Reaching the summit before sunset, we cracked open our now warm victory beer and finally sat down to enjoy the 360 degree view of the largest salt water lake in the western hemisphere. The buffalo herds that roam the island had settled down for the evening, the local coyotes took some time to have nice little howl with us and those damn biting gnats, which had been chasing us up the peak since we arrived, had finally eaten their fill. If that wasn’t perfect enough, the Island’s most elusive creatures, big horn sheep, decided to stop by and see what the heck we were doing on their summit. Welcome to Antelope Island.
Only about an hour north of Salt Lake City, the island’s 28,022 acres appear to be nothing more than a barren and deserted rock rising out of the salty inland sea, but not even close! An adventure to Antelope Island is the best way I’ve found to experience the Great Salt Lake and you chance to get up-close and personal with the wildlife that call this region home.
Hiking to the summit of Frary Peak, was a hell of a journey. Not only did we race up one of the hardest hikes in the area (if you stopped moving the gnat swarm would start taking micro chunks out of you) but once you reach the top we were able to see the vastness of the Great Salt Lake.
Visiting during golden hour (we started our hike about 2 hours before sunset) should be something everyone does when they visit this isolated State Park. You will have the chance to relax on the highest point in the lake with no crowd (it was just me and my brother); listen to coyotes howling across the ridge lines (we howled back), and try your best to catch a glimpse of the green flash (we missed it… this time).
With a keen eye, you can see 14,000 year old wave lines, remnants of ancient Lake Bonneville, that have been etched onto the slope 1000 ft. higher than the lakes present elevation. And at one time, the shore line of Lake Bonneville even shaped the valleys of the Wasatch Mountains over 25 miles away – an amazing relic of Utah’s climatological past.
Ever since visiting Utah for a snowboarding trip, this adventure had called to me. And hiking an area surrounded on all sides by the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi (and one of the saltiest) is something you can’t do anywhere else in the U.S. Plus as an Adventure Hydrologist, it was about time I swim in the Great Salt Lake, got my butt up to to Frary peak, to see the wave lines and have the chance to experience a proper Salt Lake sunset.
About 17 million years ago (yesterday in geological time) the part of North America west of the Wasatch Mountains began a slow and destructive journey toward the Pacific Ocean. This has and continues to stretch the crust in the region between Salt Lake City and Reno at about 1 inch per year – about the rate of growth of your fingernails. Twelve years after reading this, Reno will be about 1 ft farther from Antelope Island that it is today.
Knowing Antelope Island State Park would be closing soon (gates lock you in at 10 pm) we had to book it! Lucky for us, the three miles of uphill hiking it to get here meant three miles of downhill to get back. Pressed on time, and with no head lamps, we decided to do a nice little trail run.
If you’re in Salt Lake city, Antelope Island is a must! With epic trails, herds of buffalo, billions of biting bugs, talking coyotes, a salty lake, mysterious big horn and grand sunsets… how could pass up on this adventure?