While the Wasatch Mountain range is perhaps best known for its world-class skiing, there are plenty of other adventurous options awaiting in the region during winter. Just north of Salt Lake City, Davis County makes for an ideal destination this time of year, with snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hiking, and wildlife opportunities around every (snow-covered) bend. Deep snow blankets the northern Wasatch Range above Bountiful, Centerville, Farmington, and Layton, forming an easily accessible playground for snow enthusiasts, while unique Antelope Island State Park in the eastern Great Salt Lake offers hiking, wildlife watching, stargazing, and solitude. Here, six wintertime adventures to check out in Davis County when the weather turns chilly.
1. Hike and Sled on Antelope Island
Winter is the quiet season at Antelope Island State Park, and for the visitors who come this time of year the advantages are plenty: sparse crowds, no bugs, wildlife galore, and stunning views of the snow-blanketed landscapes. Ambitious adventurers can tackle a hike to snowy, 6,596-foot summit of Frary Peak for an all-day adventure, while a half-mile trek to Buffalo Point is a more relaxed way to soak up sunset colors above the shimmering Great Salt Lake. Since the island receives less snow than the mainland, it’s not an ideal spot for cross-country skiing, but bring a sled to bang out some fun-filled runs the hill above Bridger Beach after snowfall. The park is open at sunrise to after sunset and the visitor center is open daily except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Don’t forget the binoculars to spot wildlife—and a Thermos of something warm to ward off the chill.
2. Snowmobile in the Bountiful Mountains
Davis County offers fine non-groomed snowmobiling routes that are easily accessed from the cities below the Wasatch Mountains. The best ways to reach the high peaks where the snow is deep and untracked is on the 24-mile Skyline Drive up Farmington Canyon from Farmington and its southern leg above Bountiful. Both roads offer great rides, especially after fresh snow. At the top of Farmington Canyon, go right to Farmington Flats behind Bountiful Peak or left on Forest Road 009, the Francis Peak Road, along the range crest for five miles to Mount Francis. Whichever route you choose, be sure to check on avalanche conditions ahead of time.
3. Starry Nights over Antelope Island
Designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2017, Antelope Island State Park beckons astronomy fans as a sublime spot to appreciate the clear, starry skies of winter along the Wasatch Front’s busy urban corridor. The island’s western side is designated as the darkest place in Davis County, thanks to a high mountain ridge that blocks light pollution from the western shore and gives stargazers and photographers an uninhibited view of the clear night sky. Set up a telescope and marvel at the planets, the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy, passing satellites, and the Ursid and Geminid meteor showers. While the park gate closes at 7 pm, astronomers can linger after dark for sky viewing and leave when they want.
4. Explore the Wasatch Range via Snowshoe
With more than 500 miles of trails, Davis County offers ideal snowshoeing terrain that’s easily accessible from its cities. Most of trails are out-and-back hikes, and recommended favorites include the 1.4-mile Farmington-Sunset Trail up Farmington Creek from a parking area on Skyline Drive; the 2.8-mile Mueller Park Trail to Elephant Rock; and the steep 1.4-mile Kenney Creek Trail to a lofty viewpoint. For unforgettable views, check out the 3.5-mile Adams Canyon Trail, which winds up a canyon to frozen 40-foot-high Adams Canyon Falls, or the North Canyon Trail, which climbs four miles to Grandview Lookout with expansive views across Davis County and Rudy’s Flat. Snowshoe adventures are always best after fresh snow, so always be aware of avalanche danger on steep slopes.
5. Hone Your Wildlife Photography Skills on Antelope Island
Despite its name, but it’s not just antelope that make their home on this scenic island, including some 600 bison that forage for grass under the blanket of snow and coyotes that romp around in the winter wonderland. No surprise, then, that Antelope island is a favorite spot among wildlife photographers, especially in winter. Keep the long lens on your camera to grab shots of bald eagles and owls along the north shoreline, where the water never freezes.
6. Spot Bald Eagles at Farmington Bay
The Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, opened year-round from 8 am to 5 pm, is an excellent spot to see more than 200 different varieties of waterbirds, songbirds, and raptors that make the area home during migration and nesting seasons. You’ll find many fewer birds during the winter, with one notable exception—bald eagles. A group of these regal predators spends winters in Farmington Bay, giving visitors the opportunity to see them up close and in action. Bring your camera and take advantage of one of the best birding opportunities in the region, especially for this time of year.
Written by Stewart Green for RootsRated Media in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.