Antelope Island Trail
Utah's canyon country is famous for its enchanting, sun-burnt redrock. Utah's mountainlands boast glacially scoured peaks towering over luxuriant basins. Antelope Island, on the other hand, is a shocking contrast to both, for it floats amidst the Great Salt Lake's ever-blue water. While pedaling the island's trails, you'll hear waves lap against the shore, smell the salty air, see flocks of waterfowl gather on mud flats then take to synchronous flight, and, perhaps, spy antelope and buffalo roaming distant pastures. From the island's bony crest, you'll find a circumambient view of lake, island, and sky plus a sweeping panorama of the distant metropolitan valley and Wasatch Range.
Antelope Island offers nearly 20 miles of trails open to hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers, and more trails are being crafted yearly. The 2-mile Lakeshore Trail is well suited for novice riders or for families with children. Start at the White Rock Bay campground and pedal around the base of Buffalo Point along the shore of the Great Salt Lake. Turnaround where conditions get too rocky and watch the sun set from a trail-side rest bench.
Intermediate riders will enjoy the 9-mile White Rock Bay Loop, which follows Antelope's backcountry trails. Beacon Knob, at the loop's high point, offers sweeping views in all directions. The descent back to the trailhead swoops through wide turns on fast-paced doubletrack. Add still more miles to your tour by climbing up to Split Rock Bay Overlook and following the 3.3-mile Elephant Head Trail (out-and-back). It ends at a cliff edge viewpoint of crescent-shaped Split Rock Bay below. The 5-mile Split Rock Bay Loop follows the terraced shoreline of ancient Lake Bonneville-- predecessor to the Great Salt Lake. The trail then weaves through massive boulders and cliffs exposing rocks that are 2.7 billion years old--a time long before the first bugs inhabited the premodial seas. The path drops dramatically on hand-built trail through switchbacks to the lake's shore then rises steeply to the loop's beginning.
Antelope Island is not just for off-road purists. Road cyclists and rollerbladers frequently cruise the 7-mile long paved causeway, linking the mainland with the island. It's perfect for families because the shoulder is wide and the road is as flat as a pancake. Extend your road ride by circling the island's northern tip on the park's 6-mile, scenic loop road. The road rolls over low hills, passes white-sand beaches, and offers impressive views.
By Gregg Bromka, author of Mountain Biking Utah's Wasatch & Uinta Mountains.
For a more intimate introduction to the Great Salt Lake, ride up to the Visitors Center on the crest of the hill as you approach the island. You’ll find a number of dioramas depicting the history of ancient Lake Bonneville, as well as displays featuring the history of the island. In summer months, there is also a fish tank full of brine shrimp, the only living animate organism in the lake – and the source of a multi-million dollar industry. Docents will answer your questions, and you’ll find a nice gift shop for mementos and other items.
Did you work up an appetite? If so, glide back downhill and visit the Island Buffalo Grill – which is right below the Visitor Center - for a juicy buffalo burger, of course, or other delectable snacks. The cafe overlooks Bridger Bay and the beach, and is located right next to fresh water showers where you can rinse off after floating in the lake. You can lock your bike, take a dip, grab a bite, and shower before continuing.
At the end of the day, pedal to the northwestern point of the island and the Buffalo Point trailhead, then take the short walk to Buffalo Point, where sunsets are always superlative.
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