@36mUtah’s scenic Antelope Islan

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    By BRADLEY S. RICHARDSON

    For many, the Great Salt Lake represents brine shrimp, swarms of killer mosquitos and that well-known lake smell, but few know of the lake’s best kept secret, which is surrounded by at least seven miles of water.

    Antelope Island, located 25 minutes northeast of Salt Lake City, is becoming one of Utah’s recreational hot spots — particularly for road and mountain bikers.

    The island’s steep mountain terrain, arid desert climate and sandy beaches introduce mountain bikers to a wide variety of rides and recreation.

    “It’s great,” said Chris Johnson, 46, from South Weber. “This is as clear as the air gets out here.”

    Johnson, an avid bike rider, has ridden the island’s roads and trails many times. “It’s a great place to come road or mountain biking,” he said. “The pavement is flat, easy and has little traffic.”

    The road, a 7.2-mile causeway, takes riders from the mainland to the island. The road has wide bike lanes on each side to make riding safer and more enjoyable.

    “There are not so many places you can go with this (sized) lane and no traffic,” Johnson said. “You’ve got lots of space.”

    Johnson takes advantage of the easy ride by pulling his 3-year-old

    son, Lars, behind his bike in a kid trailer.

    Once on the island, bikers can ride down to the beach for a quick swim in the “anyone can float” saltwater or go directly to the mountain bike trails.

    One of the main attractions is the buffalo corral located a few minutes from the mountain bike trailhead. The island has one of the largest publicly owned bison herds in the nation.

    The White Rock Bay Loop mountain trail gives the rider a good view of the often, unseen west side of the island and lake.

    The 9.2-mile loop does have some steep grades. If you are not accustomed to mountain biking, you may need to get off and walk your bike in a few spots.

    Mark Roberts from Bountiful rides on mountain bike trails twice a week. He said Saturday’s temperatures were a rarity for a ride in July.

    “The views are great up here,” Roberts said after riding to the Split Rock Bay Overlook. “It’s a different type of riding than riding the alpine type of terrain in the mountains,” he said.

    “You don’t have to go to Moab to go biking,” said Tim Smith, manager of the Antelope Island State Park. However, the ideal time to ride the island is in February and March, he said.

    “We don’t get near the amount of snow accumulation as the mainland,” Smith said. “It’s year-round biking.”

    Beware, island temperatures are rather warm during the summer months.

    “It’s hot,” he said. “Pack lots of water.”

    Because of the mountain biker mentality of “the need for speed,” accidents are to be expected on the trails. In contrast, accidents on the road rarely occur, Smith said. He encourages all riders to wear a helmet.

    The park’s trails are designed more for those that wish to see the island’s scenery than for those that like to race, Smith said.

    Next June, an 11-mile trail will be built along the east side of the island.

    “It’s more for the beginner,” he said. “It’s going to be a major enhancement of those opportunities.”

    The park plans to make a 30 to 35-mile trail that will circle the entire island to cater to the needs of the hard-core mountain biker, Smith said.

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