Trying to figure out what to do and see in Salt Lake City? With so much to do and see in this scenic city, it's hard to know where to start! Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah and was founded in 1847 by a group of Mormon settlers, led by Brigham Young. Following a mass movement west by Mormon settlers to Salt Lake City, the area became the headquarters for the Church of the Latter Day Saints. To this day, the area is still heavily influenced by the Mormon church with many of Salt Lake City's downtown attractions such as Temple Square having ties to the Mormon church. We were able to spend a couple days here as we traveled thru Utah and fell in love with this beautiful, scenic city!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ANTELOPE ISLAND STATE PARK
Visiting Salt Lake City is not complete without a trip out to see the Great Salt Lake! We choose to visit Antelope Island State Park which covers the largest island located within the Great Salt Lake. It is a bit of a trek from downtown Salt Lake City with an almost two hour drive to reach the park - but we loved visiting this beautiful park! Home to antelope, bison, deer, bobcats and numerous varieties of birds - exploring this park is a wildlife lovers dream! In fact, over 600 bison live on Antelope Island! In addition to the vast amount of wildlife - swimming in the Great Salt Lake is another top attraction while visiting Antelope Island State Park. The Great Salt Lake is quite large at over 1,700 square miles with no outlets, creating extreme salinity - making the water super buoyant and fun for floating upon!
LADY FINGER POINT
For a quick hike, our first stop upon entering Antelope Island State Park was hiking the half mile roundtrip Lady Finger Point Trail. Offering great views out over the Great Salt Lake, this is a great family friendly walk with numerous rock scrambling opportunities for the kids! Our son loved climbing and playing around along this trail!
Our next stop was at the Antelope Island Visitor Center where you can catch a short informational video, read the displays to learn more about the park and just enjoy the views out over Antelope Island and of the Great Salt Lake. Even on a gray, smoke filled day as we had when visiting the park, the views from here were wonderful!
For those of you wanting to take a swim in the Great Salt Lake and experience it's extreme buoyancy, Bridger Bay is the spot! Here you will find a large sandy beach where you can access the Great Salt Lake shoreline. A 550 yard walk will take you out to the waters edge where you will need to wade out for quite a bit as the water is very shallow. After getting deep enough - take a float! Experience the salty, buoyant water and float upon the Great Salt Lake! A quick warning though - the shoreline may be very buggy depending on the season you visit and many people are turned away from wanting to swim due to the extreme amount of brine flies found here. Brine flies love the algae found along the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake that forms from the high salt content of the waters. Due to this this - large, massive amounts of these brine flies fill the shorelines of the Great Salt Lake. My advice - just go fast! Run past the gross flies until you are out in the water - then it becomes much less buggy and much more pleasant! Another tip - do not swim in the water if you are sun-burnt. Our son had a son burn on the back of his neck and screamed total bloody murder once the salty waters hit his neck! Needless to say - swimming at the Great Salt Lake was not one of his favorite experiences!
BUFFALO POINT TRAIL
For another quick, east hike - we enjoyed hiking the 0.8 mile Buffalo Point Trail. From the parking lot there is a large observation deck to take in the views. From here, start the trail up to Buffalo Point. With 248 feet in elevation gain, the exposed trail can be a bit hot in the extreme summer heat but the views are worth it! From Buffalo Point you can enjoy the panoramic views over the Great Salt Lake, hunt for lizards among the rocks and possibly even view bison or antelope in the distance.
FIELDING GARR RANCH
First established in 1848 by Fielding Garr who had been assigned by the Mormon church to establish a ranch here, the Fielding Garr Ranch was run by the Mormon church until 1870s. In 1869, the Federal government opened up the rest of the island to homesteading and the Fielding Garr Ranch passed thru numerous owners including becoming one of the largest cattle ranches in Utah until it became part of Antelope State Park in 1981. Walking thru the property was like stepping back in time - we loved exploring the old buildings, farm machinery and old trucks found along the farm property. In addition, this area is one of the best areas to view the bison. While the bison do wander all over the island, they are particularly drawn to the natural springs found on this part of the island.
Situated in the middle of downtown Salt Lake City sits a 10 acre complex owned by the Mormon Church named Temple Square. As the headquarters for the Church of the Latter Day Saints, the area is home to numerous administrative buildings as well as the Salt Lake Temple, Mormon Tabernacle, the Family History Library (which is great for those interested in genealogy) and numerous historical buildings, making the area one of the most popular attractions when visiting Salt Lake City. Even if you are not of the Mormon religion, exploring this area is a wonderful way to spend some time learning about the history and origins of the beginnings of Salt Lake City.
SALT LAKE TEMPLE
Not to be missed, the gem of Temple Square is the Salt Lake Temple. Taking over 40 years to build, and dedicated in 1893, this temple is the largest of any Mormon temple and is considered sacred so only those of Mormon faith are allowed to enter the temple. Even without entering the temple, you can enjoy the architectural beauty of this giant church from the lovely grounds surrounding the church.
If you time your visit right - make a stop to enjoy the Mormon Tabernacle Choir inside the Mormon Tabernacle - performances are free and are held twice weekly. Our visit did not time out
to be able to enjoy this - but we have heard listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is absolutely wonderful!
DEUEL PIONEER LOG HOUSE
For those that are interested in a bit of history - the Deuel Pioneer Log House is worth a stop - showcasing a typical log cabin of the early Mormon settlers, this is one of only two remaining log cabins that were built by the original Mormon settlers of Salt Lake City back in 1847.
Named for the Beehive statue atop of the house, the Beehive House was the residence of Brigham Young, the president of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Originally the beehive was a symbol of the Mormon church representing unity, community and harmony among the early Mormon settlers, eventually the symbol would go onto become symbol of the State of Utah.
UTAH STATE CAPITAL
Located on Capitol Hill, overlooking downtown Salt Lake City, the Utah State Capital building was built between 1912 to 1916 and is worth a stop. Tours can be arranged for inside the building or you can just stop by and wander thru on your own enjoying the wonderful architecture. Throughout your trip to Utah you will begin to notice the abundance of beehives found in details around you - in fact standing out front of the Capitol building is a large beehive statue. The beehive is actually the icon of Utah found on the state flag and state seal and represents 'community', with everyone in Utah working together as a community to help and support one another. Adding to our time visiting the Utah Capital building, we stopped and rented a scooter for a few minutes - we had a blast driving our son around the sidewalks surrounding the Capital! While we only enjoyed the scooters around this small area - this would be a wonderful way to see more of Salt Lake City!
UNIVERSITY OF UTAH
As Washington State University alums we always love to stop and visit other Pac-12 schools when we are in the area - preferably if there is a football game going on! Unfortunately, no luck with the football game but we did still take a few minutes to walk thru the University of Utah's campus and view the stadium. While I can't really say 'Go Utes' as that just doesn't vibe with our die hard love of all things Washington State University - we did enjoy our time walking thru this scenic campus.
For amazing views looking out over the whole of Salt Lake City, head to Ensign Peak. After arriving to the Salt Lake Valley back in 1847, Brigham Young and a group of other Mormon settlers climbed the peak here at Ensign Peak to view the valley below. Here at Ensign Peak, they laid out their plans for the city they intended to build, and today the spot is marked by a monument at the top of the peak. The one mile roundtrip hike is a bit steep with almost 400 feet in elevation gain - but the views at the top are stunning!
For a perfect day trip from Salt Lake City, a quick 40 minute drive will take you to Park City. Originally built as a mining town in the early 19th century, today Park City is home to world class skiing and has been named one of the 'Prettiest Towns in America' according to Forbes. During the winter months, Deer Mountain Resort and Park City Mountain Resort offer some of the finest skiing you'll find anywhere and hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002. Not only though is the area a winter destination, but is great to visit year around! We spent a day enjoying this area during a gloomy, rainy summer day and despite the weather had a wonderful time!
UTAH OLYMPIC PARK
Our first stop of the morning was at the Utah Olympic Park. Built for the 2002 Olympics, today the park is used as a training facility for Olympic Athletes and also includes a 2002 Olympics Museum as well as a host of different activities that can be enjoyed while visiting this park. We started off our morning by watching the athletes train as they practiced their ski jumps into the pool - this was great! Then after watching this, we were able to purchase tickets for our own adventure! Activities available include Bobsledding, Extreme Tubing, Ziplines and Alpine Coasters. With a 3 year old in tow, we were limited to the Alpine Coasters - but what a blast! Coasting down the mountainside along this course was a thrill! Great for the whole family, the Alpine Coasters are a must do! Someday if we are ever back in the area, I would love to return and try out the other activities as well!
DOWNTOWN PARK CITY
After getting our fill of Alpine Coasters, we then headed into downtown Park City. Park City's Main Street is lined with historic buildings that date back to the early 19th century during the silver boom. Wandering thru the charming streets of Park City, you will come across high end retailers, souvenir shops and endless restaurant choices that make this a wonderful place to just stroll and enjoy the sights.
Interested in planning your own trip to Salt Lake City, Utah? Below is our summarized itinerary for you to follow or adjust to your own preferences. ENJOY!
Day 1: Salt Lake City - drive to Antelope Island State Park (leave by 7:30am): $10 fee, Lady Finger Point (0.5 miles roundtrip), Visitor Center (opens at 9am), Swim at Bridger Bay Day Use Area, Buffalo Point Trail (0.08 miles roundtrip), Historic Fielding Garr Ranch, then back to Salt Lake City try to arrive by 2pm: Temple Square, State Capital, University of Utah, Ensign Peak (1 mile roundtrip).
Day 2: Salt Lake City - Drive to Park City (40 minutes - leave by 8am) - Explore Main Street, Utah Olympic Park (Olympic Museum, watch Olympic athletes train in the jump pool, ride the Alpine Coaster).