Originally posted August 2020; Revised and migrated March 2021
Travel date June 2020
I had read the wildlife at Antelope Island State Park was worth the trip. I had also read the bugs (biting gnats) were terrible during this time of summer. Antelope Island did not disappoint. We spent three days exploring the park and have identified the top things you can’t-miss at Antelope Island.
About Antelope Island
Most of the year Antelope Island is the largest of the ten islands on the Great Salt Lake. The island was inhabited until the 1970s by homesteaders who raised livestock and grew their own food due to the remoteness of the island. The lake levels were a bit low when we were there so the island was actually a peninsula.
About the Great Salt Lake
The Great Salt Lake’s salinity is so high that fish cannot live in its waters. It has been called America’s Dead Sea. The most populous animal living in the waters are brine shrimp (aka sea monkeys) which attract many species of birds.
Is Antelope Island open to the public?
Antelope Island is now a Utah State Park that is open to the public for camping and day use.
How much does it cost to get into Antelope Island?
Day-use fees to enter Antelope Island State Park are charged per vehicle, not per individual visitor. Entrance is $10 per car for the day. If staying at the park’s campground, the $20/night site fee includes day-use.
How bad are the bugs at Antelope Island?
The gate attendant told us the season for the biting bugs called no-see-ums was nearing its end and they weren’t very bad. I spent the first afternoon inside (away from any possible bugs) with my binoculars watching people on the beach to determine if I wanted to swim in the Great Salt Lake.
Things to Do at Antelope Island
We spent two nights and three days at Antelope Island State Park. The campground is spacious and offers great views of the lake. I’d recommend staying at least one night if possible There are many things to do at Antelope Island but the top are:
- Visitor Center
- Lady Finger Path
- Buffalo Point Trail
- Lakeside Loop Trail – if time allows
- Historic Fielding Garr Ranch and Homestead
- Wildlife Watching
- Swim in the Great Salt Lake
- Camp at Bridger Bay Campground to enjoy Great Salt Lake views a little longer
Any trip should start at the Visitor’s Center to learn more about the area and to help determine the gameplan for your visit. The Antelope Island Visitor Center was open during our visit and modified for social distancing.
We were able to watch a short video with interviews from former residents of Antelope Island and the difficulties of living on a remote island. There were also educational exhibits about the wildlife of the island including several magnificent professional photographs from local photographers.
Bird Watching at Lady Finger Point
At sunset, we visited Lady Finger Point. The path is very short (0.25-miles) and leads to a rocky point overlooking the lake. It is a great area for bird watching. The sunset views over the lake are pretty epic from the point.
We even spotted a bride and groom taking sunset photos when we visited Lady Finger Point.
Sunset from Buffalo Point Trail
I suited up in long sleeves and long pants for our sunset hike on the 1.5-mile Buffalo Point Trail. The views of the lake were spectacular but the bugs were definitely out.
I broke out all of my bug protection gear at dusk and didn’t get bitten. Wearing a net over my head, covering all of my bare skin, and using my Thermocell electric bug repellent worked but might be considered extreme measures. I was not winning any fashion awards for my outfit but thankfully I’m comfortable enough in my skin to laugh at myself.
Lakeside Trail Loop
The next morning we did the 4.8-mile Lakeside trail loop from our campground. The first half was breezy and had great views of the lake.
We saw a juvenile mule deer and a lone bison during the first half of our walk.
The second half of the walk was less breezy with progressively hotter sun and no lake views. In hindsight, I would have walked the trail counterclockwise instead of clockwise to ensure motivation didn’t wane during the second half.
Visit Historic Fielding Garr Ranch
We also drove to the historic Fielding Garr Ranch and Homestead. On our visit, we enjoyed a self-guided tour of the houses and barns used by the residents of Antelope Island well into the 20th century.
On the scenic drive heading to the Fielding Garr Ranch, we saw hundreds of bison and several pronghorn antelope in the unpopulated section of the island.
We also saw bison and pronghorn closer to the campground and visitor center but in smaller concentrations. We found the best chances of spotting wildlife was around sunset and dusk. The island’s abundant wildlife was the primary contributor to the magical feeling.
Swim in the Great Salt Lake
Later that afternoon, we put on our bathing suits and walked about 0.5-mile across the salty, crunchy sand to get to the lakeside. There were a few people floating in the shallow water. I saw people walk out 100 feet from the shore and still only reach knee-deep water.
Swimming in the Great Salt Lake is one of the most popular things to do at Antelope Island. Visitors find the salinity’s impact on buoyancy interesting.
The water temperature was warmer than any other we’d found in Utah. However, even with a strong wind, the beach and water’s edge were covered in small non-biting bugs. I put my feet in the water’s edge but I had sanitary concerns about putting my body in the buggy water. Envisioning them in my hair, I chose not to swim in the Great Salt Lake on our visit to Antelope Island.
Camping at Antelope Island
We booked a dry camping site (no electric, water, or sewer connections) in the Bridger Bay campground overlooking the Great Salt Lake for $20/night. The sites are paved with fire pits, picnic tables, and shade canopies. I’d recommend staying at least one night at the Bridger Bay campground.
Do I need campground reservations at Antelope Island?
We arrived at Antelope Island without campground reservations. I checked online the day before and saw a lot of availability. Prior to our intended arrival, we had a mechanic’s appointment which could have easily run longer than planned and cause us to miss any reservations.
I wasn’t sure why this magical place had availability but I assume others were scared away by the online reviews about the bugs. We did not need campground reservations to stay at the Bridger Bay Campground inside the park.
How long does it take to drive around Antelope Island?
If wondering how long it takes to drive around Antelope Island, the answer is it varies. Bison commonly block the road causing delays. At a minimum, I would allow a half-day to drive around the island including a visit to the Visitor Center, Bridge Bay Beach, and the Historic Fielding Garr Ranch. However, I’d recommend spending one night at the Bridger Bay Campground so you can also bike or hike around more of this magical island.
Is Antelope Island worth visiting?
We really enjoyed the bird watching and wildlife spotting during our visit. The first bison sighting of our bison-filled summer was super exciting. Spotting pronghorn antelope from our car window and watching the sunset reflect off the silky smooth waters of the Great Salt Lake was magical. Antelope Island is definitely worth visiting.
We hope you start planning your trip today and use our guide to determine the best things to do at Antelope Island.