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! Antelope Island came as a last minute suggestion from a local and I’m so glad that I listened.
As you pay your toll and enter Antelope Island State Park, you’ll be 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. It’s also 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 Antelope Island 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 Antelope Island State Park for just a day to 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 a certain smell as you explore Antelope Island. 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 let 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 Antelope Island welcome sign near the front of the park. I noticed the sculpture at the start of my visit and made a note to take a photo of it at the end of the day.
At the end of the day, I circled back to the bison sculpture. As I got out of my car and started walking toward it, an actual bison was approaching the sculpture, too!
Thankfully I looked up from my camera equipment and noticed or it might not have ended well. I hustled back to my car and watched the big guy cross the street before heading out of the park. I’ve seen enough videos of tourists being flipped into the air by these large animals. I wanted no part of that!
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.