Frary Peak Antelope Island
Overview: Frary Peak is the highest point on Antelope Island — a thoroughly original state park that sits in the Great Salt Lake (second saltiest body of water in the world) west of Salt Lake City.
Start: Frary Peak trailhead on Antelope Island
Distance: 6.6 miles out and back
Hiking time: About 5 hours
Elevation gain: 2,100 feet
Trail surface: Dirt and rock path
Best season: Spring and fall
Other trail users: None. Horses are allowed all over the island, but it is unlikely you will find them on this trail.
Canine compatibility: Dogs prohibited
Land status: State park
Nearest town: Syracuse
Fees and permits: Fee required to enter the state park gate, payable at the causeway
Schedule: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Apr 15 through Sept 14; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept 15 through Apr 14. Gate closes 30 minutes after dark. The Antelope Island State Park Visitor Center, located on the north end of the island, is open year-round and offers restrooms, water, and exhibits and a video presentation to help you learn more about the island. Visit www.davisareacvb.com for activities and events.
Maps: USGS Antelope Island, Antelope Island North
Trail contacts: Antelope Island State Park, 4528 West 1700 South, Syracuse 84075; (801) 725 9263; website. Utah State Parks and Recreation, 1594 West North Temple, Ste. 116, Salt Lake City 84116; (801) 538 7220; website.
Special considerations: Timing is crucial at Antelope Island if you don’t want to be barraged by the smell of rotting brine fly pupae or overrun by swarms of the annoying but harmless mature flies. It’s best to avoid this hike in July and August. This trail is closed for a month or more in spring during the bighorn sheep lambing season. Verify accessibility by calling (801) 725-9263.
Finding the trailhead: From Salt Lake City take I-15 north to Antelope Drive (exit 332) near Layton. Turn left (west) off the exit onto Antelope Drive. The road connects directly to the causeway on the far west side. There is a parking lot before the fee booth if you wish to carpool; otherwise each vehicle must pay the entry fee to cross the causeway. When you get to the island, head left along the east side of the island toward Fielding Garr Ranch. The Frary Peak trailhead is 5 miles down this road; watch for signs. You will turn right onto a dirt road and travel to an upper level of the island for the trailhead. The trail leaves from the south side of the trailhead; take the upper trail to the right.
Trailhead GPS: N40 59.621', W112 12.153'
Frary Peak Trail is a hiking-only trail with the best views and photography opportunities on the island. Great Salt Lake and its islands are a crucial stopover point for millions of migrating waterfowl. The area hosts 250 bird species each year. Birders can enjoy the largest lake west of the Mississippi. The current lake size fluctuates with runoff but is about 75 miles long and 28 miles wide. The lake is typically three to five times saltier than the world’s oceans.
The Frary Peak Trail affords a view across the island that often provides glimpses of the herds of bison. The top of Frary Peak is the only vantage point from which the entire island, including the south side, can be viewed.
The trailhead is a big gravel lot with plenty of parking and looks out over the Great Salt Lake. Two trails head out from the south side. Take the upper trail to the right, which quickly begins to climb the desert mountain. Views immediately open to the east over the lake. The trail is rimmed with grass and sagebrush, so the views open wide across the island. The trail is also interspersed with interesting rock, and you find the first as you start your climb.
The trail forks at Dooly Knob junction. The right fork heads to the other side of the island. Follow the left fork as it continues straight (south). The trail climbs to the top ridge of the island and then drops down onto the west side, with views over the other side of the island and the lake to the west.
At 1.3 miles the trail passes under a set of boulders that create a shaded cave. The trail then continues to the right and then circles above the rocks to begin a set of steep switchbacks before an open climb through the grasses to get back up to the ridge of the island.
Atop the next ridge is a nice rock outcropping and lookout point to the south and east. From here the easy-to-follow trail again cuts around over the west side of the island and heads south. The southern two-thirds of the island contain some of the oldest rock found anywhere in North America. The Farmington Canyon Complex dates back 2.7 billion years, older than rocks found at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
At 2.7 miles you reach another overlook ridge that affords interesting views down into White Rock Bay to the west. From this point you can also see to the east, with the Wasatch Front in full view.
A set of radio towers sit on top of the island. You’ll reach these at 2.8 miles, and from here Frary Peak is only a short 0.5-mile climb to the south. Two trails leave the area south of the radio towers. The left (east) trail proceeds toward Frary Peak over the rocky cliff outcroppings you see before you. The right (west) trail drops back down 150 feet under the cliffs and then climbs back up to the peak. Choose the rocky route only if you’re surefooted, unafraid of heights, and ready to climb over rocks using both hands and feet. If you choose the lower route, be prepared to lose elevation and then have to regain it to climb back out. There are nice views no matter which route you take.