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Things to Know Before You Visit Bonneville Salt Flats Utah

bonneville salt flats travel guide

The Bonneville Salt Flats in north-western Utah, United States, are a truly mesmerizing natural wonder that attracts visitors from around the world. Whether you’re a photographer looking for a surreal backdrop, a thrill-seeker eager to witness land speed records, or a curious traveler longing for a new adventure, this breathtaking landscape is a great spot to experience. In this detailed guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know before you visit Bonneville Salt Flats.

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The History of Bonneville Salt Flats

The Bonneville Salt Flats, are a unique geological wonder in North America. They are a remnant of Lake Bonneville, formed as the ancient lake dried up, leaving behind a 30,000 acre (46 square miles) total area coverage of hard, white salt deposits.

Fun fact: The center of the salt flats is over 5 feet thick. The salt crust is estimated to contain over 147 million tons of rock salt, about 90% of which is common table salt. In addition to sodium chloride, the salt flats also contain other minerals like potassium, magnesium, and lithium.

woman looking at the horizon at bonneville salt flats in utah

In the early 20th century, the salt flats gained attention as a potential location for land speed racing record attempts. A driver set the first record in 1914, and since then, it has been a go-to spot for speed enthusiasts.

The Bonneville Salt Flats hold cultural and historical significance. They are the venue for various events and public recreation activities and have been featured in numerous films and commercials.

Why Visit the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah?

The Bonneville Salt Flats are one of the best places to visit in Utah, offering a stark contrast to the state’s other famous natural wonders.

Places like Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park showcase the beauty of Utah’s desert landscapes with their iconic red rock formations and canyons.

Utah’s mountain ranges, including the Uintas and Wasatch, showcase nature’s grandeur, with towering peaks, lush forests, and alpine lakes.

Other distinct Utah landscapes, like the Coral Pink Sand Dunes or the hoodoos of Goblin Valley State Park, celebrate nature’s artistry through vibrant colors, textures, and contours.

What sets the Bonneville Salt Flats apart is its extreme minimalism. The large area of flatness and lack of vegetation create an otherworldly, alien-like environment.

the bonneville salt flats in utah

The salt flats highlight the stark beauty that can be found in simplicity and desolation. Instead of vibrant colors and textures, you will be met with a vast, blindingly white expanse that stretches as far as the eye can see.

It is a landscape that feels more suited for another planet than Earth, providing an experience that is truly one-of-a-kind.

Fun fact: Many famous movies and TV shows have been filmed at the salt flats, including portions of Top Gear, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Tree of Life.

The Best Time to Visit Bonneville Salt Flats

The best time of year to visit is during the dry season, typically from late spring to late summer (June to September).

This period offers the most stable weather conditions, ideal for driving and outdoor activities, and perfect for photography and exploration.

May and October can also work, weather permitting.

Note that winter temperatures can be below zero and summer temperatures can be above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Check weather forecasts, and avoid visiting if there has been recent rain or snow as the salt can be impassable when wet.

If you’re a racing enthusiast, plan your visit around Speed Week, usually held in August, where you can witness land speed records being shattered at the Bonneville Speedway.

Ultimately, it is up to you to determine the best month for YOU to visit.

Tip: Bonneville Salt Flats may be closed for seasonal periods, primarily when the salt is saturated with moisture from rain or snowmelt.

image of woman walking during a visit to bonneville salt flats

How to Visit Bonneville Salt Flats

The Bonneville Salt Flats are located in Tooele County, Utah (near the Nevada border), approximately 110 miles west of Salt Lake City.

To get there, you can fly to Salt Lake City International Airport. Public transportation companies offer limited options, so we highly recommend renting a car for flexibility and convenience.

Tip: Discover Cars has some of the best rental car rates in Salt Lake City.

Driving to Bonneville Salt Flats

The most common way to reach the salt flats is by car. It is about a 1.5-hour road trip from Salt Lake City and 2 hours from Park City.

From Salt Lake City, take Interstate Highway-80 (I-80)westbound for about 100 miles until you reach Exit 4 for the Salt Flats Rest Area. This is the main entrance to access the salt flats. Follow the signs for the Bonneville Speedway, which will lead you directly to the salt flats.

If you are driving from Park City, take I-80 W towards Salt Lake City. After around 30 miles, you’ll merge onto I-80 W towards Wendover. Continue on I-80 W for approximately 80 more miles. Take Exit 4 which will be your exit to access the Bonneville Salt Flats.

If coming from Nevada or the town of Wendover on the Utah/Nevada border, take I-80 East and get off at the Salt Flats Rest Area exit just past Wendover.

Tip: Pay close attention as you approach, as the exit for the salt flats is easy to miss and there are very few places to turn around on I-80 if you pass it.

portrait image of a tourist at the bonneville salt flats in utah

Nearest Gas Station

The nearest gas station to the Bonneville Salt Flats is the Sinclair Convenience Store, located at Exit 4 off Interstate 80 in Wendover, Utah.

Visitors to the Salt Flats highly recommend this gas station as a quick stop. It offers clean restrooms, showers, and a restaurant. You can conveniently purchase fuel, food, and other supplies here before venturing onto the flats.

This is the last rest stop gas station and amenities before reaching the remote Salt Flats area.

From the Sinclair station, follow the signs to the Bonneville Speedway and take Leppy Pass Road to the parking area and entrance to the flats.


Parking Area at Bonneville Salt Flats

Salt Flats West Parking Lot

Tip: It is illegal to park by the potash mining canals near the salt flats. The Utah Highway Patrol enforces traffic laws in the area.

Guided Tours

Guided tours are another great way to visit the flats. Tour companies offer private half-day guided tours from Salt Lake City to the Bonneville Salt Flats.

These private tours typically last around 4 hours and include transportation from Salt Lake City in a comfortable vehicle. During the 1.5-hour drive each way, the tour guide provides commentary about the history, geology, and significance of the salt flats. Once there, you have several hours to explore the flats and take photos.

While the Bonneville Salt Flats are publicly accessible, a guided tour eliminates the hassle of driving yourself and ensures you get the full experience with an expert guide.

This private half-day Bonneville Flats tour and this 9-person van tour are both great options.

What to Expect When Visiting

Expect dramatic sunrises and sunsets, with the sun casting long shadows and turning the flats into a sea of colorful hues.

sunset at bonneville salt lake flats

Weather

The temperature can vary significantly, with hot days and cool nights, so dress in layers. When wet, the flats create stunning reflections, making the horizon seem endless.

Amenities

There are no amenities directly on the salt flats, the nearby town of Wendover offers gas stations, restaurants, and accommodations.

Sights

While the interior of the Bonneville Salt Flats is a vast, flat expanse of hard salt crust, the edge of the flats features pockets of wetlands, low mountains and hills and mountains, and industrial facilities for potash mining activities.

Restrooms

If you take a guided tour (like we did), the bus should have a restroom.

If you travel by car, there are restrooms near the parking lot. However, during our visit, the restrooms were out of order, but portable toilets were available. If you are uncomfortable using the portable toilets, your best bet would be the restroom at the nearby Sinclair’s gas station.

Our Experience at Bonneville Salt Flats

As avid travelers, we’ve visited countless destinations worldwide, but few have left us as awestruck as the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

This barren, otherworldly landscape appears completely devoid of life, resembling the surface of another planet. It’s a sight that must be seen to be believed!

As we stepped onto the salt flats, we were immediately struck by the vastness of the area.
We spent hours exploring, the salt crunching beneath our feet with each step. The white, ground stretched out seemingly infinitely.

woman walking at the salt flats in utah

As the sun began to set, the sky transformed into a breathtaking canvas of hues, reflecting off the salt surface. The colors intensified, casting long shadows across the salt flats and creating a scene that was nothing short of magical. We stood in awe, soaking in every last moment of this incredible experience, watching as the sun dipped below the horizon.

viewing the sunset at the flats in utah

What was the best thing about our time at the Bonneville Salt Flats? Well, EVERYTHING. We enjoyed the entire experience from start to finish. It was a day trip from Salt Lake City, perfectly timed to coincide with the breathtaking sunset.

stunning sunset view in utah

Things To Do When You Visit Bonneville Salt Flats

1. Attend Land Speed Racing Events

The Bonneville Salt Flats are synonymous with automobile racing thanks to the Bonneville International Speedway located on the western portion of the flats.

During Bonneville Speed Week and other events, you can witness some of the fastest vehicles on the planet. It’s an exhilarating experience to see cars and motorcycles push the limits of physics.

Bonneville Speed Week attracts a large number of people each year.

Fun fact: The Mormon Meteor race cars were raced at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the 1930s.

2. Go Off-Roading

If you have a suitable vehicle, the flats offer a unique off-roading ​adrenaline rush experience. However, make sure to check local conditions and regulations, as some areas may be off-limits to protect the delicate environment.

3. Walk the Flats

Explore the flats on foot to fully appreciate their scale and beauty. Short walks can reveal intriguing details in the salt crust and offer a sense of solitude and tranquility. (Use caution as it’s very easy to get disoriented).

4. Have a Picnic

What better way to immerse yourself in the wonder of the salt flats than with a picnic? Imagine the vibes and views!

5. Capture Stunning Images

If you love photography, the Bonneville Salt Flats offer fantastic photo opportunities. The reflective surface, dramatic skies, and endless horizons are the perfect setup for both daytime and nighttime photography.

woman petting a horse in utah

Tip: The Tree of Utah art installation is another great photo opportunity.

Essential Tips for Your Bonneville Salt Flats Visit

  • If you will be driving a rental car, check your rental car agreement first. Most rental companies do not allow driving on the corrosive salt surface and may track your vehicle’s location via GPS.
  • Always check weather conditions before your visit. The flats can become treacherous when wet, and it’s easy to get stuck. Carry a map and/or download Google Maps for offline use, as cell service can be unreliable.
  • As with any natural wonder, it’s essential to practice “Leave No Trace” principles. Take out any trash you bring in, and avoid disturbing the salt surface.
breathtaking natural wonder in the state of utah

Bonneville Salt Flats Driving Safety Precautions

  • If you plan to drive on the salt, ensure your vehicle is in good condition. The salt can be corrosive, so wash your car thoroughly after your visit.
  • Do not drive on the salt flats when they are wet or flooded from precipitation. The wet salt can cause you to get stuck in the underlying mud and damage the salt crust.
  • Stay on the hard, compacted salt crust in the designated areas. The edges of the salt flats have softer salt that vehicles can easily break through and get stuck.
  • Drive slowly when entering and exiting the salt flat areas to avoid getting stuck in the softer outer edges.
  • Avoid driving at night when visibility is poor, increasing the risk of getting stuck.
  • Bonneville Salt Flats Walking Safety Precautions
  • The salt surface can be sharp and abrasive, easily cutting bare feet if walking in shallow water on the flats. Closed-toe water shoes or sandals with thick soles protect your feet.
  • Bring a map or GPS, as it’s very easy to lose your bearings and get disoriented on the vast plain. Carry a map and GPS, as cell service can be unreliable.

What to Pack for your Visit to Bonneville Salt Flats

Pack everything you need as there are no facilities once on the remote salt flats.

Essential Items to Pack

  • Sunscreen (as light reflects off the salt)
  • Wide-brimmed sun hat and sunglasses (for sun protection)
  • Wear shoes you don’t mind getting dirty or wet if the flats are flooded. Water shoes or sandals like Chacos, Tevas, or Crocs- The salt can be sharp and cut bare feet if walking in shallow water. After walking through the salty water, the shoes will get caked with thin salt crust. Water shoes are easy to rinse off and won’t get ruined like regular sneakers or hiking boots. Water shoes or sports sandals designed for wet, rough conditions are the best options to protect your feet and footwear.
  • Towels to wipe salt off shoes before getting back in your vehicle.
  • Plenty of drinking water and snacks as there are no services at the salt flats, and dehydration can be a serious risk.
  • Trash bags to pack out any waste
  • Emergency Supplies: flashlight, multi-tool, emergency blanket.
  • Layers of clothing as temperatures can fluctuate.
  • Blanket or shade tent if visiting during hot summer months.
  • Binoculars if attending events like Speed Week.
  • Waterproof cover or bag to set gear down on the salty surface.
  • Camping gear if staying overnight at BLM land.
  • Camera, and tripod for photography.
  • Drone if you have one (allowed to fly over the flats).
  • Off-roading gear (if applicable).
  • Picnic supplies.
what to pack for your visit to salt lake flats utah

Photography Tips for Bonneville Salt Flats Visit

The Bonneville Salt Flats offer endless opportunities for stunning photos.

Best Times for Photos

Early morning and late evening provide the most dramatic lighting conditions. The golden hours enhance the surreal beauty of the flats. The best light is during sunrise and sunset when the salt takes on a pinkish hue.

Avoid the summer if you want reflective photos, as the flats will likely be completely dry.

Bring a wide-angle lens to capture the expansive landscape and a tripod for stability during low-light conditions.

Tip: Don’t let salt water near camera gear or electronics as it’s highly corrosive.

Creative Angles

Experiment with reflections and perspective. The flat surface can create unique optical illusions.
The surrounding desert landscape with low mountain ranges in the distance, provides a stark contrast to the flat white expanse.

How to Book a Professional Photoshoot at Bonneville Salt Flats

You can book a professional photographer through Flytographer to capture your experience at the flats.

flytographer photoshoot in utah


Accommodations and Dining Near Bonneville Salt Flats


Accommodation

The closest town to the Bonneville Salt Flats is Wendover, along the Utah-Nevada border. Wendover offers various accommodations, including hotels, motels, and casino resorts.

You cannot camp directly on the Bonneville Salt Flats, but you can enjoy free dispersed camping on the surrounding BLM lands if you follow the guidelines to protect the area.

For a more immersive experience, you can also camp at the nearby Bonneville Salt Flats State Park, which offers basic campsites. Camp in designated areas to catch the incredible sunrises and sunsets.

Tip: Book in advance, especially during major events.

Dining Options

Dining options in Wendover range from fast food chains to local cafes and restaurants
Wendover offers several dining options, from casual eateries to fine dining.

Alternatively, pack a picnic for your day at the flats and enjoy a meal with a view.


Final Thoughts Before You Visit Bonneville Salt Flats

The Bonneville Salt Flats are undoubtedly a must-see destination. If you’re seeking an attraction that seems like another planet then the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah should be at the top of your list.

Whether you’re racing, photographing, or simply marveling at the surreal beauty, the flats promise an unforgettable experience. Just remember to take your time, soak in the views, and create lifelong memories in this one-of-a-kind destination.

Happy Salt Flatting!

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the ultimate guide to the salt flats in utah

the salt lake flats utah

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