Between five national parks and 43 state parks in Utah, anyone with an appetite for adventure is sure to get their fill—and Antelope Island, just northwest of Salt Lake City,
is no exception. At first look this state park appears deserted, but a set of sharp eyes is all you need to discover a whole lot more.
As the largest island in the Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island is a curious haven for remarkable wildlife sightings and geological revelations. Pronghorn antelope, big horn sheep, coyote, mule deer and millions of birds cohabitate within the park’s 28,022 acres. Perhaps Antelope Island’s most interesting species are the 500- plus free-range American bison that roam the grasslands. Spot the resident nomads from atop Buffalo Point, or visit in late October and you’ll witness the spectacular Bison Roundup, an annual wrangle that provides a close-up view of the behemoth animals at Fielding Garr Ranch.
White beaches line the perimeter of Antelope Island, ideal for shoreline picnics and waterfront bonfires, but squeamish visitors may be surprised of the sand’s unusual origins. The oolitic sand beneath your feet is sediment formed by a mixture of calcium carbonate and brine shrimp by-product.
The harmless brine shrimp—made popular by their reputation as novelty aquarium pets known as Sea Monkeys—are the only living creatures that you’ll find thriving in the Great Salt Lake. The water’s salinity content, ranging from 10 to 12 percent, measures five times saltier than the Pacific Ocean and is virtually uninhabitable. Nevertheless, the conditions are perfect for floating in the lake’s calm waters or renting a kayak from the marina for a sunset drift.
Amble along the island’s 36 miles of hiking, equestrian and mountain biking trails to explore the prehistoric geology of the terraced landscape, a result of the receding Lake Bonneville that dried up nearly 15,000 years ago. Undulating paved roads attract visitors out for a peaceful drive or a more ambitious road bike tour, and overnight camping is available. If you visit in the summer, be sure to bring plenty of bug spray and extra water.
Day-use entry fee: $9 per vehicle, $3 for cyclists and pedestrians. 801-773-2941 | stateparks.utah.gov