Antelope Island landscape is different and the animals are unique! It is only an hour north of Salt Lake, but it feels like a very different place. It got its name from the pronghorn antelope, but there are also herds of mule deer and lots of bison. Porcupines, owls, coyotes are also found here.
Antelope Island Map
Here is a map from the Utah State Parks website. The causeway comes to the north point of the island, next to the marina. The roads are in black, so you can see that the north section has some roads and then there is a road that heads down along the east side to Fielding Garr Ranch, but then the rest of the island is inaccessible by car.
When to Visit
Antelope Island is open year round. I have been in most seasons. Typically mid-spring through mid-summer the insects get crazy, including biting gnats “no-see-ums” and mosquitos, so I generally skip that time of year. There is generally far less snow on Antelope Island there is in the rest of Utah, so it’s a nice place to enjoy nature without the deep snow.
To see the bison you don’t get out of your car. They have free access to the island. The places where I have most often seen them is near Buffalo Point and along the east side of the island, so if you head towards the historic Fielding Garr Ranch, you are likely to pass herds that you can easily see right from the road. Never approach a bison or any other wild animal. Bison are so interesting to watch and so large. The males can surpass 2,000 pounds! In the winter their fur gets thick, then in the spring they shed and it gets mangy. By late summer, it is only in the front that it’s thicker.
Fielding Garr Ranch
The Fielding Garr Ranch was continuously running and inhabited for over 100 years! You can still walk around and tour it or you can just drive that direction to see the buffalo.
Great Horned Owl
There are also Great Horned Owls and other owls that live in the trees at the ranch.
There was a raven in a neighboring tree when I was there.
There are also commonly Great Horned Owls near the bison corrals. They were peeking at us with one eye.
Burrowing Owls live on the flat areas of the island. You have to really keep an eye out to see them.
Porcupines can also be found at Antelope Island. Look for them in the trees on the side of the road halfway down to Fielding Garr Ranch. Sometimes you can only see their backsides and you can’t get them in a position to see their faces.
Other times you can see them more clearly.
There are many mule deer on the island. They got their name from their large ears. We saw this group of three near Fielding Garr Ranch.
Coyote also live on Antelope Island. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten great photos.
The fastest land animal in all of North America is the Pronghorn Antelope. They can reach speeds up to 70 miles per hour! The island is named after them. I wish I had a better photo, but the only one I saw was extremely far away.
There are lots of other birds on the island. Here are western meadowlark, long-billed curlew, loggerhead shrike, white-faced ibis, and northern shovelers.
Antelope Island Hiking
There are many hikes around the island and some are longer and more difficult than others. One popular one is Buffalo Point, which is on the north side of the island. It is only a mile round trip easy walk to a lookout. The trail begins with some views already. We didn’t have time to do the hike, but we did stop at the viewpoints where the Buffalo Peak hike begins.
Frary Peak is the prominent mountain on the island.
Next we went to Lady Finger Beach. There is a bit of a walk out to the beach, maybe a quarter-mile from the parking lot. The ground is a mix of soft and crusty sand, so you’ll want to have shoes that can handle both, but flip-flops or tennis shoes should work.
I never would have anticipated it, but the brine flies were actually my kids favorite part of the trip was chasing the brine flies. They don’t bite or oven land on people. If you walk near they fly away in a little wave cloud. it’s actually pretty cool!
The Great Salt Lake is very salty because it has no outlet besides evaporation. Everything is extra buoyant in such salty water. People can easily float with their hands and feet out of the water. Some also like to kayak or stand-up paddle board around the lake. Because of it’s salinity, fish cannot live in the sea, but there are brine shrimp and many species of birds. Two neighboring smaller islands are off-limits to humans year-round because they are bird sanctuaries. On of them, Egg Island, can be seen on the left of the right photo.
Antelope Island is also a premium place to watch sunrises, sunsets, and starry skies. It is a designated International Dark Sky park. There are a few campgrounds, but they don’t have water available.
Here are some other photos.
Stats: Distance – varies depending on hike
Difficulty – Easy/Moderate/Difficult
Bathrooms – Yes
Seasons to hike – Many are open year-round
Permits needed – $15 day pass per vehicle or Utah State Parks Pass (Plus $2 Causeway fee)
Pets allowed – Yes
Another great place to see wildlife, especially birds is Farmington Bay. Here is info on more wildlife. Other hikes in the area are Adam’s Canyon Lower Waterfall, Adam’s Canyon Upper Waterfall, Farmington Creek Waterfall and Car Graveyard, Parrish Creek Pictographs, Mueller Park and Elephant Rock.