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Antelope Island State Park Family Guide

(Last Updated On: January 14, 2022)

We love to spend the day at Antelope Island State Park. As avid birders, we are really excited to visit the island every spring. There are a lot of activities there, including the beach, hiking, a Visitor’s Center with a Junior Ranger Program, camping, bird watching and other wildlife viewing, and a historical ranch. But we have also found that fall and even winter are great times to visit Antelope Island State Park.

Antelope Island State Park

Animals

Our favorite part of Antelope Island is all of the animals and birds you view when you visit. There are many birds you can view along the causeway as you drive out to the island. We saw geese, sandhill cranes, and long-billed curlews right where you pay your fee ($10 per vehicle) in the spring. Other birds we have enjoyed out here are burrowing owls, great-horned owls, chukars, and great blue herons.

We were especially excited about the burrowing owls, because it was a first for us. They are hanging out near the Visitor’s Center. Take a left as you leave the Visitor’s Center and go toward the RV dump station. There are a few burrows built on the left side of the road. You might be as lucky as we were!

Antelope Island State Park
We have never seen Burrowing Owls before. We saw 4 different owls. It was awesome!
We saw tons of Chukars in the Spring. They are a really fun sighting.
We saw tons of Chukars. They are a really fun sighting.

As we drove around the island, we saw several mammals, including cottontail rabbits, jack rabbits, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, and the island’s specialty, bison. These are a major attraction, and there are 500-700 on the island. They also claim deer and the more rare bighorn sheep, which were transplanted to the island in the late ’90s. We have never seen the big horn sheep, though.

Our favorite mammal to spot in the Fall and Winter is the porcupine. The trees are bare, so watch for dark spots hanging out in the tree. These are the porcupines. We mostly spot them in the trees along the road down to Fielding Garr Ranch.

Lots of people come to see the Bison!
Lots of people come to see the Bison!
Antelope Island State Park
We almost always see a coyote on Antelope Island.
The porcupines are so fun to see.

Beach 

We ate at the Island Buffalo Grill (seasonly open), which has really good food. Our family of 5 ate for $35. They even serve a real buffalo burger, but I am partial to their BLT! This restaurant is only open Spring through Fall, and they are only open from 12-4 pm, so don’t plan on dinner on the island. You can check their Facebook page before you go to make sure they are open because sometimes weather will even close them up. Sorry we didn’t snap photos of our food, but it is really delicious.

Next we headed down to the beach. With the water level so low the year we visited, we had to walk almost a half-mile one way to get to the water, but the boys loved throwing rocks and wading. At the wrong time of the year, the midges and brine flies will carry you right off the beach, but we didn’t see a bug today. You could easily spend a couple of hours just down by the water. It’s amazing how shallow it is, too. You could probably walk out into the Great Salt Lake for miles without it getting above your waist. Lots of people love to wade or float in the Great Salt Lake or like our boys…taste it!

Antelope Island State Park
You can walk right down to the Great Salt Lake from the restaurant parking area.
Antelope Island State Park
When we went a few years ago, we had to do a little more wading in the water to get to the lake. This year was bone dry.
Antelope Island State Park
We love walking the shore, wading, and throwing rocks here at the beach.

There is tons of sand near the restaurant and on the entire walk down to the water, so bring some sand toys for young kids. We always forget ours, but all that our kids want to do, other than throw rocks in the water, is dig in the sand.

The sand is nice and soft!
The sand is nice and soft in some places. Other places have lots of rocks, so look for a good spot.

Hikes

There are a few hikes on Antelope Island that are family friendly. Check out the short 1/4 mile hike that takes you to an overlook for Egg Island.  It is a simple trail but there are a few rocks to climb.  You can walk out and look over the Great Salt Lake. There is a small parking lot just before the Visitor’s Center where this trail starts.

Antelope Island State Park
The trail is flat, but a little rocky.

We also walked a small trail right behind the Visitor’s Center (I don’t think it has a name on their trail map). If you walk out the back of the Visitor’s Center to the end of the paved trail, there is a small information sign. If you go slightly to the left you will see a trail leading down into the rocky terrain surrounding the Visitor’s Center. The trail is simple and easy. You can hear the people back at the Visitor’s Center the whole time, but we did see a jack rabbit and a cottontail, as well as many birds on this trail.

Antelope Island State Park
This small trail makes a small loop just below the Visitor’s Center. The trail is defined like that the whole way.

Our favorite hike on Antelope Island is Buffalo Point. This trail climbs up a small peak and then you can walk across the peak to an viewpoint for the Great Salt Lake on both sides. Our boys loved this hike because there were lots of rocks that they could climb. The trail is steep on the way up, but across Buffalo Point it is flat and relaxing. This trail is only 0.6 roundtrip. At the trailhead for this hike there is a deck that has picnic tables if you bring your own lunch.

Antelope Island State Park
The first half of the hike climbs up to that flat.
Antelope Island State Park
Once you’re on the top, it’s flat as you walk across.
Antelope Island State Park
There are some beautiful views from the top of Buffalo Point.

Fielding Garr Ranch

The Fielding Garr Ranch is also located on the island. It is a bit of a drive from the Visitor’s Center because it’s all the way at the southern end. The ranch is no longer a working ranch, but you can still see the old buildings and the farm house. We always love seeing old pioneer relics, and the old farm equipment is very interesting. Our boys have two favorite activities here: one is ringing the old bell, and the other is trying to rope the wooden cattle. Even grandpa loved this activity. As far as animals, there are a few horses, and we always see deer here for some reason. There is a great-horned owl that hangs out around the ranch. We spotted him in the trees nearby the last time we visited.

Antelope Island State Park
There is one building filled with old farm equipment and pioneer antiques.
Antelope Island State Park
Walk through the large barn that is filled with old farming equipment.
There are some homes to walk through at the ranch.
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Inside the old farmhouse, there are lots of fun things to see including this old record player.
Antelope Island State Park
We had tons of fun trying to rope these cattle.
Antelope Island State Park
There are horses down at the ranch still.
Make sure to look for the great-horned owl at the ranch.

Visitor’s Center

The Visitor’s Center is very small, but they do have a Junior Ranger program for kids. The small museum has information on the brine shrimp and the salt in the lake. There is also a table with different animals bones or horns that is always fun because it’s a hands-on activity. You are allowed to touch and hold anything on the table.

Our favorite part of the Visitor’s Center is the bird feeder. There is a large window where you can watch the birds. We even saw big chukars coming to the feeder. The ranger told us that there is a rabbit that lives in the rock behind the feeder so if you are there early you can see him. We did not, but we watched for a long time.

You can also watch the movie which is 15 minutes long and is filled with interesting facts about the Island. If you decide to do the Junior Ranger program, make sure to bring a small bag to collect garbage as that is one of the activities for all ages to complete.

Antelope Island State Park
You can’t miss the Visitor’s Center. It’s one of the few buildings on the island.
Antelope Island State Park
Inside the Visitor’s Center is small, but informative.
Antelope Island State Park
Our boys loved touching all the items on the table.
Antelope Island State Park
We had fun watching the birds here. In the background, you can see the road that drives out to Antelope Island through the Great Salt Lake.

Directions

Antelope Island is accessed via Antelope Drive in Layton. Take exit 332 from the 1-15 and head west. Antelope Island State Park is about 7 miles west of the freeway.

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4 Comments

  • Next year mention the Bison Roundup. It was on October 29th(My birthday) and it was awesome. The 1st an 2nd of November you can get up close with them at The Bison corral tour.

    • The midges are worst in the spring (around late April and early May) but they are never really good. You’ll see them a lot during the year, especially if you go to the beach. –UAF–