Located just north of Salt Lake City, Davis County is filled with outdoor experiences to fill a summer day. The county, which borders the Great Salt Lake, is just minutes away from the big city, yet offers access to canyons, peaks, and one very impressive state park. What to do first? Here are the 9 must-do outdoor adventures to add to your list this season.
1. Summit Frary Peak at Antelope Island State Park
Antelope Island is one of Utah’s more unique state parks. The 28,022-acre island in the Great Salt Lake is a natural preserve as a draw for outdoor recreation. You can choose to explore nearly 20 miles of trails on the mountainous island, offering all kinds of adventures for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. But this summer, why not make a point to get to the summit of the 6,596-foot Frary Peak, the highpoint of the island? It’s a 6.3-mile round-trip hike, which most would classify as moderately difficult. At the top, you get a spectacular 360-degree view that’s not to be missed.
2. Hike to the Waterfalls in Adams Canyon
Adams Canyon Trail, one of the most popular hikes in Davis County, runs 3.5 miles up a canyon to a gorgeous 40-foot waterfall that plunges over a cliff. The excellent trail, beginning off Highway 89 on the east side of Layton, gains 1,187 feet from car to falls and takes three to four hours to hike roundtrip. Don’t get discouraged in the first half-mile as the trail gains 500 feet before entering the canyon. The best times to view the waterfall is May and June when snowmelt fills the creek and October when the scrub oak turns red and orange.
3. Hit the Beach
If you miss the ocean in land-locked Utah, then head over to Bridger Bay Beach on the northern edge of Antelope Island State Park. The huge, white-sand beach, stretching for two miles along the Great Salt Lake is Utah’s best place to spread out a towel, make a sand castle, set up a volleyball net, skip flat rocks, or take a swim in the briny water. The lake boasts a higher salt level than the ocean so you’ll float and bob in the buoyant water. The lake rarely has waves and there’s no drop-off, making it perfect for kids to wade in the shallows. The beach also offers forever views across the calm water and is simply the best spot in Davis County to enjoy the sunset.
4. Camp Under the Stars
Part of the appeal of camping is getting to enjoy an unfettered view of the night sky. Antelope Island State Park is an excellent spot for camping for many reasons, but at night, just look up to see an incredible show. The state park was recently named an International Dark Sky Park, meaning that it features an "exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment." Put simply, you’re far enough away from light pollution to get an amazing view. Visit the website to find out more information about star parties and night photography classes. You’ll find a wide variety of camping options in the park—from RV-supporting campgrounds to primitive camping. You can even stay in an a teepee or yurt!
5. Go Bird Watching
Does bird watching sound a little boring to you? Think again, as the Great Salt Lake on the western edge of Davis County, attracts more than 2.5 million shorebirds. The drive to the state park via the seven-mile Antelope Island Causeway is famed for migrating shorebirds, particularly eared grebes and Wilson’s phalarope. Antelope Island State Park offers more than 250 species, including great horned, short-eared, long-eared, barn, and burrowing owls. The Fielding Garr Ranch on the island attracts migrating songbirds. Another great Davis County hotspot is Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area. Look for migrant shorebirds and waterfowl, wading birds and rails, and in winter, dozens of bald eagles. One last stop should be the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, a wetlands area that features a mile-long boardwalk to give you up-close wildlife views, and a 30-foot observation tower to see the big picture.
6. Hike the Davis Creek Trail
This is another Davis County favorite that ends with a waterfall. This 3.2-mile round trip trail is fun all the way to the waterfall, with shade available for much of it and some creek crossings to keep things interesting. There’s also camping relatively close by at Bountiful Peak Campground if you want to make a weekend trip out of this one—plus dogs are allowed on the trail, so bring your four-legged friend.
7. Go Fishing
One of life’s great pleasures is tossing a line and hook into a fishing hole on a summer evening and watching the sun go down. Davis County is Utah’s smallest county but rivals bigger Salt Lake County with its eight urban fishing holes. The State Division of Wildlife Resources and local governments developed the fisheries as places to not only catch fish, but to walk a trail, enjoy a picnic lunch, feed ducks, take in the scenery, and channel your inner Huck Finn. The best ponds are 50-acre Bountiful Lake; Jensen Nature Park Pond, a jewel in Syracuse; and scenic four-acre Farmington Pond. Some have fishing piers, are handicapped accessible, and allow non-motorized boats. What you catch is often what’s been recently stocked, including rainbow trout, bluegill, largemouth bass, channel catfish, and walleye.
8. Get on the Mountain Bike
Davis County is mountain bike central for northern Utah, offering miles of trails from family rides to technical experts-only tracks. Family-friendly trails include the 1.3-mile Kaysville East Mountain Wilderness Park Trail, the five-mile Farmington Flats Loop, and the flat 12.6-mile Legacy Parkway Trail, which runs from Farmington to North Salt Lake. Advanced riders head for the hills. The 13-mile Mueller Park Trail from Bountiful is a singletrack, out-and-back classic to Rudy’s Flat. The best Antelope Island ride is 22-mile, out-and-back Mountain View Trail, with birds, bison, and great views. The island also offers the singletrack Shoreline and East Shore trails, and the doubletrack Split Rock Bay and White Rock Bay trails. The Bonneville Shoreline Trail, following the high-water mark of ancient Lake Bonneville, is a fun intermediate ride from I-84 to Farmington. It features both doubletrack and singletrack trail with some hilly sections.
9. Climb to Flag Rock
This hike to a ridge in Farmington is impressive on its own, but it has special meaning thanks to the work of local residents. Start at the South trailhead in Farmington and take a left on the trail for a break in the cool air of Patsy’s Mine. Patsy Marley was a miner from more than 100 years ago, and if you take this trail, you can see some tunnels that he carved out back then. The 1.25-mile hike will take you to the top of the ridge where you’ll see Flag Rock, which features a flag pole and American flag that was placed on the site by local resident Randy Walker to commemorate 9/11. Although it’s short, the majority of it is steep, so be ready for an uphill challenge. You’ll get a rewarding view of the valley from the top, but the flag is what you’ll remember.
Written by Stewart Green for RootsRated in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.