The Great Salt Lake continues to be a popular destination among tourists. The Great Salt Lake is what remains from the prehistoric freshwater lake, Lake Bonneville. Between 10,000 to 30,000 years ago, Lake Bonneville covered 20,000 square miles of land in the area of what is known today as Utah, Nevada and Idaho. The lake was left without an outlet due to the fall in the water table, and its size shrunk due to evaporation. The Great Salt Lake is roughly 75 miles long and 35 miles wide. The deepest part of the lake is less than 50 feet. It is the largest inland lake west of the Mississippi.
The lake environment ranges from very salty (up to 28%) in the north arm, to the least salty (approximately 5%) at Farmington Bay, creating habitats to support a wide range of plants, animals and birds. With 10,000 miles of shorelines and 400,000 acres of wetlands it is a sanctuary for millions of birds each year for feeding, breeding and resting.
Antelope Island State Park
Antelope Island is 41 miles north of Salt Lake City, take exit 332 off of Interstate 15. Drive west on Antelope Drive. The island is accessible by automobile by driving on a 7.5 mile causeway. At 42 square miles, Antelope Island is the largest of ten islands located within the Great Salt Lake. There is plenty to do while visiting including hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping, bird watching, touring the historic ranch house, swimming, and boating. Leashed dogs are permitted only in specific areas. Be respectful of the wildlife which freely roams on the island, including Bison, antelope, deer, elk and coyotes. Be sure to give them plenty of space. Bison are able to run up to 40 miles per hour.
Antelope Island State Park has been officially designated as an International Dark Sky Park which makes it a perfect place for stargazing.
Follow the Antelope Island Facebook page to stay up to date on special events, such as Antelope by moonlight (a non-competitive bike ride), spider fest, ghost tour and more.
The Great Salt Lake State Park at 13312 West 1075 South in Magna offers a marina and boat launching facilities for motorized and sail boats, year-round campground, and is great location for bird watching. Be sure to watch for special events, such as the Full Moon Walks on Silver Sands Beach. A park ranger will share stories about the lake while walking on the beach under the light of the full moon.
Directions: It is approximately 30 miles from Salt Lake City. Take exit 104 off of I-80 and turn left at Saltair. Continue driving west, following the signs to the State Park.
Despite having suffered many setbacks over the years, Saltair has continued to rise up and adapt. Since 2005, Saltair has been a music venue with a capacity of 4600, attracting popular musical acts from all over the world. When Saltair was originally completed in 1893, it was one of the first amusement parks in America and was considered to be the Coney Island of the West. Visitors also enjoyed swimming and dancing at the venue. Saltair was damaged by fire in 1925. It was later rebuilt as the largest dance floor in the world, just as the Big Band era was spreading across the United States. In 1931, another fire broke out causing sufficient damage to close down the dance floor. A third fire started by arson during the 70’s completely destroyed the building. In 1981, Saltair III was built approximately one mile west of the original site. Unfortunately, within months of completion, the resort was flooded due to the rising water level of the Great Salt Lake and remained flooded for several years. Currently, the water level has receded far away from Saltair.
The Spiral Jetty is an earthwork sculpture created by Robert Smithson in 1970. It is located on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake. Using mud, salt crystals and over six thousand tons of black basalt rocks, Smithson formed a counterclockwise coil that is 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide. Depending on the level of the lake, it may be fully or partially submerged under water, or as it is at the present time, due to drought, is fully exposed. At certain times, the Great Salt Lake will have Pink Water due to the presence of microbes. Check this link for the directions. Be sure to have plenty of gas in your vehicle. Bring plenty of water, and snacks to eat as there are no services available.
The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is approximately 62 miles north of Salt Lake City, at 2155 W. Forest Street in Brigham City. Take exit 363 on I-15, turn left and follow the signs. The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge was created by Congress in 1928 to protect the marshes where the Bear River flows into the northeast arm of the Great Salt Lake. It is the largest freshwater component of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem and serves as the feeding and breeding grounds of migratory waterfowl. With nearly 80,000 acres of marsh, open water, mudflats and uplands, the refuge provides suitable migratory habitat for over 200 bird species, and 67 species nesting there.
Be sure to stop by the James V. Hansen Wildlife Education Center for interactive exhibits, short films and half-mile walking trail. There is a 12 mile auto route through the Refuge. It is a one-way route on an unpaved road. Once you begin the route, you will not be able to turn back or to exit before completing the tour. Be aware during inclement weather that the road may be closed off. Be sure to bring your binoculars and camera.
Beware of biting gnats! If you are visiting the Great Salt Lake during the spring, you may encounter biting gnats. Although they are tiny, they can create a lot of discomfort. Gnats are most active at dawn and at dusk. They are attracted to perfumes and scented soaps/shampoo etc. Avoid wearing scents while they are active. It is recommended to wear a fine-mesh head net to avoid being bitten.
Keep up with news about the Great Salt Lake at the Friends of the Great Salt Lake.
Additional Posts about Birds
The pathway to the Pfeifferhorn Peak is a popular 10.6 mile out and back trail with an elevation gain of 3,792 feet. It is also known as the “Little Matterhorn”. Although it has locally been known as the Pfeifferhorn after the death of Charles Pfeiffer in 1939, the name was officially changed in 2013 in recognition of the former President of the Wasatch Mountain Club. The summit at 11,362 feet is the fifth highest peak in the Wasatch Range, offering beautiful views. The trail is in a protected watershed, so dogs and swimming are prohibited.
Due to the elevation gain and scrambling over rocks, it is recommended for intermediate and advanced hikers. It is advised that you check the weather report before hiking, to avoid dangerous conditions such as avalanche or thunderstorms, depending on the season.
Driving Directions: From Salt Lake City, take I-15 to Exit 295. Turn east on 9000 South, driving 7.2 miles to Little Cottonwood Canyon. When you reach Wasatch Blvd, turn right and continue up Little Cottonwood Canyon for 5.2 miles where you will find the White Pine & Red Pine Trailhead parking lot on the right side of the road.
Trail: After parking at the trailhead, head south and cross a wooden footbridge over Little Cottonwood Creek. Follow the main trail which curves to the west, and at the split of the White Pine trail and the Red Pine trail you will cross over a second footbridge heading west. The trail heads northwest and then west to the Red Pine drainage. The trail curves to the south, and gradually works its way toward Red Pine Creek. You will come to an old mine on the left and a short ways farther you will see the trail split with the trail heading west going over another small bridge that will take you to Maybird Gulch and eventually to a small lake at the foot of the Pfeifferhorn. But follow the main route straight heading south that will take you to Red Pine Lake.
When you reach the Red Pine Lake head east toward White Baldy and the two Upper Red Pine Lakes. At the upper lakes go south along the ridge to the saddle between White Baldy and the Pfeifferhorn. There are great views from the saddle toward Box Elder Peak and to Mt. Timpanogas. Head west along the saddle toward the rocky ridge that leads you to the base of the Pfeifferhorn. Use care on this ridge as there is a bit of exposure The scamper up to the peak is about 500 feet and is a bit steep but not technical. When you get to the top, take a break, have a snack, and enjoy the views of Lone Peak, Chipman Peak, Hogum Fork, and Maybird Gulch, along with the spectacular sights of Utah Lake and Mt. Timpanogas. Use care when going down to retrace the route you took going up – if you go too far to the west you will be in danger of increased exposure.
Be sure to always be prepared, no matter what season. A storm can come up quickly and at that altitude, lightening can be a real danger, as well as the cold, even in the summer. Dress in layers, bring plenty of water, and protection from the sun.
Other interesting hikes:
Enjoy a scenic hike on the Diamond Fork Hot Springs Trail, and take a leisurely soak in the hot springs before heading back. It is a 4.5 miles in and out trail with a gradual elevation gain of approximately 700 feet. The trail is mostly shaded and runs alongside the water. Listening to the sounds of the running water and the birds singing makes it a very pleasant walk.
When you reach the bridge, you are approximately half way to the hot springs.
As you get closer to the hot springs you will begin to smell sulfur. The main pools are below the first waterfall.
A second waterfall is located just a short way above the first one. There are two soaking pools along the stream between the first and second waterfall.
Dogs are permitted on the trail, but must be kept on a leash. Dogs are not permitted in the hot springs. There are no fees to park or to use the hot springs.
Be aware that rattle snakes as well as non-poisonous western hognose snakes aka “blow snake” may be found on or near the trail or by the hot springs. It is best to ignore them and they will ignore you.
It is important to not leave food or garbage on the trail, because it will attract rodents, which then attracts the snakes. Please be sure to carry out everything you bring in.
Another option for picnicking would be to stop at the Red Ledges Picnic Area (approximately 3 miles south of the 3 Forks Trailhead parking lot). It offers picnic tables, grills and restrooms. There are also red rock formations and an arch created by wind and water to explore.
Click for information about campgrounds.
Directions: It is approximately a one hour drive south of Salt Lake City. Take the Spanish Fork Exit 257 off of I-15, and head east on Hwy 6 for 11 miles. Turn left for the Diamond Fork Campground. Continue driving for 9.9 miles to the parking lot for the 3 Forks Trailhead. The trail starts at the gate near the restrooms.
Additional hikes you may enjoy:
The Waterfall Canyon Trail is a wonderful escape from the city without ever leaving it. The trail offers great views overlooking the city of Ogden and ends at the base of a spectacular 200 foot waterfall. It is a 2.4 mile out and back hike, with an elevation gain of 1,105 feet. It is a moderate hike.
The trail passes through a gate for TR Guest Ranch, named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt who is known as the “conservationist president and used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands. Although the TR Guest Ranch is private property, it is open to the public to access the trails. Please be respectful and remain on the designated trails, and keep them free from litter. Dogs on leashes are permitted. There are no fees to access the trails, but donations are greatly appreciated.
The first part of the Waterfall Canyon trail follows the Bonneville Shoreline and is a smooth, easy hike, but is without shade from the sun. The trail intersects with several other hiking and biking trails. Remain on the main trail, which follows the stream. As you cross over the first of two small wooden bridges, the trail includes rocky, uneven terrain and depending on the season, may require crossing a little water on the trail.
Cool water will likely spray you as you make your way towards the waterfall. There is space to sit to take a break and enjoy the scenery before turning back.
Be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes and I recommend trekking poles or a walking stick to assist while climbing over large rocks. Be sure to bring plenty of water, a hat and sunglasses. Restrooms are available at the trailhead near the entrance of the parking lot.
Directions: The Waterfall Canyon Trail is approximately 35 miles from Salt Lake City. Take I-15 Northbound to US-89 N following signs to Ogden. Take Harrison Blvd and turn right on 30th street. Take a left onto Tyler Avenue and a right on 29th Street, the parking lot and trailhead are to the right.
Other interesting hikes:
It would be easy to miss Moonshine Arch as you are leaving Vernal on Highway 191. Less than a mile north of the entrance to the Steinaker State Park, you will find an unmarked dirt road to the left. Take a left on this road and travel for approximately a half of a mile to turn on a wide dirt road. (Links to maps are included below). The arch rises 40 feet above the ground, and is 85 feet long, but is hidden from view by the surrounding landscape until you are in front of it. It is worth your time to search for it. The arch is accessible by jeep, ATV or by an easy hike.
If you don’t have a high clearance vehicle, it is recommended that you park in the area outside of the green gate. The majority of the trail is sand, and slick rock. The arch is approximately one mile from the green gate.
It is a pleasant walk with a variety of plants and flowers along the trail, and with great views. When you reach the arch, you will find caverns which would be a great place to enjoy a picnic in the shade. Dogs are permitted, but be careful in hot weather to ensure the sand and slick rock is not too hot for their paws.
I would recommend hiking during the early morning or early evening to avoid the hot sun during the day. Be sure to wear a hat, and to bring plenty of water.
There are no fees to access. You can find directions for the trail at these sites.
Other interesting hikes:
Fall is the ideal time to hike the Wind Cave Trail to see the colorful foliage. Driving approximately 5 miles up the Logan Canyon National Scenic Byway, you will find the Wind Cave trailhead across the road from the Guinavah-Malibu Campground.
The Wind Cave is composed of a group of natural limestone arches and hollows. It was formed as water seeped through cracks in layers of underground limestone, creating caverns. Downward cutting from the Logan River exposed the caves, and the arches were created by water continuing to erode the limestone.
The trail is rated moderate with an elevation gain of approximately 1000 feet. It is 3.5 miles round trip. The elevation gain does not appear as steep due to switchbacks. The trail is well maintained and is clearly marked. If there is an unmarked trail that leads off, stick with the wider trail.
There is shade for the first half of the trail; however the last half does not have shade. It is advisable to dress in layers, wear a hat and protection from the sun. Be sure to bring plenty of water.
The trail is heavily trafficked at times, particularly during the weekends. If you prefer to hike when less people are on the trail, weekdays are a good option. Dogs on leashes are permitted.
The end of the trail leads to the top of the cave. If you have children with you, be sure to watch them carefully as there are steep drop-offs. You can climb down into the cave and explore the alcoves. It is a great place to rest in the shade of the cave and take photos of the gorgeous views.
Other interesting hikes:
Smokey skies from the wildfires did not discourage the volunteers who came out to clean up Antelope Island State Park on a very hot, windy day. A second group of volunteers met at the Great Salt Lake Marina State Park as part of the International Coastal Clean-Up Day.
For thirty-three years, the Ocean Conservancy has been organizing volunteers to clean up litter along their coastline. Volunteers throughout the U.S. and more than 100 countries join efforts to clean up beaches, waterways and oceans. In 2017, over 20 million pounds of trash (majority of it plastic) was picked up during the International Coastal Clean-Up Day.
Friends of Great Salt Lake organized Utah volunteers at two locations along the Great Salt Lake. Five million migrating birds representing 257 species will stop at the Great Salt Lake every year. Migratory birds are not only aesthetically beneficial to humans but have a vital role in the biodiversity for all ecosystems. They help pollinate, disperse seeds and regulate pests.
The effects from littering can have detrimental affects on birds. Discarded and rotting food can attract predators. Rats and feral cats attracted by food waste may also prey on the birds and/or their nests. Litter may lead to habitat loss, with fewer resources for nesting, feeding and shelter. Glass, plastic, fishing line and kite string can cause injuries to birds’ wings, legs, feet, or throats if entangled in them. Birds may mistake pieces of litter as food, and can suffer from digestive blockage or poisoning. Also, oil or grease could cause plumage disruption which would affect their ability to maintain proper insulation and easy flight.
Some people may believe that cleaning up the litter is an endless battle and that their effort really wouldn’t make a difference. However, just as every piece of litter that is carelessly discarded matters, the same goes for every piece of litter that is eliminated.
The Antelope Island clean-up focused on an area where shooters have been using discarded toys and electronic devices for target practice. Most electronics contain toxic materials including lead, nickel, zinc, and chromium. When released into the environment it can cause health problems to humans. Toxic materials can also seep into the groundwater affecting animals on land and in water.
The use of ammunition containing lead is discouraged. Accumulation of lead from ammunition on the lakebed will have a health impact on waterfowl.
Collected litter was weighed. Metal and toxic debris were separated from the paper, cardboard, plastic bottles and aluminum cans for proper disposal.
Within two hours, the combine efforts of hardworking volunteers were able to clear out 1000 pounds of litter.
“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are an entire ocean in a drop.” – Rumi
Festivities to educate, explore, restore, and enjoy the Jordan River and Jordan River Parkway are scheduled throughout the month of September during the annual “Get into the River Festival”. The Jordan River flows for fifty miles through sixteen cities in three counties.
Cities along the river are hosting events such as a Pancake Breakfast/ Puncturevines Pull, canoe and kayak float, riding the river trail with the Mayor, and a Children’s Beatles Tribute Choir. Although some of these activities have already taken place, there are many more fun events still to come. Check the schedule for information on activities.
There are additional opportunities scheduled for later this month to learn about the flora and fauna; plant trees and seeds, bird watch, listen to live music, play lawn games, mud volley ball, Ducky Derby Dash or enjoy a root beer float.
Each month, approximately 15,000 people utilize the Jordan River Parkway each month for walking, running, skating, cycling and horseback riding.
Although the festival events are scheduled only during September, the Jordan River and trails are enjoyable year round.
If volunteering as an individual or with a group to help with planting, weed pulling, or picking up trash to help maintain the Jordan River is of interest to you, (typically needed between April and October) check with Jordan River Commission for upcoming opportunities.
Cascade Springs, accessed from the Alpine Scenic Loop drive, offers an easy stroll alongside of cascading springs through limestone terraces. The lower trail at Cascade Springs is wheel chair accessible; the paved paths, wooden bridges and raised boardwalks make it easy to navigate with strollers, young children or anyone with limited abilities. The higher trail does include stairs which may hinder access to some. There are three interconnected trail loops; each would take approximately 15 minutes to walk.
It is a beautiful nature walk with a diverse ecosystem and interpretive signs identify some of the species of plants, trees and wildlife in the area. Take a seat on one of the benches and take in the sound of the water flowing. Over seven million gallons of water flow through the springs each day. The pools contain trout and you may see them swimming among the reeds, but fishing is not permitted. A variety of birds and mammals may be spotted, including songbirds, hawks, wild turkeys, beavers, deer and moose.
To see an abundance of flowers it is best to visit Cascade Springs between June and September. Fall colors from Aspen, Oak and Maple trees are best seen during September and October. The road to the trail will be closed during winter months due to snow.
How to get there:
Take the Highland/Alpine exit (Exit 284) from I-15. Travel east on State Route 92 to the Forest Service entrance station (approximately 8 miles). Cascade Springs is part of the Uinta National Forest and a fee is required to park in the American Fork Canyon. At the present time, a three day pass is $6. Weekly or annual passes are also available. They also accept the America the Beautiful Interagency Parks Pass.
Continue up American Fork Canyon on SR-92 (Alpine Loop Scenic Byway) for approximately 17 miles until you reach the Cascade Scenic Drive. The road to Cascade Springs goes left after you reach the summit. The Alpine Scenic Loop road is very narrow with switch backs that are very tight. Parking is available at the upper and lower trailheads.
Restrooms and drinking water is available. Dogs on leashes are permitted.
Other interesting hikes:
The Living Room Hiking Trail offers a short, but challenging hike for beautiful views overlooking Salt Lake City. The trail is approximately 2.5 miles roundtrip. The elevation at the start of the trailhead is 5,000 feet with an elevation gain of 967 feet. Dogs are permitted on this trail.
How to get there
From Foothill Drive, turn right onto Wakara Way and then right on to Colorow Road. The trailhead is on the east side of the street. Parking is available on both sides of the street.
Trailhead coordinates: 40.759301, – 111.8211300
Living Room coordinates: 40.763196, – 111.811905
The start of the trail offers some shade, but most of the trail does not. Be prepared to bring a hat, protection from the sun and plenty of water. I also recommend using hiking poles, not only because it is easier on your joints when you are walking; but they can also be used as a splint or crutches in an emergency.
There are multiple hiking and biking trails that split off which can be confusing for some people who are looking for the Living Room Trail. When you see the pipeline marker 174, you are heading towards George’s Hollow be sure to continue east (towards the mountain). When you reach the wooden post (photo is taken facing west) you will see two paths. Take the path on the right and continue heading east.
The trail varies from dirt, gravel to rocky areas.
The Living Room is a great spot to relax, eat a snack and take in the view of the city.
At this point, most people make the return trip back. However, if you would like a longer adventure there are many other trails to explore.
You may want to consider beginning your hike an hour before sunset for a stunning view. Be sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight if you will be hiking down after sunset. You may want to hike the trail during different seasons for a great display of wildflowers or fall colors.
Other interesting hikes: