Utah has more to offer than ski slopes and sandstone hoodoos. Even visitors who have camped in the state several times probably haven't heard of Antelope Island State Park. Free-roaming bison, cycling and mountain biking, star parties and miles of sandy beaches are just a few of the reasons why Antelope Island is a favorite to residents of nearby Salt Lake City.
The Great Salt Lake is one of the largest natural lakes on Earth. It is visible from space and easily the defining feature of Utah. Similar to the Dead Sea in Israel, the lake is terminal, meaning that water flows in but not out. These special conditions create an environment which accumulates salt and minerals. You have probably been enjoying bath, body and food products containing these ingredients without even realizing it.
28,000 acre Antelope Island is the largest of several islands in the Great Salt Lake and also has one of the tallest summits outside of the neighboring Wasatch mountain range. Only sixty miles from downtown Salt Lake City, Antelope Island State Park feels surprisingly wild and remote. With a free-roaming herd of American Bison and exceptionally dark skies for stargazing you may feel like you've traveled back in time.
The lack of hook ups keep this camp quiet all year, especially during the middle of summer. With average temps from 65-85 degrees in August, even if you come prepared with a generator to run your air conditioner, you probably won't end up using it. Do come prepared with plenty of water because there is nowhere to fill up in the campground. Also be aware that The Great Salt Lake is home to some thriving insect life and spring weather can bring gnats and flies in swarms. Plan around the bugs; the park is definitely worth the thoughtful preparation and planning to be comfortable.
RV Rentals in Antelope Island State Park
Transportation in Antelope Island State Park
The park begins at the Antelope Island Causeway Tollbooth on the edge of Syracuse. Be aware of the park hours because the gate closes rather early and will not permit reentry. The roads are narrow and you'll be sharing the pavement with cyclists. Between bikes and buffalo, there is a lot to look out for, take your time and be safe. There is plenty of turnaround room at each of the parking lots.
Campgrounds and parking in Antelope Island State Park
Campsites in Antelope Island State Park
Bridger Bay Campground
With a spectacular western view for the sunsets and access to Bridger Bay Beach, this campground has 26 primitive pull-thru sites with tons a space and privacy. The campsites have picnic tables, shelters, fire rings, and room for large groups. The beach is within walking distance and the day use area, and showers, are only one mile from camp. Bison are commonly seen right on the beach and the stargazing at night is wondrous. The bugs get serious in the spring time, though, so come prepared.
Seasonal activities in Antelope Island State Park
Fielding Garr Ranch
This ranch is home to the the oldest original-foundation Anglo building in Utah, as well as several original structures. It is located 18 miles from the park entrance, near Garr Springs, one of 40 freshwater springs on Antelope Island. The former working cattle and sheep ranch now hosts demonstrations and classes for the public. Horses are available to rent during the warm months, with guides available for trips to view the buffalo. Call the visitor center for times and availability.
Antelope Island State Park is recognized as an IDA International Dark Sky Park, which means that some of the best entertainment in the park is waiting to be revealed in the night sky. Low cloud cover, protection from the lights of Salt Lake City and warm summer evenings create world class stargazing, telescope and night photography opportunities. Bugs can be a real issue at night so come prepared with appropriate clothing, and repellent. Contact the Ogden Astronomical Society and the park visitor center for information on star parties and interpretive gatherings.
Once you see (and smell) the water you will quickly understand why swimming is not the most popular recreation on The Great Salt Lake. But visitors have been braving the salty shores for almost two hundred years and the strange super-buoyancy which you will feel while floating in the lake is a curiosity that everyone should explore. In the 1800's soaking resorts lined the lake and there are many who believe that it offers health benefits. However you feel about it, you will be thankful for the coin showers at the Bridger Beach Day to rinse off the salt after a dip. This is the only running fresh water on the island.
Hike the Frary Peak Trail
At 6,578 feet, Frary Peak is easily the highest point on Antelope Island and provides amazing views of the Great Salt Lake, the Wasatch Range and even nearby Salt Lake City. The seven mile out-and-back trail will get you deep into the undeveloped south end of the island and is definitely a strenuous hike with steep stairs at the summit. This may not be one for the kids unless they are used to long, climbing hikes. It is best to go from November-March when the bugs aren't chasing you up the mountain. There is a dedicated parking area at the trailhead with directions right after the causeway entrance to the park. (Bring plenty of water because there is none available in the park)
Antelope Island State Park Bison Roundup
The large herd of American Bison have been on the island for over 120 years and need to be actively managed to keep them from overrunning the park's delicate ecosystem. Each fall the park hosts a Bison Roundup where 250 volunteers on horseback coral the bison up to be counted, vaccinated, tagged and then the extra are sold at auction. Visitors gather at White Rock Bay to witness the spectacle and take pictures. There are food trucks and other vendors to make it a great day trip for riders and spectators alike..
Mountain Biking and Cycling
Antelope Island is a very popular destination for cyclists and mountain bikers. The paved roads are in great shape. Due to the stunning views and wildlife in all direction, car traffic moves very slow through the park and coexists well with bikes. Antelope by Moonlight is a 24mi headlamp ride which loops from White Rock Bay to Garr Ranch and back in warm July. There is food, entertainment, contests and a family-friendly crowd. Singletrack mountain bike races happen all through the year and take on some of the Islands more challenging terrain. The 50k Antelope organized by Endura events tackles nearly four thousand vertical feet to make you earn that tee shirt.