop recounted. The name is a reference to such prophecies as this: “And he will lift up an ensign to the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”(Isa. 11:12.)

Widespread immigration of LDS converts to the Rocky Mountain west from Europe and elsewhere – and the subsequent expansion of the Church around the world from that base – is viewed as a partial fulfillment of that prophecy.

The movement for a park at the site began in 1908 but did not come to fruition until 1989, when the Ensign Peak Foundation was organized to protect and beautify the peak.

At the groundbreaking, a quartet sang “High on the Mountain Top,” the hymn by Joel Hills Johnson and Ebenezer Beesley that was inspired by Ensign Peak.

Michael Glauser, a member of the Pioneer Sesquicentennial Committee, said the Church garden will have some benches, trees, a plaza and some plaques to tell of the spiritual history of Ensign Peak.

The Ensign Peak park will have three plazas, he said. The first one will be called the “Courtyard of Nations,” commemorating the various nationalities that settled in the valley and will feature a representation of a world map. Steps and a wheelchair ramp will ascend 40-50 feet up to the plaza. On a wall around it will be plaques that tell of American Indians, trappers, settlers, the pioneers and the men who planned the city.

From there, Brother Glauser said, the trail will turn from asphalt to gravel roadbase, and will continue to the second plaza, “Vista Mountain.” It will feature a city panorama and murals that depict city sites.

The trail will continue up around the peak to the “saddle” area where there will be a concrete amphitheater that will seat 30-40 people for community and family events.

The trail will culminate at the peak itself, where a third plaza will allow visitors to gaze at the same vista that President Young saw. There the monument will be restored, native vegetation will be planted and benches and information plaques will be provided.

Stolen Ensign Peak Marker is Recovered After 30 Years

Author(s): Unknown
Published in: LDS Church News
Publication Date: October 17, 1992

The historic plaque from the monument on Ensign Peak, stolen at least 30 years ago, has been found and returned. Weighing 60 pounds, the solid brass plaque was placed on the 18-foot, 4.7-inch (for 1847) tall monument on July 26, 1934, when 500 people climbed the peak for the monument’s dedication.

The plaque was recently returned to the Ensign Peak Foundation, an organization committed to preserving and beautifying Ensign Peak.“It is miraculous that the plaque has been found and returned,” said Nancy Pace of the Salt Lake City Council. “The peak is now owned by the city, and plans are under way to restore the monument, and build an attractive trail, through a nature park, to the top. The peak is a historic landmark, with a spectacular view.

The monument was built with stones gathered along the Mormon Pioneer Trail, and from historic sites, such as the Nauvoo Temple site. In 1934, Arza Hinckley, president of the Ensign Stake, organized the young people of the Mutual Improvement Association, and, with the support of the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association, constructed the monument and placed the plaque. Architect for the monument was George Cannon Young.

President Heber J. Grant, his counselor Anthony W. Ivins and many notable citizens climbed the peak for the dedication. Elder George Albert Smith of the Council of the Twelve was master of ceremonies. Eight young women in pioneer dress, who were descendants of the eight men who climbed the peak on July 26, 1847, unveiled the monument in what is described as a “breathtaking moment.”

President Grant spoke and dedicated the monument and the assembly sang “High on the Mountain Top.” From then on the monument has been a noticeable part of the peak.

However, some time later, perhaps 30 or even 40 years ago, the plaque was pried from the monument and taken away.

The plaque reappeared recently when a gentleman, who deals in scrap metal, found the bronze plaque in an old chicken coop in West Jordan, Utah. Thinking that it may have special value, he inquired of Betty Sorensen, marker chairman for the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. She obtained the plaque, and remembering a newspaper article about the July 25 hike and plan to restore the monument, passed it on J Malan Heslop, president of the Ensign Peak Foundation.

“It is a marvelous find,” said Ronald Walker, foundation historian. “Though it is marred with bullet marks and defaced by vandalism, every word can be read, and it is beautiful.”

The project to beautify Ensign Peak is slated for completion as part of the Utah centennial celebration in 1996.

Hikers Commemorate Raising of an ‘Ensign to the Nations’

Graffiti vandals hit historic Ensign Peak | Deseret NewsGazing at the vista that Brigham Young and other Church leaders viewed 145 years ago, more than 150 hikers sang “High On the Mountain Top” on historic Ensign Peak north of Salt Lake City July 25.

Elder John E. Fowler, a newly called member of the Seventy, addressed the gathering at a park near the base of the peak before the hike commenced and then finished his remarks atop the peak after everyone had arrived. (Please see profile story about Elder Fowler on page 6.) Elder Fowler is a great-great-grandson of William Clayton, who was with Brigham Young’s party July 26, 1847, when they ascended the peak. (William Clayton penned the lyrics to “Come, Come, Ye Saints.)”On that day, the prophet surveyed the valley of the Great Salt Lake and figuratively raised “an ensign to the nations,” fulfilling a prophecy in Isa. 5:26 and foreshadowing the gathering of thousands of Church converts to the Rocky Mountains.

Elder Fowler keynoted the commemorative program and hike, which launched a fund-raising effort by the Ensign Peak Foundation. The goal of “Project Ensign Peak” as the endeavor is called, is to restore, beautify and protect the peak.

Plans call for restoration of the monument and flag pole on the peak, placement of historical markers, establishment of a comfortable hiking trail with view points, picnic areas and a nature park, according to J Malan Heslop, organization committee chairman.

In his address at the park, Elder Fowler said he had been authorized to represent the Church at the gathering. He said President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, told him he would be known among the Brethren as “the hiking General Authority,” and that “they were glad they had someone new enough and young enough that he could make this climb.”

On a more serious note, Elder Fowler commended people – including early Church leaders – “who spend their lives looking up.”

He noted that the monument on the peak was erected in 1934 with stones sent from many of the 110 stakes and 31 missions in the Church at the time. He contrasted the Church membership of some 734,000 in 1934 with the current membership of more than 8 million.

“And still this land is considered to be a valley of freedom where people can come and live a life that is relatively free from many of the cares that so many have to face in other parts of the world,” he said.

Elder Fowler expressed pleasure that an effort is being made to preserve the peak and added: “I hope that we can all join together as a community, whether we are members of the LDS Church or not. It mattereth not; we are all benefiting from those who went before us, who saw safety in a place where they could be the most free of any people on earth.”

Atop the peak, as the setting sun bathed the Oquirrh Mountains to the west in a flood of red light, Elder Fowler continued his remarks.

He quoted from William Clayton’s journal entry of July 22, 1847. Clayton, who was with the advance party prior to President Young’s arrival in valley, wrote that he would rather dwell in “this wild country amongst the saints” than among people of wealth where the saints were subject to being mobbed, murdered and persecuted.

He referred to a quotation from Abraham Lincoln, who spoke of “the ultimate justice of the people,” He compared that with a statement of President Ezra Taft Benson, who as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, said in a speech in Salt Lake City that people everywhere long for peace, love their families, want to live better, have a basic impulse to do good and fundamentally appreciate human brotherhood.

Other elements of the program included a violin-guitar ensemble that performed the Civil War-era selection “Ashokan Farewell,” a baritone vocal soloist and a bugler who sounded a call to assemble, a cavalry charge at the trail head, and “Taps” on the peak.

Many in the gathering purchased T-shirts that bore a logo suggesting Brigham Young’s likeness and the slogan: “Brother Brigham hiked it . . . I did too!”

How One Utah Hill Became a Mormon Temple -- for a Day

Salt Lake Tribune
March 31, 2015
by Lee Davidson
How one Utah hill became a Mormon temple — for a day