The Great Salt Lake is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere—but that’s not its only selling point. Located in Utah, the lake and its surrounding islands are a paradise for anyone with an appreciation for gorgeous and unique landscapes.
There is also no shortage of things to do at this popular tourist destination—and there is something for everyone. History buffs will appreciate the area’s rich history and fascinating legends; outdoor adventurers will fall in love with the fishing, sailing, kayaking, swimming, and mountain biking; nature lovers will bask in the area’s diversity and abundant wildlife, and sightseers everywhere will revel in the natural beauty of the Great Salt Lake’s beautiful aquamarine waters and distinctive geography.
A Bit Of History About The Great Salt Lake
Left behind as the remainder of Lake Bonneville, an enormous, ancient lake that once covered what is currently Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, the lake is now landlocked and is the biggest lake between the Great Lakes and the Pacific Ocean. Visitors can take in parts of Lake Bonneville’s shoreline— and can even bike or hike along it for a real taste of history.
Legends also abound at this lovely lake. In the 19th century, settlers were convinced that there was an enormous monster residing there—Utah’s version of the Loch Ness Monster. Early explorers were also drawn to the region because it was thought to be an extension of the Pacific Ocean connected via a river. Spanish explorers in the 1700s were also convinced the area had hidden spots filled with jewels and precious gems. However, the myths of treasure were disproved early as more and more settlers inhabited the region. Native Americans were some of the first people to have knowledge of the area, but the first sighting is attributed in 1824 to European explorers Jim Bridger and Etienne Provost.
Outdoor Activities That Satisfy Every Adventurer
The lake is known as being a top spot for a variety of outdoor activities. Because the lake is so salty (about 2 to 7 times as salty as the ocean!), fish cannot survive there. But have no fear, there are plenty of freshwater marshes and inlets where visitors can find some fishing options, especially near the marina.
Fans of sailing, kayaking, and other water-based activities will find plenty to do at the Great Salt Lake. Sailing is one of the most popular activities, partly because of the proximity to full-service marinas at Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake Marina. Because of the shallowness of the lake (around 20 feet), only visitors with boating experience should attempt to sail there.
Kayaking is another popular activity on the lake as it is a great way to catch sight of hidden gems invisible from the shore. The Great Salt Lake has over 10,000 miles of shoreline to explore, so paddling through the turquoise waters can be an extremely rewarding experience. Be sure to take in the breathtaking mountain views and keep your eyes peeled for plenty of birds and wildlife.
Believe it or not, you can swim in the lake—and the water is actually so buoyant because of its salinity that you can actually float on the surface. The best place to swim is at Antelope Island State Park, where the lake’s pristine beaches also offer a great place to sunbathe and bask in the beautiful scenery.
Fans of hiking and biking will also love Antelope Island State Park where there are plenty of trails to explore. You can also horseback ride here too! With 25 miles of backcountry trails wending their way through the gorgeous scenery, there’s truly something for everyone. Be sure to check out Fielding Garr Ranch if you are stopping at Antelope Island, as it is a popular spot for events like the annual Bison Round-Up and the site of historic buildings and an important part of ranching history in Utah.
The Bonneville Shoreline Trail is another popular destination for hikers and bikers as it is the site of the prehistoric Lake Bonneville. There are plenty of intersecting trails along this route that surround Salt Lake City, and there are accessible trailheads that contain both single-track trails and loops.
Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife Watching
To experience the area’s unique diversity firsthand, be sure to visit the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve. Because of its essential role in the area’s ecosystem, the lake is an important stop for several species of migratory birds and is a great place for bird-watchers to break out those binoculars. You may even spot an American white pelican!
Birdwatchers will also enjoy the bear River Bird Refuge and the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, so be sure to check out these other locations to spot some unique birds.
Antelope Island is also home to many species including bison, elk, antelope, bobcats, coyotes, and more so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of the island’s various wildlife wonders.
Other Things To Do
If you’re more interested in taking in the sights without biking, hiking, boating, or birding, then have no fear, there are plenty of great views available throughout the park. Some popular areas include spots on Interstate 80 that offer spectacular views of the southern shoreline, Ensign Peak in northern Salt Lake City, and incredible sights accessible via the trails at Antelope Island. Be sure to catch a sunset during your visit, as the colors can’t be beaten!
Antelope Island also has opportunities for both camping and picnicking, so make it a day trip or stay for a while for some of the best stargazing opportunities in the area.
The Great Salt Lake has something for everyone looking to experience this unique landmark in Utah—the sights can’t be beaten and the recreational opportunities are perfect for anyone looking to explore or simply take the afternoon to bask in the jaw-dropping views of the lake and surrounding area.