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An island in Utah? There are actually several islands in the Great Salt Lake, and Antelope Island is the largest. This 15 by 5-mile island is on the northwest side of Salt Lake City and can be accessed by a 7-mile causeway on the north side of the island. Visitors come to Antelope Island year-round for hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, boating, RV camping, and wildlife watching. The island's biggest star is the American Bison. A dozen animals were brought here in 1893, and today the population stands close to 600. Other park inhabitants include pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, bobcat, and birds such as hawks and falcons. Over 40 freshwater springs on the island keep the wildlife nourished.
There are signs of Native American camps on Antelope Island centuries before Mormon ranchers settled it. The original ranch house is one of the main attractions of the park today, and some say it's haunted. In addition to ranching, the island also hosted mining and oil drilling operations during the turn of the 20th century. The state took complete ownership in 1981, and it's now one of the most popular playgrounds on the Great Salt Lake.
Antelope Island State Park has 25 miles of trails for hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians. The shortest, easiest trail is the half-mile Ladyfinger Trail next to Bridger Bay. Several other short but tough trails will take you to a couple of excellent viewpoints atop the island’s high points, including Frary Peak, which rises over 2,000 feet above the lake. The longest trail is the relatively flat 11.4-mile Mountain View Trail that almost runs the span of the island north to south. A shorter three-mile trail connects the island’s two RV campgrounds. You can cover more of the island if you visit the stables for a guided tour on horseback or bring your mountain bike. Many of the trails are multi-use.
Bridger Bay is packed in the summer as park visitors rush into the lake to cool down. Swimming in Bridger Bay is unlike anything else – the unique composition of the Great Salt Lake makes floating an effortless endeavor, so you won’t have to expend any energy to float in these waters. There’s a sandy beach at Bridger Bay with covered picnic areas, showers, and concessions. A marina offers chartered boat tours, kayak rentals, and also serves sailboats and powerboats.
Exploration doesn't end after the sun goes down. Antelope Island State Park is a member of the International Dark Sky Association and prides itself in preserving stargazing opportunities. Astronomy programs are popular throughout the summer. In addition to these fantastic nighttime programs, you can also participate in other interpretive programs and guided tours during the day that feature wildlife and fascinating history that dates back almost two billion years.
The RV campgrounds at Antelope Island State Park are open year-round. There are 46 primitive RV campsites between the two campgrounds. Neither of the campgrounds has electrical hookups or water but there is a dump station near the visitor center. Water, showers, and modern restrooms are available at Bridger Bay. Otherwise, all you’ll find at the campgrounds are vault toilets. Pets are allowed in the campgrounds if kept on a six-foot leash and are also allowed in most other areas of the park.
Bridger Bay Campground has 26 sites including 3 wheelchair-accessible sites. Every site has a fire ring and covered picnic table. These campsites are open and offer little privacy, though they do have adequate spacing between sites. The pull-through driveways and can accommodate extra-long vehicles and trailers. White Rock Bay, however, has back-in sites with driveways approximately 50 feet long. There are 20 sites at this campground, also with fire rings and covered picnic tables. White Rock Bay Campground has convenient access to several excellent hiking trails.
Antelope Island State Park hosts some entertaining events in warmer months that you won’t want to miss. The biggest summertime celebration is Pioneer Days, held at the old Fielding Garr Ranch and featuring old-time games, crafts, and other activities for the whole family. In the fall you're invited to the thrilling bison roundup. Watch horseback riders set out and corral the island's 600 or so bison in pens for their annual health assessment, a yearly tradition that has become quite an attraction.
There are many other enjoyable activities and attractions in the region, with plenty of RV rentals in Davis County. Ogden, just across the causeway, was the first settlement in Utah and today is home to a revitalized downtown area full of live music, museums, galleries, and restaurants of all flavors, but the grills are the best. Ogden is the perfect place to fill up the gas tank and go grocery shopping before continuing your RV adventure up into the Wasatch Mountains.
If you’ll be taking your rental RV into Utah’s world-renowned national parks instead, head south through Salt Lake City, stopping at Temple Square to tour the Salt Lake Tabernacle and the many museums and historic buildings surrounding it. After Provo, you'll get to the first of the “Mighty 5” parks as they call it, Capitol Reef National Park. From there, you can continue in any direction and see why Utah is known around the world for its magnificent landscape.