Summer temperatures in this high desert can exceed 100 degrees; winter temperatures may fall below zero. Rain and snowfall total a mere six to eight inches per year. Only drought tolerant plants such as Indian ricegrass, shadscale, and greasewood can grow in the valley around you. The jackrabbit and pronghorn antelope are just two of the many animals that have adapted to living in this harsh environment.
This area wasn't always a desert. Limber pine trees covered the Leppy Hills to the east from 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. As the climate became drier, pinyon pine and juniper trees replaced the limber pines at the lower elevations. Pinyon pines are relative newcomers to the surrounding mountains. They didn't arrive until about 7,000 years ago. Today, limber pine and subalpine fir grow only at the higher, cooler and wetter elevations on Pilot Peak and nearby mountain ranges. Animals you might encounter in these forested areas include bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk and mountain lion.
In the fall thousands of raptors (birds of prey) migrate south along this valley. The Great Salt Lake Desert's lack of food, water and lifting air currents form a migration barrier for these birds. Food, water and roosting sites are easy to find in the Toano and Goshute Ranges. Air rising over these mountains to the west provides the lift these birds need to soar. Conserving energy by soaring as much as possible during their long journeys is a key to their survival.