Utah has five national parks, a lot to see for just one state. Many travelers decide to make a loop out of them and may not think to visit the state parks, which would be quite a mistake in the case of Antelope Island State Park [4528 West 1700 South Syracuse, UT 84075]! Just outside of Salt Lake City, Antelope Island is a wild world of its own. After paying your admission ($10, totally worth it) and obtaining a map drive down the terribly scenic, almost unreal road over the Great Salt Lake to reach the island.
For a quick stretch of the legs we stepped out onto Lady Finger Point Trail. The path was mild and short just .25 out to the point, but it gives you a great introduction to the land. The delicate muted flora popped against the bright blue sky, every direction looked like a perfect painting.
Refreshed, next stop was the Visitors Center. We looked around at the exhibits and in the gift shop real fast, but the real reason for heading in was to ask the park ranger where the best place for a bison sighting was. The park is home to upwards of 700 bison and I was hoping to see at least one of them! The ranger said our best bet was to just drive along the road and we’d be sure to spot one. She also went over safety reminders with us:
Make sure the bison are doing ‘bison things’ or you could be too close. We headed to nearby Buffalo Point and were treated to our first bison encounter!
A healthy camera zoom revealed a bison relieving itself topped with two passenger birds. What a moment! Really this was just the beginning, the park is positively swarmed with bison. Just driving down the road you are treated to amazing wildlife sightings, you don’t even need to leave your car.
We decided to take road to the end taking in the sights before heading on our main hike of the day. While we were cruising I saw a sudden movement, a pounce, in the tall grass on the side of the road. We stopped just in time and saw an energetic coyote looking for something to eat.
Just a bit farther down we witnessed the playful behavior of a young happy bison. It positively frolicked down the hill rubbing its face into the dirt and rolling around on the ground before trotting once again down, down towards the road.
Its older companion soon followed crossing so closely by our car we were a bit nervous at first, however it was totally uninterested in our existence.
We noticed little herds of bison so frequently, seeing them juxtaposed to the Salt Lake City skyline felt like an anachronism.
When we got to the end of the road we turned back and looked for the trailhead for our first hike. You really need to keep your eyes peeled for the signs because they aren’t huge or gaudy. We chose the Dooley Knob trail, which we found in the Frary Peak parking lot. It was a bit of a rest day for us sandwiched between big hiking days in the national parks. To hike up to Dooley Knob you must begin on the Frary Peak trail and take the well marked spur towards Dooley Knob. The hike is 2.8 miles roundtrip with moderate elevation gain. Pastoral views of the rolling hills in the land,
scattered selection of wildflowers,
and an occasional ‘bison-pie’ made this hike perpetually interesting.
On the way up keep looking back at those inspiring peaks reflected on the lake.
Keep heading up
and when you reach the top you will be able to see 360 degree views of wild peaceful bliss.
This was a truly relaxing and beautiful hike to take. Not quite ready to quit we decided to stroll on the Lakeside Trail back towards the entrance.
Very little elevation gain on this trail and you will certainly still witness wildlife sightings.
After about another leisurely mile or so on the Lakeside Trail we decided to begin heading back in to Salt Lake. On our way out of the park we were happy to have yet another close encounter with a hungry bison.
This was perhaps the closest call of all, as it was just a stone throw from our car. The sheer stature of this beast was shocking, and lucky for us it was completely serene in its demeanor. We tried to leave again but were awed by another sight. On the lake there were thick clumps of birds so dense, I had to get out and take a closer look.
Down near the lake it smelt a bit like low tide, but it was worth it to view this gaggle against those mountains. At this point the sun was going down so we decided to watch for a while. The sunset itself was lovely, just like any other, however the spectacular part was when you turned to the east.
The mountains were lit up vibrant pink, purple, and deep blue in the wake of the sunset, an absolutely jaw dropping sight. It was absolutely worth it to veer away from the national parks to see a state park for a day. The trails were excellently maintained and it was quiet, peaceful, and wild – an unforgettable day at Antelope Island State Park.