Looking for a unique outdoor destination? Antelope Island is the largest island in Utah's Great Salt Lake. It is close to the city, but almost completely undeveloped. It's an easy place to visit when we need a nature fix.
Antelope Island State Park is an easy day trip from Salt Lake City or Ogden, Utah and there are lots of fun things to do. Here is a list of fun things to do at Antelope Island.
Antelope Island has many hiking trails. My favorite trail is Buffalo Point, a short drive from Bridger Bay. This hike is less than 1 mile round-trip, and is short and easy enough for most families. There are big boulders at the top of the trail, and it's fun to climb and explore. Sunsets are beautiful here.
The Buffalo Point trail is short, but steep and rugged enough that I recommend sturdy shoes with traction. Most athletic shoes should work, but I'd have a hard time in flip flops.
The top of Buffalo Point was the only place where we had problems with biting gnats and mosquitoes on our spring visit. More on this later in the post…
Frary Peak is another popular, but difficult trail. It climbs to the highest point on Antelope Island and offers fantastic panoramic views.
Related: Our Favorite Utah State Parks
Bicycling is popular at Antelope Island. The scenic roads are mostly flat and generally not very crowded with cars.
You can bike the entire 7-mile causeway, or drive your bikes to the island and then bike or drive wherever you like. Road biking and mountain biking are both good options. Bikes are allowed on most trails.
I noticed bike maintenance stations with tools and pumps in several places along the road.
Bicycle/e-bikes rentals and bike tours are available. Learn more at https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/antelope-island/rentals-food/.
Related: 100+ Fun Things to Do Near Salt Lake City
You can't sink in the intensely salty, calm and shallow water of the Great Salt Lake. You can wade out anywhere you like for a relaxing float.
Bridger Bay has white sand beaches, showers, bathrooms and picnic tables, which makes it a good base for swimming. However, water levels have been quite low in recent years, so it can be a long walk through hot sand to the water on a summer day.
Swimming in the Great Salt Lake isn't a typical beach day, but it's a unique experience – worth doing once. Click the link below to get all my tips and photos for swimming in the Great Salt Lake.
Related: Can You Swim in the Great Salt Lake?
Antelope Island has a small visitor center where you can learn more about the island and the Great Salt Lake, and ask a ranger any questions you may have. It's worth a short stop.
Visit a Historic Ranch
Antelope Island was privately owned from the mid-1800's until 1981 when it was sold to the State of Utah. The historic Fielding Garr Ranch is the only developed part of the island, other than state park buildings.
Visitors can walk around the ranch buildings and see the changes in farming and ranching equipment over time. There are lovely views of the lake, and the city and mountains in the distance. This is the only part of the island where we found trees and a shaded picnic meadow.
Related: Tips for Visiting Spiral Jetty
Antelope Island is home to a free-range herd of bison, and we saw lots of them on our last visit. Bison look docile, but they run fast and can be dangerous if they feel threatened. Keep a safe distance.
We also spotted pronghorn and a coyote on our last trip. I've visited this park lots of times, and this was my first coyote sighting. It scurried across the road in front of us, and then disappeared – camouflaged by the landscape.
Antelope Island is also a good place for bird watching. The Great Salt Lake area is an important stop for many migratory bird species.
Antelope Island is a great place to enjoy a picnic. There are picnic tables and restrooms at Buffalo Point, Bowman Bay and Fielding Garr Ranch.
Try a Bison Burger
The Island Buffalo Grill is the only restaurant in the park. It is a small, informal place located at Bridger Bay. Its specialty is bison burgers and fries.
I haven't tried this restaurant yet. It is generally open March-October and has indoor and outdoor seating. Visit the Island Buffalo Grill Facebook page for current information.
Fly a Kite
Antelope Island often has a breeze, and there are few trees. It's a great place to fly a kite.
Antelope Island is an International Dark Sky Park. This means that it's an excellent place to get away from the city lights and see the abundance of the night sky.
The Ogden Astronomical Society hosts star parties here about once a month. These are free to the public. Society member set up telescopes and share their knowledge of the night sky. Learn more at http://ogdenastronomy.org/
Related: 15 Great Places to Go Stargazing in Utah
Antelope Island has several campgrounds. They're fairly basic and offer little shade, but they are located near the water. The campgrounds were filled with RVs during our last visit.
Need camping or outdoor gear? This state park partners with rental providers that will deliver gear, and even set it up at your campsite. Visit https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/antelope-island/rentals-food/ to learn more.
Attend a Special Event
Antelope Island is the backdrop for a few special events throughout the year. These include:
- Annual Bison Roundup, Fall – https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/antelope-island/
- Antelope by Moonlight Bike Ride, Summer – https://www.daviscountyutah.gov/moonlight
- Star Parties, Monthly – http://ogdenastronomy.org/
Related: Tips for Visiting Lagoon Amusement Park
More Tips for Visiting Antelope Island
Can You Drive to Antelope Island?
Yes. There is a causeway from Syracuse, Utah to Antelope Island. A pay station and parking lot are located at the entrance to the causeway.
How Much Does It Cost?
It currently costs $10 per vehicle (up to 8 people) to visit Antelope Island. Bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians cost $3 per person. Your fee is good for one day.
There is a parking lot next to the entrance where you can park and unload your bicycle.
Seniors (age 62+) pay $5 per vehicle.
Utah State Parks annual passes are accepted, but they do not include a $2 causeway fee.
Mosquitoes and biting gnats can be a problem. In mid-April, we weren't bothered much by the bugs on most parts of the island, but found them in swarms at the top of Buffalo Point. I was scratching my scalp, ears and neck for days afterward.
Insect repellent works against mosquitoes, but not biting gnats (April-June). Wear insect repellent, hats, long sleeves, mesh, etc – especially in the spring gnat season – to help keep the bugs away.
There is not much shade, and it can get HOT in the summer. Don't forget the sunscreen and sun hats!
Need a place to stay?
Layton, Utah is the closest city to Antelope Island with hotels, including plenty of moderately-priced options from familiar brands.
Antelope Island is also an easy day trip from Salt Lake City or Ogden.
Click the button below to see Layton hotels on TripAdvisor.com.
I love Antelope Island. It's a natural, undeveloped oasis close to the city. Hiking, swimming, and picnicking are my favorite activities, but there are plenty of options for families who love the outdoors.
I hope that our experience helps your family have a great trip to Antelope Island.
Even as a local living near this park, I learned a lot reading this post! Well researched and a great resource for info next time I choose to visit. Thank you!
Thank you, Jana!