The mountains were first viewed by white men in 1776 when Fathers Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Silvestre Velez de Escalante traversed the range, exiting near present-day Spanish Fork. The next entry into the mountains was during the 1820s by fur trappers and traders from Santa Fe and Taos; among them Etienne Provost, from whom the city of Provo takes its name. Following Provost into the Wasatch came British and American trappers, including Peter Skene Ogden, William Ashley, Jedediah Smith, James Bridger, James Clyman, among others. The competition between British and American fur interests throughout the west became moot when, by 1840, silk replaced beaver fur as the height of fashion.
In 1846, having left Fort Bridger and following the instructions of frontier entrepreneur Lansford Hastings, the members of the ill-fated Donner-Reed Party hacked out a wagon road from near the site of present-day Henefer and down into the Salt Lake Valley. Eleven months later, in July 1847, the first Mormon emigrants negotiated this same wagon road in only three days.