The Ultimate Guide to the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
A visit to the Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, Utah is a must-add to your bucket list! Just 110 miles west of Salt Lake City Center is the remains of the ancient, dried up, Lake Bonneville. Covering 30,000 acres of land, the Bonneville Salt Flats stretch across western Utah heading to Nevada. Picture miles and miles of densely packed salt against the backdrop of the Silver Island Mountain Range. The scene provides a barren beauty unlike anything I have ever seen. It’s as if you are looking at a snow and ice covered lake, but one you can walk on!
The western area of the Salt Flats, Wendover, is known for the famous Bonneville Speedway car races. Stretches of perfectly flat, thick crusted surface with no vegetation is apparently ideal for racing cars. I however, recommend enjoying the flats on foot to feel the surreal and precious experience of one of nature’s unusual triumphs! The Salt Flats will sometimes offer reflections of the mountains and sky, depending on the heat rising off the salt, or in winter when there is a layer of water covering the area.
Know before you go
When To Go
Expect hot, desert temperatures if you go during a summer day. Up to 100 degrees fahrenheit. Evenings are cooler and much more pleasant. Sunset is gorgeous! I was there on a Friday, late afternoon of Labor Day weekend, and it was perfect! Not crowded, and about 75 degrees. If you go during the winter months, you will experience a layer of water covering the flats which makes them softer and more fragile, but also very special and reflective. You can expect cold temperatures below zero degrees fahrenheit and high winds.
How To Get There
Drive on I80 west from the center of Salt Lake City 111 miles to the Wendover Salt Flats Rest Area. Put that in your GPS and don’t drive past it because the next turn around is miles down the road. This rest area has parking, bathrooms, and perfect access to the Salt Flats.
What To Wear
I was worried about wearing any favorite shoes on the surface, but didn’t need to be concerned. The salt was dry and smooth, and while my shoes had a little salt on the bottom, it was easily wiped off. I even went barefoot for a while! The rest stop provides a water spray station to wash the salt from your shoes and feet!
You are not allowed to camp on the flats. Private and public campgrounds are available in Wendover.
Do not attempt to bring your rental car on the Flats! The salt can corrode the vehicle and a lot of the area is just thin salt on top of soft mud which makes it fragile under the weight of a vehicle. Apparently, cars and trucks get stuck in the mud and salt often. (We saw several people zooming around and doing donuts in their cars and frankly, it was just loud and seemed disrespectful to the pristine environment.)
Flying drones is allowed!
Bonneville Salt Flat Fun Facts:
- The Bonneville Salt Flats are the largest of the Utah salt flats.
- The federal government owns most of this land and portions are used for military testing.
- An excavation at Danger Cave proved that people occupied the area over 10,300 years ago!
- In 1846 the famous Donner Party crossed the Salt Flats as a “shortcut” to California.
- In 1910, the Southern Pacific Railroad was built to cross the Salt Flats and reach San Francisco.
- Lake Bonneville was originally the size of Lake Michigan!
- The Bonneville Salt Flats is designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
- The surface is made of potassium, magnesium lithium and your basic table salt, sodium chloride.