11. See the Great Salt Lake… Duh

Great Salt Lake

As the largest lake west of the Mississippi and the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere, there’s a reason this body of water has earned a name for itself. If you're looking for the best things to do in Salt Lake City, visiting the Great Salt Lake is one of them.


A Little Lake History - Things to Do in Salt Lake City

Even the city takes its name from the lake. While the city was originally named “the Great Salt Lake City,” the word “Great” was dropped from its title in 1868.

The lake offers a rich history, fascinating features, plays an important role in the local ecosystem and provides an abundance of fun, recreational activities. Did you know that it is the remains of the prehistoric Lake Bonneville? If you look around the valley, you can still see remnants of the Lake Bonneville shoreline as terraces around the mountains.

If you follow the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, you can even bike around it. This lake was well known by Native Americans and first seen by Europeans in 1824. After the region was settled in 1847, some settlers claimed to have seen what has become the North Shore Monster (basically Utah’s version of the Loch Ness). 

With a maximum depth of only 35 feet, the lake is very shallow. The area it covers largely depends on how much snow melts and the amount of runoff that reaches the lake. During an average year, the lake covers about 1,700 square miles.

Recreational Activities at Salt Lake - Things to Do In Salt Lake City

Salt Lake offers its residents and visitors alike opportunities to participate in some pretty fun watersports and recreational activities. You can sail, kayak, float, birdwatch, bike, hike, and more. Head over to the Great Salt Lake Marina to launch a kayak or boat, go on a sunset cruise, or take in a spectacular view. The best place to float or swim in the lake is Antelope Island State Park.

Due to the high salt presence, floating on the lake is incredibly easy. Antelope Island has trails for hiking and biking, amazing views, and the historic Fielding Garr Ranch. Visit near the end of October to check out the annual bison roundup. In the event that your visit happens to fall on another month of the year, check out their website for upcoming events.

What About Fishing?

There are some limited fishing opportunities available near the marina and other freshwater inlets in the lake. Because the lake has no outlets and only loses water by evaporation, most of the lake is too salty to support fish or other aquatic life larger than algae and brine shrimp - the larva of brine flies. To put this in perspective, the lake’s salinity is two to seven times that of the ocean. While there might not be great opportunities for fishing here, the lake is still an essential part of the ecosystem.