Utah is known for its majestic scenery and the “mighty five” National Parks located within the state. However, travelers may be less familiar with Utah’s incredible state parks. One of those parks to add to your list is Antelope Island State Park located about an hour northwest of Salt Lake City. It was pure luck that I managed to find this gem! It came as a last minute suggestion from a local and I’m so glad that I listened.
As you pay your toll and enter the park, surrounded by water on both sides, anticipation builds for what you’ll discover once you reach the main entrance. At 28,022 acres – Antelope Island is the largest island in Great Salt Lake and home to all sorts of wildlife that roam through open spaces and even across roads within the park. Bison, deer, coyotes, badgers, porcupines, and numerous birds all call it home.
There are two campgrounds with limited spaces and no water or electricity. There is a waste station near the park’s visitor center.
If you’re looking to explore for just a day and get terrific views of the Great Salt Lake – this is a perfect option. For the casual hiker, consider an easy, rewarding hike at Buffalo Point Trail – which is not too far from the park’s entrance. You’ll go up 248 feet and enjoy magnificent views of the lake and find plenty of large boulders to climb on for fun photos. (Just remember, climbing back down the rocks is tougher than climbing up.)
The Great Salt Lake is the largest lake west of the Mississippi River and sometimes called “America’s Dead Sea”. Visitors are welcome to swim from Bridger Bay Beach within the park and will immediately notice the salt content is much greater than any ocean – making it easy to float. There are restrooms on the beach where you can shower when you’re finished.
You might also notice the smell of the lake as you explore the island. I honestly didn’t notice anything but apparently it’s not unusual to get a whiff of the dreaded rotten egg scent. The stench is caused by hydrogen sulfide – making it perfectly normal. You’ll also notice some annoying, gnat like bugs on some of the trails depending on the time of the year. However, don’t either of these two annoyances keep you from visiting.
You’re more than likely to see bison as you make your way around Antelope Island. Park officials claim there are more than 400 of them roaming freely. Funny story – there’s a sculpture of a large bison by the welcome sign near the front of the park that I noticed at the start of my visit. At the end of the day, I planned to circle back by and take a photo. I got out of my car and started walking to the sign – except this time – the bison was moving!
Thankfully I looked up from my camera equipment and noticed or it might not have ended well. Of course it goes without saying that these are wild animals and they can move way faster than you think. Please don’t be a stupid tourist and take selfies or try to get close to them. Watch from a safe distance in your vehicle and leave them alone.
Antelope Island State Park is well worth the visit. Pack a lunch and plan to spend an entire day exploring and enjoying the views. There’s a full list of amenities and approved recreational activities on the state’s official park website: stateparks.utah.gov.