Independence Day we decided to head out for a sunset hike on Antelope Island in the middle of the great Salt Lake! It was _hot_ and the evening sun provided no relief. The views were fantastic from the top of Frary trail, a 7.3 mile out-and-back, the sunset gorgeous, but the fireworks were but small twinkles in the city skyline 30-miles away!
Hot Frary Trail hike
We started at 6pm and it was still in the upper 90’s, sun blazing. It is an hour drive from SLC because the only way to the island is over a land bridge on the North side of the island. After we entered, we were treated to views of hundreds of bison (buffalo??) right from the car. Looks like they were trying to cool off on the salty beaches.
Frary Trail is rated Hard on Alltrails.com and it earns primarily through zero shade, a good, 2,300 ft climb, and some rocky terrain inside a 3.1 mile trail (plus the return). We were a bit worried about how many people might be out there for a sunset hike on July 4th, due to fireworks. However, we only met 1 person returning when we got to the trailhead!
The trail offered a beautiful, rolling grasslands, with plenty of wildlife and quite a few exposed rocks. Apparently these are some of the oldest rocks around! Definitely not what we expected seeing the island from SLC. The pup was ready for action and did very well, but she was feeling the heat by the time we hit the top of the mountain.
We ran into some antelope(??) on our way up- they were crossing the field in front of us, just a hundred feet or so. They were really eye-ing us up, so we waited and they meandered across the path. We saw a few more scattered around the paths as the sun set.
The last leg of the hike is a bit of challenge- it offers 2 paths. One is across a craggy ridgeline that is really not meant to be hiked at all, and the second is down and then up and up a pretty well-marked path.
Golden hour makes for some fantastic shots
Take a look at the shot I capture of Beth during the last hour or so of sunlight. Fantastic shadowing at this faux-peak about a half mile still to go.
Sunset at the peak offers spectacular 360
The real show was at the the peak at 6,445 ft of elevation. You are able to see 360 and miles and miles in every direction. Salt Lake City sits due East about 30 miles as the crow flies and makes for a humbling setting in front of the mountain range. The real show is to the West, with the sunset over the far mountains and the Salt Lake.
When we hit the top we were joined not long after by a few more folks: a couple single hikers plus a group of 4 that was struggling to get up… Looks like they were planning to have a few drinks and stay up past the fireworks. They were going to be in for an unpleasant return hike.
Dark, dark return hike
We started down the return around 10pm, just as the sun had set. We still had some light for the most difficult half mile; however, that bit of good fortune quickly ended as the sky grew darker. When the sun sets out on Antelope Island it is DARK. Not true International Dark Sky’s dark, but no artificial lights outside SLC. We had a heck of time coming down the entire trail after nautical twilight. We really had to pick around the rocks in the trail that hadn’t even given us notice on the way up. On top of that, we heard animals… I mean, all kinds of them. We heard coyotes as soon as the sun set, the bleating of the deer and antelope in the distance, and the constant, low rumbling of the bison(!!!) at the lower elevation. On top of that, there are many large rocks sticking out of the ground, just outside flashlight view that at every turn make you think you’re going to run right into one of those big things. It really felt like being out in nature.
For the dog, the return hike was just… miserable. We would highly discourage folks from making the dark decent with their furry friend. It was hard for us to see, but impossible for the dog to see, so it was slow going picking through the trail.
The fireworks were but small twinkles
So, what about the FIREWORKS! It is July 4, after all. Well… We were able to see some grand city views on our return hike. The fireworks, though, were only small twinkling lights that must have been spaced every city block. In fact when I first saw them, I thought I was looking at blinking street lights. It’s amazing how small the fireworks look at such a distance when they look so big and beautiful when you are beneath them! The whole of the greater Salt Lake City area was twinkling the entire time we descended.
It was a long, dark, and lonely drive back to civilization off the island… very appropriate way to end it!