Stansbury Island and Castle Rock

Stansbury Island

A view southwest from the main ridge of Stansbury Island, between Castle Rock and Stansbury Peak. During spring, green grasses carpet the island.

One weekend in the early summer, my brother and I found ourselves browsing the internet for geocaches to hunt down. A brand new listing popped up near Castle Rock on Stansbury Island. I’d never been there. Stansbury Island is a small chain of mountain peaks that jut into the south end of the Great Salt Lake. We figured this was as good an excuse as any to get out and explore.

Early the next morning we drove out to the island, hoping to be the first to find the cache. The island is anchored to the mainland by a permanent gravel road. The road passes between alternating red and white evaporation ponds, used for salt collection by AMAX Magnesium and Morton Salt Company. The ponds are fenced in by a series of dikes to the south and west of the island.

On the west side of the island, about halfway between Stansbury Peak and Castle Rock, we spotted a ridge climbing up to the main backbone of the island. We followed a faint two-track road to the base of the ridge, until it faded away into the grass and gravel. After finding a nice parking spot deep in the island’s shadow, we gasped and panted our way up to the saddle. Upon reaching the top I was winded, but it wasn’t enough to rob me of the euphoria that accompanies cresting a high point. Glittering blue water expanded into the distance. Antelope Island was visible off to the North. Beyond that was nothing but sky and water.

Spring turned out to be the perfect time to visit the island. A lush carpet of grass sprouted between the rocks all across the island. Wild flax and other flowers bobbed their heads in the sun-drenched breeze. As I stepped out onto the highest ridgeline and surveyed our surroundings, it seemed more the Mediterranean than Utah.

Castle Rock

Looking south past Castle Rock on Stansbury Island.

From there it was a short jaunt south to Castle Rock. Castle Rock is slightly lower in elevation than Stansbury Peak, the island’s namesake. But with its wild wreck of mammoth-sized boulders, it’s the more scenic of the two high points. No technical skills were required to reach the top, but it was a steep scramble. Use some caution: the rocks claimed a chunk of my brother’s shin before we were finished.

If you’re looking for expansive views of the Great Salt Lake, this is a great spot to catch them.

Getting There

Take exit 84 north from Interstate 80. Head immediately west on Stansbury Road as it parallels the Interstate. You will pass two stop signs and a set of railroad tracks. The road is only paved a short distance from the Interstate. It quickly gives way to well-graded gravel. Continue following the road as it veers north and skims between the evaporation ponds toward the island. About 8 miles past the second stop sign, look for a place to pull off the road and park.

Keep in mind that large parts of the island are private property: respect posted signs. Everything above the foothills, however, is public land.

GPS Coordinates

Castle Rock: 40.8468° N 112.4990° W

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