I learned a few things about myself over the past few days. With a few days off at the ER I headed west, to Salt Lake City, to kidnap the TETON Sports #yourlead van. They have big plans for the van this coming summer, so I jumped at this opportunity to take it for a spin + make sure it’s ready for adventure.

As usual, I arrived with nothing on my agenda. I wanted to explore the trails around the SLC metro area, but I wanted to avoid the snow. This ruled out the eastern canyons + anything headed toward the mountains. They weren’t snowy so much as they were a mix of icy mud. Eh. No thanks.

In the end, I choose Antelope Island State Park. This monumental decision was made from my seat on the airplane as we were landing. As I stared out the window I saw this lumpy looking island with a long road leading to it. Hm…it looked empty + snow free. I was sold + after a few hours in the TETON Sports showroom I headed for the island.

Antelope Island State Park

After paying my entrance camping fee I switched my radio over to the AM station to get the scope on the island. I learned that the island is known for free-range bison, yappy coyotes + a ranch that was operational for 133 years. With over 40 miles of unpaved trails there was no way I would see the entire island in one visit…but that doesn’t mean I didn’t try!

My first stop was the visitors center, because I was a visitor + these centers were created for people like me! I gawked at beautiful photos of a much greener island [summer time!] + watched brine shrimp float around in lake water. In the gift shop I flipped through a few books, but convinced myself I didn’t need them…for now. As I was wandering the visitors center I overheard someone ask where to see the bison + realized I needed to make a trip out toward the ranch to take a peep.

I naively figured these free range bison would be as elusive as free range cattle are in Wyoming [either you see 400 or you see none]. I was very, very wrong. There were bison everywhere. On my drive out the Fielding Garr Ranch I drove past at least 8 different clumps of bison..just chilling + nibbling + roaming.

Quite honestly, I had no intention of stopping at the Fielding Garr Ranch. It was a ranch…how interesting could it be? Well, I had to turn around in the ranch parking lot so I gave into curiosity + ventured down to the buildings. Guess what I found there?! A volunteer with a brochure, some ancient ranching tools, a home-built in 1848 + a whole bunch of really interesting history. Yea…all of that. At a ranch. On an island. Who know.

There was also a Great Horned Owl couple snuggled up in a tree on the ranch. They mate for life + this tree is their home. They didn’t wiggle much since it was the middle of the day, but I can now say I got to gawk at Great Horned Owls in the middle of the day…as they cuddled up at the top of a tree, on Valentine’s Day. Aw, lurve!

Bridger Bay Campground

My assigned campsite was in the Bridger Bay Campground, which seemed to be the only campground open mid-week in February. When I arrived at the campground my site was one of very few campers/campervans hanging out on a nearly empty island. As the sun began to set we all ventured away from our mobile homes to soak up the last rays. Along the way I ended up with a few free range bison between me + the van. As a farm girl, I was far more nervous than I expected to be. They are HUGE!

After going off trail to get around the mini herd of bison I whipped up my standard vanlife dinner of pasta + veggies then settled in for the night. Ah…all the excitement of vanlife, amirite?!

White Rock Loop

The next morning I headed out to explore the island on foot. It was rock-the-van windy, so opted against a summit of any sort + went for a loop around White Rock. This is where things got exciting…I RAN! In a nonchalant ‘this looks nice + runnable’ sort of way. Or at least that’s how it started. Halfway through the loop it became more of a ‘if I run I can get out of this &^#$ wind sooner’ sort of run. Because no matter how elated I am to be a ‘runner’ I will forever be a very ‘whiney runner’. I even whined out loud when no one was there to hear me. #sorrynotsorry

White Rock Loop in Antelope Island SP is a 6.2 mile loop full of long runnable stretches of trails with short jaunts of climbing or rocky descents. While you’re out there you’ll get views of everything — the peaks of Antelope Island, the horizon across the Great Salt Lake + the skyline of Salt Lake City with the Rocky Mountains towering behind. It was a beautiful run + I came upon even more bison along the way. Most were far off in the meadows, but a few were chilling near the trail, ignoring me as I ran by.

The rest of my Thursday was spent eating + working…because even when living the vanlife bills need to be paid + bellies need to be filled! Yay responsible adulthood!

I wasn’t sure where I was going to sleep on Thursday night + seriously considered an overnight in town [Walmart parking lot or the likes] but that just felt wrong. I knew how awesome Antelope Island SP was. It was only 15 minutes + $15 away, I’d be an idiot if I didn’t return. So return I did.

Frary Peak Trail

Friday morning dawned much calmer than Thursday did, so I drug my tired legs out of the van + to the Frary Peak trailhead on the eastern side of Antelope Island. The trail up to Frary Peak was *highly* recommended by multiple people. When you arrive at the island you see this peak towering above you, all jagged + inviting. I won’t lie, I seriously considered this particular trail on Thursday but the wind deterred me. Apparently my short run the day before got me a bit too confident come Friday…

I headed up the road to the official trailhead [closed for the winter], then took on the rocky trail. Those friends of mine were not wrong — it was a beautiful trail that looped from the eastern to the western side of Antelope Island. In a past life [+ hopefully near future life], this would have been an amazing short run with views to distract from the steep, technical sections. But, alas, my underused legs were a bit abused from the day prior.

My adventure was cut short by time + I didn’t make it beyond the first panoramic overlook. I can’t complain, it was still a gorgeous run [ahem, hike]…that I got to take on in shorts! SHORTS! In February…glorious. When I lived on the Front Range I took advantage of many shorts days in the middle of the winter.That may be the single thing I miss about living in Denver!

I finished off my trip to Salt Lake City with an afternoon of working in a coffee shop [then later the airport]. My bout of vanlife was short-lived, but it was still amazing to get out there + check out a new chunk of Utah. I had no idea this area existed + I kind of fell in love while I was there. It’s safe to say I’ll make the trip out to the park many more times…because it was amazing!

I was also incredibly impressed by how clean all of Antelope Island State Park was. From the bathrooms to the trails to the parking lots to…everything. It was litter free + I never had the chance to snag any trail karma picking up trash while I was out exploring. Well done Utah, well done! Y’all are awesome trail stewards!

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2 Comments

Denny Kumm · February 25, 2018 at 9:53 pm

Head up to Heber to the hot spring. Off the beaten path of the American Fork canyon toward Sun Dance there is some amazing shallow wetland mountain ponds with lots of visible brown Trout, really cool.

Find Your Adventure: The Best State Parks in the USA · April 2, 2018 at 9:40 am

[…] If you’re looking for place near Salt Lake City to get outside without heading into the mountain you should definitely check out Antelope Island State Park. The park is located less than an hour from downtown Salt Lake City and the SLC airport. It offers up at least 40 miles of trails to run, hike and mountain bike on. You can set up your campsite at Bridger Bay Campground then head out to explore the trails. Along the way you’ll definitely encounter a few herds of the free range bison. You’ll also find endless views of the Great Salt Lake, the Wasatch Range and the cityscape of downtown. Once you’re out on the trails you’ll be able to see weather rolling in from miles away, plenty of time to scamper back to your car! Overall, Antelope Island State Park is a great excuse to get away from the city for some solitude on the trails! Read more about Antelope Island State Park on Oversharing Life.  […]

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