Stephen Trimble

Stephen Trimble was born in 1950 in Denver, from where he roamed the West with his family. His geologist father kept up a running monologue about the natural and human history rolling by out the car windows, and Steve grew up with a nourishing sense of wonder. Trimble’s liberal arts education at Colorado College led to his profession as a narrative interpreter of the Desert West—a choice honored by his alma mater, which awarded him a Doctor of Humane Letters in 1990 “for his efforts to make Western landscapes and people understandable and accessible to the public.”

In his twenties, Trimble worked as a seasonal park ranger/naturalist, including stints at Arches and Capitol Reef national parks. While doing so, he served his apprenticeship as a writer/photographer, creating interpretive booklets for the parks. To gain context for his natural history writing, Trimble earned an M.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona. After five years in Flagstaff, where he was editor and publisher of the Museum of Northern Arizona Press, his first free-lance project was The Sagebrush Ocean: A Natural History of the Great Basin (1989; High Desert Museum Earle Chiles Award, Sierra Club Ansel Adams Award for photography and conservation). 

Trimble lived near Santa Fe for five years, where he listened to Southwest Native people as a narrator rather than an ethnographer with an agenda. His books on Southwest Native nations include Our Voices, Our Land (1986)Talking With the Clay: The Art of Pueblo Pottery in the 21st Century (2007); and The People: Indians of the American Southwest (1993)Alfonso Ortiz (Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo) believed The People to be "the best general introduction to the native peoples of the Southwest that has ever been published.”

Trimble moved to Salt Lake City in 1987 when he married Joanne Slotnik. In 2008-2009, as a Wallace Stegner Centennial Fellow at the University of Utah’s Tanner Humanities Center, he led a statewide conversation about Stegner. He remained at the U for almost ten years, teaching writing as an adjunct professor in the Honors College and Environmental Humanities graduate program. His distinctive voice as a naturalist leads visitors through the Natural History Museum of Utah, where he wrote much of the exhibit text.

The redrock country of the Colorado Plateau is Trimble’s spiritual home. In his work, he keeps being drawn back to the canyons, from Blessed By Light: Visions of the Colorado Plateau (editor, 1986) to Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography (2006; Western Heritage “Wrangler” Award) to The Capitol Reef Reader (editor, 2019). Trimble and his family have a home near Torrey, where they are proud stewards of a Nature Conservancy conservation easement—a story he tells in Bargaining for Eden: The Fight for the Last Open Spaces in America(2008; Utah Arts Council Nonfiction Book Award; Utah Book Award). In this bookhe also tells the controversial story of the Winter Olympics coming to Snowbasin Ski Resort. 

With Terry Tempest Williams, Trimble co-compiled Testimony: Writers of the West Speak on Behalf of Utah Wilderness, a landmark 1995 collection that influenced President Bill Clinton’s decision to create Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. In 2016, Trimble edited the successor to Testimony, a project called Red Rock Testimony: Three Generations of Writers Speak on Behalf of Utah’s Public Lands, to encourage President Barack Obama to proclaim a Bears Ears National Monument. What began as a book of advocacy became a book of defense. 

Salt Lake City's Catalyst Magazine recognized Trimble in 2013 as one of 100 "catalysts, inspirators—those who have made our Wasatch Front community a more sustainable, compassionate and vibrant place to live." Artists of Utah chose Trimble as one of Utah's "15 Most Influential Artists" in 2019, concluding that “his voice remains central to our local, regional, national, and international dialogue of conservation and stewardship.”



The Bright Edge: A Guide to the National Parks of the Colorado Plateau  (Museum of Northern Arizona Press, 1979).

Longs Peak: A Rocky Mountain Chronicle (Rocky Mountain Nature Association, 1984).  

Blessed By Light: Visions of the Colorado Plateau, editor (Gibbs Smith 1986).

Our Voices, Our Land, editor; photographs by Stephen Trimble and Harvey Lloyd, words by the Indian Peoples of the Southwest (Northland Press, 1986).

The Sagebrush Ocean: A Natural History of the Great Basin (University of Nevada Press, 1989).

The Village of Blue Stone, with illustrations by Jennifer Owings Dewey and Deborah Reade (Macmillan Children's Division, 1990).

The People: Indians of the American Southwest (SAR Press, 1993).

The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places, co-authored with Gary Paul Nabhan (Beacon Press, 1994).

Words From the Land: Encounters With Natural History Writing, editor (expanded edition, University of Nevada Press, 1995).

Earthtones: A Nevada Album, photography, with text by Ann Ronald (University of Nevada Press, 1995).   

Testimony: Writers of the West Speak on Behalf of Utah Wilderness, co-compiled with Terry Tempest Williams (Milkweed Editions, 1996).

Utah Impressions, co-photographed with Steve Mulligan (Farcountry Press, 2003).

Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography (Northland Publishing & Grand Canyon Association, 2006). 

Talking with the Clay: The Art of Pueblo Pottery in the 21st Century (SAR Press, 20th anniversary edition, 2007). 

Salt Lake Impressions, co-photographed with with Scott T. Smith (Farcountry Press, 2007).

Bargaining for Eden: The Fight for the Last Open Spaces in America (University of California Press, 2008).

Red Rock Stories: Three Generations of Writers Speak on Behalf of Utah’s Public Lands, editor (Torrey House Press, 2017).  

The Capitol Reef Reader, editor (University of Utah Press, 2019.


Interpreter & Messenger: 15 Bytes Profile

Belonging to the Land 

The Mike File

Interview for "The Great American Read" 

The Capitol Reef Reader

The Bright Edge: Stories and Photographs from the National Parks

Five Questions for Stephen Trimble