The Salt Lake Valley is beautiful. It is surrounded by mountains - the Oquirrh Range to its west, and the world-famous Wasatch Mountains to its east. The Wasatch contains some of the best skiing in the world, as well as uncounted miles of hiking and biking trails. In large part, it is the beauty of these mountains that have drawn such a large population to live amongst them. But if you look around the Salt Lake Valley, you'll notice that it is literally full, brim-to-brim, with human development. And while you can always escape this sprawl by retreating to the mountains, it is rare that you can enjoy open space and long views from within the valley itself.
Enter Antelope Island State Park. Located in the southeastern corner of the Great Salt Lake (and just west of Layton), Antelope Island is, by far, the largest island in this enormous lake. Occupying approximately 42 square miles, the island stretches roughly 15 miles north-to-south and 5 miles east-to-west.
Preserved by its state park designation, Antelope Island has remained almost completely devoid of human infrastructure. Its shorelines have an elevation of 4,196 feet, while its highest point, Frary Peak, reaches to 6,594 feet above sea level. All the lands in between are characterized by windswept grass, rocky outcroppings, and patches of sage brush. From Antelope Island, you can see across the Great Salt Lake in all directions, with the craggy peaks of the Wasatch and Oquirrh ranges in the background. Though the population of the Salt Lake Valley is indeed visible, it occupies but a thin ribbon on the visual horizon.
Inhabiting the island is a menagerie animals including pronghorn antelope (after which the island is named), mule deer, coyotes, bobcats (!!), bighorn sheep, cottontail rabbits, jackrabbits, and approximately 250 species of nesting birds. The island is also home to a large herd of plains bison. This enormous herd roams the entirety of the island throughout the year, its population ranging from approximately 550 to 700 head at any given time.
Today the island is accessed by a causeway, UT 127, which departs from I-15 and arcs westward across Farmington Bay to the northernmost tip of the island - where you pay the entrance fee ($9 per vehicle; $3 per cyclist).
For those who feel like reaching the island by alternative means, the bike ride out to Antelope Island can be quite rewarding; from Salt Lake City, the round-trip ride (on backroads, of course) is just less than 100 nearly flat miles. In fact, a slightly extended version of this ride is the very course for the 108-mile Salt Lake Century Ride, which takes place every May.
If you'd like to test your legs, but don't have your bike in tow, check out Wasastch Touring, Dowtown. Not only does this locally-owned shop rent bikes, but it is also staffed by outdoors enthusiasts who can happily help you plan more adventures for your Utah visit.
A word of advice to all visiting the island: during the warm months of the year, wear bug spray.