One of the most otherworldly places to visit in Utah is the Bonneville Salt Flats. This is a guide about everything to know before visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats, including how to get there, tips, and reasons to visit!
In this post...
- What are the Bonneville Salt Flats?
- Can You Visit the Bonneville Salt Flats?
- What to Know Before A Trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats
- What to do at the Bonneville Salt Flats?
- What Should I Wear and Bring?
- Where to Stay at Bonneville Salt Flats
- Are the Bonneville Salt Flats Worth Visiting?
- Pin this Guide to Traveling to the Bonneville Salt Flats
What are the Bonneville Salt Flats?
Located near the Nevada border is the Bonneville Salt Flats, about 110 miles from Salt Lake City.
The famous salt flats stretch for over 30,000 acres and are found just west of Great Salt Lake. They are right off of Interstate-80 when you drive between SLC and Wendover.
Historically speaking, the Bonneville Salt Flats were formed when the lake of the same name dried up. The lake was massive and the salt deposits were left after the water evaporated.
Bonneville Lake was huge and took up a large chunk of the Great Basin and you can even see part of the old Bonneville Lake today at the Great Salt Lake.
One of the unique things about the Bonneville Salt Flats is that it contains a few microenvironments. Many of the places look to be completely desolate and void of any life because the soil is so salty that it prevents life from growing.
However, in other parts of the Bonneville Salt Flats, you will easily find vegetation and plants and animals. With that being said, the salt flats are a sensitive ecosystem and should be treated and respected as such.
This land is, more or less, owned by the government, and parts of it are used for military testing and storage depots.
Can You Visit the Bonneville Salt Flats?
Yes, you can visit the Bonneville Salt Flats and if you have more than one day in Salt Lake City, you should!
The Bonneville Salt Flats is open to the public most of the year and the entrance is free. They can, however, be closed for private events or if there is a race.
There are various races that take place at the Bonneville Salt Flats but the biggest ones are August’s Bonneville Speed Week and September’s World of Speed. Bonneville Salt Flats is closed to visitors during this time.
What to Know Before A Trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats
Where are the Bonneville Salt Flats?
The Bonneville Salt Flats are 110 miles from Salt Lake City near the border of Nevada. This is one of the best day trips from Salt Lake City… or you can stay overnight and camp or find accommodation in Wendover, one of the coolest small towns in Nevada.
The flats are located on the edge of Utah’s Great Salt Lake Basin.
How to Get There
To visit the Bonneville Salt Flats from Salt Lake City, you will need to take Exit 4 off of Interstate 80. From there, you can follow the signs to the Speedway going north before taking a right on Leppy Pass Road. This will guide you toward the flats.
You’ll then see a parking lot once you get to the end of the road.
Can You Drive on the Salt Flats?
Yes, you can drive on the salt flats, but please check the information below about the seasonal differences of driving there.
The Bonneville Salt Flats must be completely dry to drive on them safely.
Best Time to Visit the Bonneville Salt Flats
The best time to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats is in summer and fall. But, please be aware that they get extremely hot during July and August, but at least they will be dry.
The Bonneville Salt Flats actually can become salt ponds during most of the year and winter and spring are known for having lousy weather and it can be wet and soggy at the flats.
Read More: Visiting Arches National Park in winter
If the salt flats have water on them, it can become a bit dangerous to drive on. It can even cause you to hydroplane and slide around if there is too much rainwater on them!
Another thing to check before your trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats is if there are events happening there. Speed Week takes place at the Bonneville International Speedway during August and there are other events throughout the year.
You can see the approximate dates of the events here. (Please note that the 2021 schedule is not out as of July 19, 2021, and we are updating as soon as we see it published!)
The 2021 Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials (BMST) competition will run from August 28 through September 2.
Can You Visit in Winter?
As mentioned above, visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats during winter is not really the ideal time to go. The winter weather is temperamental compared to summer and autumn and the precipitation is higher.
As a result, this creates quagmires and a ‘quicksand’-like surface in places that you don’t expect. This is dangerous to drive on and makes the experience of visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats not as epic as other times of the year.
Other Bonneville Salt Flats Travel Tips
Some additional travel tips to keep in mind for visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats are:
- You can not camp at the Bonneville Salt Flats. We detail where you can stay later in the post.
- Do not drive on the salt flats if it has rained the day you visit or the day prior. This is very important! You could get stuck on them!
- Cell phone service is poor in many areas so make sure to download maps ahead of time and be prepared in case of an emergency.
- There are no restrooms at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
- There are no restaurants or places to get food and water there. It can be extremely hot on the salt flats, so be sure to bring lots of water with you from Salt Lake City or in Wendover.
- If you’re bringing a dog – be sure to bring some water to wash their paws off with after (they may be compelled to eat at them otherwise, making them extremely ill).
What to do at the Bonneville Salt Flats?
To be honest, the best thing to do at the Bonneville Salt Flats is to enjoy the scenery.
The salt flats offer one of the most mind-blowing landscapes in all of the United States and just being there and photographing and observing them is worth the visit itself. It is one of the best places in the US to put newly learned photography tips to work!
However, one of the best things to do at the Bonneville Salt Flats is to drive along the International Speedway (or check out others that are racing on it)!
Bonneville International Speedway
Bonneville Speedway is located in the northeast of Wendover by the Bonneville Salt Flats; it’s also known as the Bonneville Salt Flats Race Track.
It is in a location that is ideal for racers that are setting land speed records each year and the track is on the list of National Register of Historic Places. The first motorsports event at the salt flats took place in 1912.
Bonneville Salt Flats is a very unique environment that gathers racers and speed lovers from all over the US. Each year Utah Salt Flats Racing Association organizes SCTA/BNI Speed Week in August, the World of Speed in September, and the SCTA/BNI World Finals in October.
Read More: Visiting Zion National Park in winter
Speed Week is very popular and the most visited event. It starts on a Saturday and lasts until the following Friday and spans 6 days.
The event is also great because the visitors can meet the drivers, check out the fast cars, and learn more about the cars and drivers behind them.
One really interesting thing to know about the Bonneville Salt Flats is that the speed limit is 1,000 mph, essentially meaning that there isn’t one! This allows people to visit from all over the world and set records.
Bonneville Salt Flats Kayaking
Many people do think that you can go kayaking at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
However, you can’t. There are photos of people kayaking on a long, turquoise stream there but most people suspect that this is photoshopped because that stream tends to be murky and not clean.
According to the Bureau of Land Management in the US, these canals are from potash production and are just east of the Bonneville Salt Flats. They are for potash mining activities and are NOT safe for public use.
Do not swim, access, float, kayak, canoe, or do anything else on these canals.
What Should I Wear and Bring?
As you can see from the photos, the Bonneville Salt Flats have no shelter and you will be completely exposed to the sun there.
During the summers, temperatures are in excess of 100F. Therefore, you will need to pack the following things:
- Shoes that you don’t mind getting messy
- Wide-brimmed hat
- Lots of water (I use this Klean Kanteen)
You will need to apply sunscreen in unassuming areas like the bottom of your chin and nose as the sun can reflect off of the salt flats upward.
Regarding your shoes, you will need to understand that your shoes will become messy and salty. Bring a pair that you don’t mind getting a bit gross and be sure to bring a change of shoes or a bag to put them in once done so they don’t destroy your car.
Where to Stay at Bonneville Salt Flats
There are no places to stay actually at the Bonneville Salt Flats, so if you’re not making this a day trip from Salt Lake City, you will need to get a place to stay in Wendover, a town close to the salt flats.
Here are some of the top hotels in Wendover (and West Wendover in Nevada):
Hotels and Motels
Alternatively, you can just take a day trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats from SLC, which is what most people tend to do. There are far more accommodation choices in Salt Lake City than out near the flats.
Camping at Bonneville Salt Flats
You can not camp at the Bonneville Salt Flats. It is illegal. However, it is encouraged to camp nearby in Wendover or other places outside of the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Here are some of the top campsites in and near Wendover that you can crash at for the night:
⇒ Rishel Peak Campsite (0.798505, -113.939071)
⇒ Wendover KOA Journey (651 North Camper Drive in West Wendover, NV)
Please note that Rishel Peak Campsite is FREE to use.
Are the Bonneville Salt Flats Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! Please do take into consideration the time of year you plan to visit, however. The best months to visit are definitely July-October and anything outside of that is risky if you plan to drive across the flats.
We definitely recommend planning a trip to Bonneville Salt Flats, particularly if you’re in SLC and are looking for the best Salt Lake City day trips, or randomly over in Ely, Nevada, or somewhere close by.
We hope you plan to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats and that this guide has helped you plan your trip there! Please let us know if you have any questions.
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Pin this Guide to Traveling to the Bonneville Salt Flats