When the snow flies in Salt Lake, many people look east and literally take to the hills in search of outdoor exercise, scenic views, and solitude. All this and more can be found in the overlooked winter playground that lies west. Nestled in the Great Salt Lake, an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City but worlds away in atmosphere, Antelope Island State Park is an ideal one-day getaway. Don’t be dissuaded by the cooler temperatures; in winter this easily accessible island has a lot to offer those who cross the causeway.
Surrounded by the fifth saltiest body of water in the world, Antelope Island sports no less than 40 natural springs that support an abundance of flora and fauna. Bison dot the snow and grass covered hills, mule deer flick their ears, native antelope play, and coyote howls carry on the crisp air. Porcupines slumber in trees lining the road to Garr Ranch while birds flit, soar, call and congregate. Nowhere else in Utah will you see such diverse wildlife so close to dense population. Bring your binoculars.
Hiking is a wonderful way to explore and take in vistas of the Great Salt Lake, the unbroken wall of the Wasatch, and the austere Oquirrhs, blanketed in snow. Stroll along the beach or hike 2,000 feet to the top of Frary Peak. With an area of 42 square miles, there truly is an option for everyone. For those not inclined to brave the chill, you can see plenty from the comfort of your warm car.
Organized tours and hikes are available year round for those wanting a guide. Two such activities are scheduled in December. The Mushroom Springs Hike on Dec. 14 and 28 leads to a bald eagle winter roost. A Full Moon Hike to Buffalo Point on the Winter Solstice, Dec. 21, is sure to show the park in a new light.
Take exit 322 from I-15 and head west on Antelope Drive. Open year round, hours vary by season. Utah State Park fees apply. More information is available at stateparks.utah.gov.
Photography by Kirk Marshall