Antelope Island State Park
The road to Antelope Island State Park, 25 miles north of Salt Lake City, is a 20-minute straight shot west, but it feels like time travel as you leave the bustle of modern civilization behind. Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. It is a craggy adventure destination home to 36 miles of hiking and mountain bike trails meandering among free-roaming bison and antelope herds who keep watch over alluvial plains and Precambrian rocks that are among the oldest in America. It’s also a great destination for camping near Salt Lake City if you need a break from urban life.
The Great Salt Lake is the concentrated salt-water remnant of ancient Lake Bonneville. Look west from the drive northbound from Salt Lake and Salt Lake City International Airport and you can't miss the Great Salt Lake. It’s also visible from the Natural History Museum of Utah, from the hike up Ensign Peak north of the Capitol and, perhaps most dramatically, from the airplane as you arrive in Salt Lake. Though its shores from the mainland are unusual places known for brine flies and a distinctive aroma, you can escape the shore by chartering seafaring vessels or renting kayaks and paddleboards from the Great Salt Lake marina and cruising the lake’s often-tranquil waters.
Antelope Island is an oasis in the middle of the lake. It's a Utah state park that was once considered for national park designation. To understand why, you'll have to see it for yourself.
Things to Do
A saline shadow of its former self, the Great Salt Lake wraps Antelope island in welcoming tranquility. Sailboats and kayaks dot placid waters. Sunsets from Antelope Island are among the best in Utah. A afternoon hike up Frary Peak, the park's highest mountain, rewards with the best angle on Utah's best sunsets. Though only 6,596 feet above sea level, Frary Peak is more than 6 miles round-trip and takes three to four hours to complete. You may be joined by bison and bighorn sheep.
On the lighter side of the hiking menu is Buffalo Point, a short jaunt up a hill with beautiful views around the north end of the island, back to the causeway, and west across the lake and Great Basin. Buffalo Point also overlooks the Lakeside Trail that departs from the Bridger Bay Campground. Aside from muddy days, Lakeside is an excellent trail with little elevation change and accessible throughout the year. You'll walk among the island's distinctive flora and make eye contact with bison. Now is a good time to note bison are very fast and should never be approached.
Wildlife viewing, however, is a major draw to Antelope Island.
In addition to the 500-strong bison herd, look for mule deer, pronghorn antelope, coyote, hare and other mammals. The Great Salt Lake and its wetlands, a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site, is a critical staging area for millions of migrating waterfowl and shorebirds from the Arctic Tundra to the tip of South America. Antelope Island State Park is a seasonal or year-round home for more than 250 species of birds. During migration seasons, you'll see birding enthusiasts with binoculars along the causeway in pursuit of an Antelope Island Big Day.
If driving in to the park, you're also likely to pass several cyclists, who love the flat causeway and gently rolling paved roads of the island's east shore.
The paved road terminates at the historic Fielding Garr Ranch, a well-preserved and entertaining pioneer ranch house typically staffed with knowledgeable volunteers. The ranch dates to the pioneer era before a private rancher purchased the land from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Private ranching peaked in the middle of the century but continued until 1981.
Events, Dark Skies, Camping and Dining
Antelope Island State Park is one of Utah's most active parks, with events ranging from First Day hikes that bring in the new year to the annual Bison Round Up, a true Utah Bucket List adventure, to astronomy programs that peer deep into the dark skies. For that matter, consider staying the night in one of two campgrounds to fall asleep under the stars, the glow of Wasatch Front only a few miles away, but feeling a world apart–it’s easily one of the best spots for camping near Salt Lake City. Antelope Island camping is among the more unique overnight experiences on the Wasatch Front. There are no individual hookups, but throughout the warmer months you'll find shower facilities, drinking water and concessions, including the delightful Buffalo Grill, whose menu is highlighted by none other than buffalo burgers.
Antelope Island Weather
Northern Utah experiences dry, sunny summers typically peaking in the 90s in July or August. Spring and fall are incredibly pleasant times to travel, with ideal daytime temperatures and evenings that may require a layer or jacket. Overnight temperatures in winter drop below freezing, but the visitor center and ranch are open year-round. A snow-blanketed island is a picturesque backdrop for hiking and wildlife viewing.
Getting Here and Fees
From Salt Lake City, head northbound on I-15 for about 40 minutes to the West Antelope Island Drive exit in Syracuse. It's about 20 minutes to the island and park fees are paid at a toll gate prior to the 7-mile causeway. Antelope Island is an excellent stop on Northern Utah itineraries that include Willard Bay State Park and the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge near Brigham City or northbound trips destined for Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.
$10/car up to 8 people. Senior (Utah residents over 62 years of age): $5/car up to 8 people. Bicycles and Pedestrians: $3/person. Camping fees separate.
GPS Coordinates (Visitor Center)
The lively and historic Ogden is an outdoor recreation mecca 45 minutes north of Salt Lake City, minutes from three ski resorts and infinite summer recreation.
Antelope Island State Park
4528 West 1700 South
Syracuse, Utah 84075