Before the snow hit, we decided to get in one last family mountain biking adventure at Antelope Island State Park. Antelope Island is a truly magical place, located in the Great Salt Lake (which isn’t actually a lake but a sea)! The island is named for the herds of antelope that you are sure to spot, but the truly unique wildlife experience comes in the form of roaming buffalo! Yes, you heard that right—there are lots and lots of buffalo freely grazing on the island’s long grasses. In fact, on this last trip, we had two buffalo walk out into the road in front of us, mere feet from our truck.
Of course, the presence of ample wildlife requires caution, but I highly recommend that you get out and experience it. There are lots of people at Antelope Island “Sunday driving” but the island is best when explored on foot or by bike. In addition to the buffalo and antelope, keep your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep (in the higher elevations), deer, and multiple bird species.
What to Do on Antelope Island
Our family has two favorite destinations on the island. The first is the Mountain View trail on the east side of the island. It is mostly flat, and sticks close to the shoreline. The southern end of trail concludes at the Fielding Garr Ranch, which is lots of fun for kids. There are picnic tables so bring along a lunch or snack, and then explore the historical buildings which includes a barn, main house, and bunk houses.
Our other favorite location on the island is on the northwest side. The 6-mile White Rock loop has some climbing which makes it more strenuous than the Mountain View trail, but still makes a good family outing. Our favorite direction to ride it is clockwise. On this latest trip, we used a combination of the Bicycle Bungee, TykeToter, and a backpack with straps to carry P’s Woom bike when he wasn’t riding. This loop provides jaw-dropping views of the lake, the city, and the mountainous sections of the island. Make sure to do an out-and-back on the short Beacon Knob Spur trail. At the top, there is a picnic table that makes a nice rest spot.
Back at the parking lot, there is also a nice campground that we would love to stay at some day. It’s important to stay here in the fall or early spring (or winter if you are brave), because in the late spring and summer the bugs come out and make it an awful place to spend too much time.
Depending on the time of year, stop at the Island Buffalo Grill on the north end of the island for bison burgers. It is located on the beach, and if the weather is nice enough, eating out on the sand makes for an amazing view. While we’ve never done it, you can also swim here in the summer.
Directions to Antelope Island
How to get there: From the I-15 take exit xx for Antelope Drive and take it west until you hit the causeway headed out to the island. At the entrance of the causeway, you’ll have to pay a $10 entry fee to enter the State Park. Ask for a trail map. You can get more information and check on special events on the state park website (https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/antelope-island/).
To get to the Mountain View trail: After crossing the causeway, stay straight on the main road. Almost immediately, you will see a dirt pull-of on the left side of the road. This is a good place to start and the trail is on the south end of the parking area. From here, it is 11.5 miles to the ranch. If you want a shorter ride (or hike), there are other parking areas along the main road to the ranch. In winter, when the trail was covered with snow, we’ve also biked the road which is enjoyable as well.
To get to the White Rock loop: After crossing the causeway, follow the signs to the campgrounds, and park at the “Backcountry” trailhead. You’ll see the start of the trail just south of the trailhead where there is a break in the fence and a large trail map.