Top Places To Birdwatch in Utah – Free & Paid Birding Destinations

January 13, 2022 // 22 minute read

Birding Locations » US » Birding In Utah

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Utah is an exciting state to live in or visit if you’re interested in birdwatching. Similar to many of its neighbors in the Southwest, this area is made up of birding habitats including the conifer forests in the Rocky Mountains and the arid desert land.

Tourists tend to like visiting the Beehive State because of the stunningly beautiful and absolutely gorgeous national parks. And as far as birdwatchers go, they absolutely appreciate this state because of the many birding attractions, the large plethora of waterfowl near the Great Salt Lake, and the many opportunities to view millions of migrating shorebirds throughout the region near the Great Salt Lake.

From a personal perspective, I always like visiting Utah whenever I can because of the amazing venues that provide so many fantastic bird watching opportunities. The residents of this wonderful state are so lucky because they have so many amazing opportunities to view a wide range of birds in free and paid destinations. I’ll do my best to tell you about my favorites below, so please keep reading to discover my top choices.

Guess what? Utah is also perfect for birders because there are a number of great bird watching groups and a few chapters of the National Audubon Society that they can get involved with. Connecting with these organizations and becoming a member means connecting with other like-minded people. It provides opportunities to enjoy birdwatching with a group of individuals of similar taste and character.

Are you ready to learn about the top free and paid destinations for birdwatching in the Beehive State? Please take a closer look at the resources shared below. And while you’re at it, consider revisiting my detailed pages on the bordering states including Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.

Bird Watching Destinations in Utah: Free Destinations

Now, I’d like to tell you about a number of different free bird watching destinations that I’ve discovered in the state of Utah. Everything that I’m about to share regarding these locations makes them some of the top places to visit in the entire state, and since it’s free to enter these locations, it’s also a very inexpensive way to spend the day outside with family members, friends, and other members of your birdwatching club.

Even more important, I’m going to share what I consider the top places to visit for free or a minimal fee in the Beehive State. So, the next time you’re planning a birdwatching trip, please consider visiting one or more of these locations because they are accessible, lively, and filled with many of the most beautiful bird species you’ll ever see. Take in the sights and sounds of these magnificent birdwatching and get ready for the experience of a lifetime.

Antelope Island State Park – Small Entrance Fee, Paid Parking

Like the other state parks in Utah, Antelope Island State Park requires a very small entrance fee to enter the park on bicycle or foot. If you come in a vehicle, the entrance fee could potentially be even cheaper depending on how many people are with you at the time.

You’re going to love visiting Antelope Island State Park because it’s currently considered one of the top birding phenomena of the West. There is a large gathering of birds in the late summer and fall near the causeway, right near the Great Salt Lake. This area is swarmed with millions of birds throughout the year during the migration., And that any day he’ll see hundreds of thousands of different birds and a long list of various bird species that you’ll see with your own eyes whenever you visit during the migration time of year.

Location:

4528 W. 1700 S.
Syracuse, UT 84075

Phone: 801-725-9263
GPS: 41.0324° N, 112.2279° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park is open every day from 6 AM to 10 PM. It’s closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

The visitor Center hours are every day from 10 AM to 4 PM. And the Fielding Garr Ranch Hours are every day from 9 AM to 5 PM.

  • Burrowing Owl
  • Northern Harrier
  • American Avocet
  • White-Faced Ibis
  • Bonaparte’s Gull
  • Brewer’s Sparrow
  • Sage Thrasher
  • Horned Lark
  • Western Sandpiper
  • Bald Eagle
  • Grasshopper Sparrow
  • Rock Wren

Vehicle and Entrance Fees:

  • Regular Vehicle Fee – $15 per day, up to eight people per vehicle
  • Senior Resident (65+) Vehicle Fee – $10 per day, up to eight people 65 and older
  • Commercial Passenger Vehicle Fee – $3 per person per day in vehicles with more than eight people
  • Commercial Vehicle Fee – $5 per person per day in vehicles with over eight people
  • Pedestrian/Bicyclist Day Pass – $3 per day

Hiking Trails:

It turns out that there are a great many hiking trails for visitors to travel upon in Antelope Island State Park. Instead of sharing every single hiking trail with you today, I’m going to narrow it down to my top 10 favorites and share the most pertinent details about each trail without providing too descriptive of an explanation.

The names of these trails and other important info include:

  • Frary Peak Trail – hard difficulty, 6.9 miles, four hours and 25 minutes to complete
  • Dooly Knob Trail – moderate difficulty, 2.4 miles, one hour and 30 minutes to complete
  • Lake Side Trail Loop – easy difficulty, 5.1 miles, two hours and 15 minutes to complete
  • Elephant Head and Mormon Rocks Loop – hard difficulty, 21.6 miles, 10 hours and 35 minutes to complete
  • Antelope Island to Fielding Garr Ranch Cycle Route – moderate difficulty, 36.5 miles, 18 hours to complete
  • Frary Homestead Trail – easy difficulty, 1.0 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  • Beacon Knoll – moderate difficulty, 6.2 miles, two hours and 55 minutes to complete
  • Mountain View Trail – easy difficulty, 11.4 miles, four hours and 55 minutes to complete
  • Split Rock Loop Trail – moderate difficulty, 11.4 miles, five hours and 40 minutes to complete
  • White Rock Loop – easy difficulty, 7.4 miles, three hours and 30 minutes to complete

Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge – No Entrance Fee

Are you ready for an outdoor birding adventure? Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge is roughly 100 miles of Salt Lake City to the southwest. It’s definitely a track because you’ll have to travel a long way from the city and you’ll even have to journey along unpaved roads, but this location is one of the best places in the entire state to go to if you’re looking for a memorable birding experience.

This area is filled with natural springs that create an amazing ecosystem that encompasses 10,000 acres of refuge land and nearly 18,000 acres of wetlands. It’s an impressive sight to behold and some of your favorite birds tend to congregate here throughout the year.

Location:

Headquarters Address
8545 Auto Tour Route
Ibapah, UT 84034

Mailing Address
PO Box 568
Dugway, UT 84022

Phone: 435-693-3122
GPS: 39.8399° N, 113.3994° W

Hours Of Operation:

This refuge is open each day, 365 days a year, from a half an hour before sunrise and a half an hour after sunset.

  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Williamson’s Sapsucker
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Rough-Legged Hawk
  • Marsh Wren
  • Yellow-Headed Blackbird
  • Sage Thrasher
  • Blue Warbler
  • Reddish Egret
  • Black-Throated Sparrow
  • Prairie Falcon
  • Black-Throated
  • Golden Eagle

Hiking Trails:

Although hiking is definitely a big part of spending time in this 10,000-acre NWR, I was only able to find information about one hiking trail in the area. And undoubtedly, there are many other trails for you to travel upon in the area since this is such a vast space of gorgeous wetlands.

The name of the hiking trail and even more important details include:

  • Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge Trail – the thing I like most about this trail is that it’s really easy to navigate and well-kept and maintained. And it’s relatively short as well, so even the least avid hiker should have no trouble completing the entire trail from beginning to end. This simple trail is only 2.3 miles from start to finish, so the average person walking at a moderate pace should complete this trail in just under an hour, give or take 10 minutes or so.

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge – No Entrance Fee

Just to the northern portion of the Great Salt Lake, you’ll drive and discover one of the finest and birdwatching sites in the entire west. This area is made up of more than 80,000 acres of land including open water, mud flats, marshes, and more. It’s one of the most pivotal spots throughout the entire area for nesting, resting, and feeding birds of many types including shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl, and a wide range of other species.

Bear River is an important feature in the area because it’s the nesting home of the White-faced Ibis in North America. There is an entire colony of them here and it’s the perfect place for them to nest, rest, and live.

Location:

2155 West Forest St.
Brigham City, UT 84320

Phone: 435-723-5887
GPS: 41.5077° N, 112.0691° W

Hours Of Operation:

The migratory bird refuge is open five days a week and it remains closed on Sundays and Mondays and most federal holidays. It’s open from Tuesday through Friday from 8 AM to 4 PM and Saturdays it’s open from 10 AM to 4 PM.

  • Northern Shrike
  • Tundra Swan
  • Virginia Rail
  • Bald Eagle
  • White-Faced Ibis
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Marsh Wren
  • Horned Lark
  • Short-Eared Owl
  • Black-Necked Stilt
  • American White Pelican
  • Yellow-Headed Blackbird

Hiking Trails:

Believe it or not, there are actually 3 different hiking trails for me to tell you about today. And these trails actually vary in difference by a wide margin, yet they are all easy to navigate and shouldn’t cause any grief or difficulty.

The hiking trail names and other important information include:

  • Bear River Bird Refuge Auto Tour – in all obvious this, you will likely want to take a motor vehicle to tour this entire section of the wetlands. But it’s easy to navigate and it’s only 12.1 miles, which might not be a lot for some people. If you prefer to hike the trail instead of driving, it should take the average person around six hours to complete everything. Give it a whirl if it tickles your fancy.
  • Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge Scenic Drive – at this point in time, I do not recommend that you hike this intensely different outdoor setting, because this particular scenic Drive is 32 miles long. Even though it’s easy to navigate because it’s very simple to follow the roads, it’s also incredibly difficult and treacherous and a person walking for 32 miles could end up getting sick, hurt, or worse. Because this path is taken in a motor vehicle I will not share my estimated time frames to complete it.
  • Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge Walking Trail – this is by far the shortest trail of the bunch and it’s also easy to navigate, so you’ll have no trouble following the very clear and well-maintained path along the Bear River. The total length of the trail is 1.6 miles, which the average person can complete walking at a moderate pace for about 40 minutes.

Mirror Lake – No Entrance Fee

Mirror Lake is located near the small town of Kamas, and believe it or not, it’s relatively close to Salt Lake City as well considering it’s only 30 miles to the southeast. There is a byway called the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway that cuts through the forest and reaches an elevation of 10,715 feet in the Uinta Mountains.

Along this beautiful byway, you’ll discover many different recreation areas and other birding hotspots along Trial Lake and Mirror Lake. The great thing about visiting this particular place is that you’re so high up, so you’ll have an opportunity to see many high elevation birds. It’s truly a fun place to go with family and friends.

Location:

Uinta Mountains
Utah, 84031

Supervisor’s Office
857 W. South Jordan Pkwy.
South Jordan, UT 84095

Phone: 801-999-2103
GPS: 40.7044° N, 110.8888° W

Hours Of Operation:

Since camping, hunting, and fishing is allowed in the area, the lake and campground areas are open 24/7 and they are open every day including holidays. So, keep this in mind because you can visit any day of the week.

  • Pine Siskin
  • McGillivray’s Warbler
  • Red Crossbill
  • Broad-Tailed Hummingbird
  • Golden Eagle
  • Pine Grosbeak
  • Mountain Bluebird
  • Hammond’s Flycatcher
  • Hermit Thrush
  • American Three-Toed Woodpecker
  • Ruby-Crowned Kinglets
  • Townsend’s Solitaire

Hiking Trails:

At Mirror Lake and the recreation site, there are some wonderful trails to travel upon that are perfect for those looking to enjoy a day outside while birdwatching. These gray trails are relatively easy to navigate with the exception of one very hard trail. They vary in length and the amount of time needed to complete each trail. But all in all, these wonderful hiking trails are perfect for anyone looking to get exercise while birdwatching in the great outdoors.

The names of these hiking trails are as follows:

  • Crystal Lake, Big Elk Lake, Island Lake Loop – this is the longest and most difficult out of the three trails that I’m going to share with you today, so I figured it would be a great place to start. The trail is hard as you can imagine and it’s going to provide a degree of difficulty, so please keep this in mind. It’s also long because the total length of the trail is 13.9 miles. The average person walking at a moderate pace can complete this trail in seven hours and five minutes.
  • Mirror Lake Trail – this is definitely one of the easier trails and it’s really beautiful to look at because you’re walking along Mirror Lake and the area is lush with trees, greenery, and gorgeous natural settings. The entire length of the trail is just for miles, which is pretty difficult to accomplish. In fact, it will take you around two hours to complete the entire trail walking at a moderate pace.
  • Mirror Lake Loop – this is also an easy to navigate trail with beautiful mountain scenery and the lake in the background. It’s a great bird watching hiking trail as well. The total length of the trail is 1.5 miles. The average person should have no problem completing this trail in 45 minutes or less.

Ouray National Wildlife Refuge – No Entrance Fee

This stunning wildlife refuge is located in northeastern Utah and it goes for around 16 miles along the Green River. It’s an arid environment and filled with lots of wetlands that make this area an oasis and a wonderful region for many water birds to enjoy and appreciate.

The area is lined with cottonwoods and has a number of different wetlands, habitats, and grasslands to experience and appreciate. This makes it a great place to visit if you plan on seeing a wide diversity of different birds.

Location:

Randlett, UT 84063

Phone: 435-545-2522
GPS: 40.1622° N, 109.5985° W

Hours Of Operation:

The Ouray National Wildlife Refuge is open all year round, every day of the week, and it is open one hour before sunrise and it closes one hour after sunset each day. Please keep these hours in mind the next time you plan to visit here.

  • Double-Crested Cormorant
  • Yellow-Headed Blackbird
  • Forster’s Tern
  • American White Pelican
  • Pied-Billed Grebe
  • Brewer’s Sparrow
  • Lewis’s Woodpecker
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Dusky Flycatcher
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Black-Chinned Hummingbird
  • Northern Harrier

Hiking Trails:

Based on my research, I only discovered one main hiking trail with distance and other important details in Ouray National Wildlife Refuge. But this is a big area in the outdoors, so there are definitely going to be other opportunities for hiking, so there’s no need to worry. I can only share what I already know, so I will tell you about the one hiking trail that I discovered below.

The name of this hiking trail and other valuable information include:

  • Ouray National Wildlife Refuge Trail – this is a very easy trail which is great because it’s easy to navigate, the area along the path is well-maintained, and you’ll never have to worry about getting lost because it’s well-kept and taken care of. The total length of the trail is 1.7 miles, which is certainly manageable even if you aren’t an avid hiker. In fact, the average person can complete the entire trail from beginning to end in 45 minutes.

Bird Watching Destinations in Utah: Paid Destinations

Zion National Park – Paid Admission Required, Paid Parking

The thing I know you’re going to love the most about Zion National Park is that it’s one of the most scenic of all national parks throughout the entire United States. In fact, it’s considered one of the top birding destinations throughout North America, and a big part of it is because of the combination of ecosystems. The combined ecosystems of the Mojave Desert, Great Basin, and Colorado Plateau make this area one of the best places to visit if you’re looking to see all different types of birds from far and wide. It’s even home to three endangered species as well.

Location:

1 Zion Park Blvd.
State Route 9
Springdale, UT 84767

Phone: 435-772-3256
GPS: 37.2982° N, 113.0263° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park itself is open every day, 24/7, and 365 days a year. The Zion Canyon Visitor Center, the park store, and the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center open each day from 8 AM to 5 PM. The Wilderness Desk is open daily from 8 AM to 10 AM and 3 AM to 4:30 PM. The History Museum and Nature Center currently closed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

  • American Dipper
  • Painted Redstart
  • Juniper Titmouse
  • Western Scrub-Jay
  • Gray Flycatcher
  • White-Throated Swift
  • Western Bluebird
  • Plumbeous Vireo
  • Hermit Thrush
  • Cordilleran Flycatcher
  • Pinyon Jay
  • Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Hiking Trails:

Like one of the previous birding destinations that I shared earlier, Zion National Park is loaded with hiking trails for all to experience and enjoy. In fact, there are currently more than 100 hiking trails in the region. I do not want to overwhelm you with so many options, so instead I decided to share the bare-bones details about my top 10 favorites. This should give you a great idea of the kinds of hiking trails in the area that you can appreciate and relish.

The names of these trails and more include the following:

  • The Zion Narrows Riverside Walk – easy difficulty, 1.9 miles, 55 minutes to complete
  • Angels Landing Trail – hard difficulty, 4.4 miles, two hours and 50 minutes to complete
  • Zion Canyon Overlook Trail – moderate difficulty, 1 mile, 35 minutes to complete
  • Lower Emerald Pool Trail – easy difficulty, 1.4 miles, 40 minutes to complete
  • Scout Lookout via West Rim Trail – hard difficulty, 3.6 miles, two hours and 15 minutes to complete
  • Observation Point via East Mesa Trail – moderate difficulty, 7 miles, three hours and 20 minutes to complete
  • Timber Creek Overlook Trail – easy difficulty, 1.1 mile, 35 minutes to complete
  • Left Fork (Subway) Canyoneering Route – hard difficulty, 7.8 miles, three hours and 35 minutes to complete
  • Cable Mountain via Stave Spring Trailhead – moderate difficulty, 7.7 miles, three hours and 50 minutes to complete
  • Clear Creek Wash – easy difficulty, 2.3 miles, one hour and five minutes to complete

Utah Birdwatching Clubs

Residents in Utah and visitors to the state are definitely lucky because there are some exciting bird watching clubs and chapters of the National Audubon Society that you may want to join to become an active member of this community. If you like birdwatching and spending time with other like-minded people, then you’ll definitely appreciate becoming a member of one of these groups.

Right now, I’m going to tell you about a select few bird watching groups and clubs that I think you should join in Utah. Learn more about each one and decide if it’s the best choice to enhance your overall birding experience.

Great Salt Lake Audubon

This historic chapter of the National Audubon Society has a mission. Their overall mission is to enhance habitats for wild birds while keeping them protected. They also perform this task for various plants and animals in the region. They want to keep the environment diverse, healthy, and perfect for people and wildlife living throughout the entire state of Utah.

This chapter was first founded in 1912 and the organization has continued to thrive since then for more than 100 years. They provide seminars, volunteer opportunities, field trips, general meetings, gas presentations, and much more. If you’re looking to join a birding community in Salt Lake City, this is definitely the group to check out.

Contact Info:
PO Box 520867
Salt Lake City, UT 84152-0867

Phone: 385-313-0608

Or you can message them directly by visiting the contact page on their website here.

Past and Future Events:

  • Antelope Island and Farmington Bay – this field trip was initially supposed to happen on January 25, 2022 from 8 AM to 2 PM. But it appears that the event was canceled due to the current outbreak of the coronavirus, which is a common theme happening everywhere and it’s very unfortunate. They were going to walk across hiking trails, paved and unpaved walkways, and they were going to view a plethora of amazing birds on this wonderful trip and it’s a shame that it cannot happen any longer.
  • Inland Sea Shorebird Reserve – thankfully, the coronavirus hasn’t canceled every field trip being hosted by the Greater Salt Lake Audubon. On January 31, 2022, from 8 AM to 1 PM, Bryant Olsen is leading a group at the reserve. There is an abundance of birds in the area, so this should provide a wonderful opportunity to see and experience many different types of bird species in one area.

Membership Fees:

It’s never been easier to sign up to the GSLA. As a matter of fact, you can simply follow the on-screen instructions while visiting this page. To become a member of the greater Salt Lake Audubon Chapter, you’ll need to pay $30 annually and fill out the contact information on the form on the page below. You’ll add to your credit card information to pay and your membership will be secured once the sign-up process is complete.

Wasatch Audubon Society

This amazing chapter of the National Audubon Society focuses their efforts on restoring and conserving natural ecosystems. They also focus on preserving and protecting birds and other wildlife while maintaining their habitats and keeping them beneficial to humanity and biological diversity. This local chapter of the national Audubon Society covers Utah counties including Morgan, North Davis, Weber, and Box Elder Counties.

Contact Info:
Wasatch Audubon
PO Box 3211
Ogden, UT 84409

List of Phone Numbers

Past and Future Events:

  • Wednesday Bird Walk – this upcoming event is taking place at 9 AM on January 19, 2022. The group will meet at South Ogden Nature Park and spend a couple of hours walking around and viewing birds in their natural habitat. This is a fun event, it’s educational, and it’s a great way to meet up with other like-minded birders.
  • Farmington Bay Field Trip – this event is happening on January 22, 2022 beginning at 9 AM on Saturday morning. You will meet in the parking lot of Eccles Wildlife Education Center and the group will explore the nearby ponds, the Bay, and see so many amazing birds including Bald Eagles, Western Gulls, Bufflehead, and more. Dan Johnston is the trip leader.

Membership Fees:

They make it very simple for you to join the National Audubon Society online. To become a member of this specific chapter, Wasatch Audubon, you’ll need to sign up and enter the code W54 during the sign-up process.

Typically, the average person pays $20 per year to become a member. But depending on your budget and willingness to give, you can pay $20, $50, $75, $100, $250, or $500 per year if it suits you.

To sign up to this chapter of the National Audubon Society, please visit this page and fill out the online form and payment information as soon as possible. Thank you!

Final Thoughts: The Foremost Utah Birding Destinations & Clubs

Thank you for taking the time to read the valuable information shared today regarding Utah birding resources. I tried really hard to provide you with information about the top free and paid bird watching destinations in the Beehive State. Did I succeed? 

If you have an important birding resource that you like to share so I can add it to my list, please feel free to contact us at any time. We will gladly share your important information to help maintain this website and continue to be the top destination for Utah birding information on the web.

Our goal is to continue sharing this important information when each and every one of our readers. We are happy to help and we appreciate your help too. Contact us at any time if you have information to share. Thanks!

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