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America's Best State Parks: Wildlife Mecca

Antelope Island, Utah

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How many bison can you boat across a lake? Answer: at least 12. In 1893, early conservationists brought a dozen of the 1,800-pound animals to Antelope Island, in the middle of Great Salt Lake. Now, the island’s 28,000 acres teem with life, including 600 bison, millions of migrating birds, pronhorn, mule deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes, badgers, and bobcats. Watch wildlife, swim in the salty lake (or just float—it’s up to eight times saltier than the ocean), walk the beaches, or trek inland for unbroken views of the Wasatch and Oquirrh Ranges across mirror-like waters.

For the latter, take on the 6.6-mile out-and-back to 6,596-foot Frary Peak, the island’s high point. The route gains 2,100 feet as it meanders past sagebrush meadows and rock outcroppings with open views of White Rock Bay to the summit. Scan for the bison herd and bring some binocs to check out the birds and bighorn sheep along the way.

Trailhead: Frary Peak (you can drive to the island via a causeway)

Season: March through October; call ahead to verify if the route is open (it’s closed when the bighorn sheep are lambing).

Permit: $10/vehicle