Salt Lake City Day Trip: Antelope Island State Park

Antelope Island State Park

Antelope Island State Park is located just north of Salt Lake City (it’s the largest island in the Great Salt Lake), making it the perfect day trip! Here’s what you need to know.

When I took a road trip from Seattle to Denver, I knew I’d be making a stop in Salt Lake City, Utah along the way. I used an app called Roadtrippers to plan that trip (it suggests attractions & other cool places near your selected driving route), and that’s how I heard about Antelope Island State Park.

The listing on the app intrigued me, so I googled the park, saw a few photos, immediately fell in love, and decided it was a priority for the road trip. Antelope Island looked so gorgeous in the photos, and it was the place I was most excited to visit on the whole 2 week trip.

If you want to plan a day trip to Antelope Island State Park from Salt Lake City, read on for all the information, plus lots of photos.


Antelope Island State Park


Antelope Island State Park

Great Salt Lake

Here are a few quick facts to introduce you to the park:

    • Antelope Island State Park is the largest island (42 square miles) in the Great Salt Lake, and it sits at an elevation of 5,308 feet.
    • The park is best known for its wildlife, specifically the American Bison that live on the island. It’s the perfect place to enjoy outdoor activities, admire the scenery, and camp.
    • The island was originally used as a ranch before being turned into a state park in 1981.
    • It’s said that the island received its name due to the herds of pronghorn antelope. However, antelope had disappeared from the area for a time, until they were reintroduced in 1993.

Antelope Island State Park

How to Get to Antelope Island from SLC

The park is located about 40 miles north of Salt Lake City. (Google Map)

    • Take Interstate 15 north to get there, and get off at exit 332.
    • Drive west on Antelope Drive until you reach the park entrance.
    • After the park gate, you’ll drive over the Davis County Causeway to get to the island.

You will need a car to get here, and to move around the island to different stops. If you don’t have a car with you on SLC, I recommend renting one for the day.

I don’t think there is another way to get there or tour the park without your own vehicle.

a road winding into the horizon

Antelope Island State Park

What to Do There

I visited in late January, so there wasn’t a lot going on in the way of activities for me outside of stopping off at scenic points. But there are plenty of things you can do in the park!

    • Camping: there are 4 camp sites around the island for tents and self-contained RVs. Reservations are recommended, and there is an additional fee depending on the campsite.
    • Wildlife Viewing: Antelope Island is home to all kinds of wildlife. Most notable is the herd of American Bison (there are hundreds of them living in the park), but you can also spot antelope, waterfowl, coyotes, and more.
    • Swimming: In the summer months, many people come to hang out on the beaches and swim in the lake.
    • Trails: There are plenty of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
    • Self-Guided Tour: Drive around the roads of the park on your own to see everything it has to offer. There are lots of scenic points, including the historic ranch.

What to Know:

    • Entrance Fees: a day pass costs $10 per vehicle.
    • Hours: The park is open year-round from 6 am to 10 pm. Camping is available for overnight use.
    • Insects: There might be a lot of bugs during the spring and summer seasons. Bring insect repellent for the mosquitoes, and fine-mesh head nets for the gnats (especially if you will be camping or hiking).
    • Wildlife Safety: Do not approach wildlife! Ever! The bison are a great sight to see, but they are large, dangerous animals. So always keep your distance when viewing wildlife (this includes the other wildlife as well).
    • Food: There is one restaurant on the island, called the Island Buffalo Grill. But I’d still recommend that you pack your own food, snacks, and water.

view over the great salt lake from a hilltop

My Day Trip to Antelope Island

Antelope Island seemed like such a special place, so I wanted to spend my birthday there. My friend and I woke up in Salt Lake City on the morning of January 28 and made the trip out to the park. We hopped in the car and headed north, arriving at the park in the early afternoon. We drove down the 7-mile-long access road, surrounded by water on both sides.

The beauty of the park was immediately visible as we drove in. The sky reflected so perfectly off of the glassy water, it was hard to tell where the sky stopped and the water began.

The main road takes you around part of the park, to hiking trails, beaches, and camping spots. We got out of the car every few minutes, and I was in awe at every stop. The muted winter colors of the landscape–beige sand, dusty yellow shrubs, grey-green waters, and rust-colored rocks–were stunning.

One of our first stops was the Buffalo Point trail, which took us up to a rock-covered hill where we could see out over the island. From there, I got an incredible view of the rolling hills and glassy waters.

I was surprised by how quiet it was. The park was desolate that day–I only saw a few other cars as we were driving, and I never once saw another person. Standing on top of the hill, I felt like I must have been in another world. It didn’t feel like Earth–this must be another planet, I thought. The pure beauty, the isolation, and the peace and quiet washed over me.

We walked down to the beach and out onto the dry lake bed. It was a tough walk on the sand, but we went as far as we could. There are lots of bison living on the island, the only wildlife we saw in late January.

Taking a day trip to Antelope Island State Park was absolutely the best way to spend my birthday. As much as I enjoy visiting new cities, going to museums and coffee shops, and meeting new people, I am happiest when I’m alone (or mostly alone) in nature. It was revitalizing to be in such a quiet place.

bison grazing in an empty field

Antelope Island State Park

expansive sand bank

Antelope Island State Park

 

 

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By Courtney Minor

Wandering around and writing about it.

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