Visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah
If you’re passing through or exploring Salt Lake City in Utah, visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats should be on your itinerary! These salt flats used to be a huge lake that covered a lot of Utah between 14,000 and 32,000 years ago. Today, the salt flats are explored by lots of travelers, used to host motocar racing, and is even a backdrop for films such as Independence Day and Pirates of the Caribbean.
I visited this area about two weeks ago and my expectations were blown away. I didn’t realize just how big and beautiful this area was. I’ve never seen anything like it! Not to mention there were some pretty epic camping spots where I got to spend the night in my truck. Keep reading and you’ll find everything you need to know about visiting and camping at the Bonnevile Salt Flats.
How to get to Bonneville Salt Flats
The Bonneville Salt Flats are about an hour and a half West of Salt Lake City, Utah – very close to the Nevada border. Therefore, this area is often visited by people staying in Salt Lake City, or doing a road trip to Utah’s National Parks (like I was!).
You’ll need a car to drive from Salt Lake City to Bonneville Salt Flats and you’ll also need a car to drive onto them. Once you leave SLC on I-80, you’ll stay on the highway the entire way. If you put the salt flats into Google Maps, it will take you to a rest stop – this is where you’ll want to pull over.
I saw several pairs of tire tracks heading onto the flats straight from the highway, so I wasn’t sure if you just drive onto them from anywhere, but there’s a designated area at this rest stop.
When you pull over, there will be a parking lot if you want to opt not to get your car full of salt (nothing a car wash can’t help with!). You can simply walk onto the salt ground. However, I’d recommend taking the ramp onto the salt flats and exploring them by just driving around. Since this is such a big area, there likely won’t be many people around you, but you’ll definitely see other cars driving.
Best time to visit Bonneville Salt Flats
I would suggest visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats around sunrise or sunset. This area is literally white for as far as the eye can see and while that’s cool itself, the added colors from the sun rising or setting makes it magical.
As for the best time of year to come here, if you don’t love the heat, I’d steer clear of this area in the summer. The white salt reflects the light from the sun and it gets REALLY hot. It’s also pretty windy, though, so take that with a grain of salt (unplanned pun). Still, my recommendation would be to come here in spring or fall which is generally my recommendation for when to visit just about any place on Earth.
What to do at Bonneville Salt Flats
There’s not a ton to do in this area. A lot of what you’ll be doing is driving around and just staring at the view. However, there are a few things you can plan for:
Bonneville Speed Track
The Bonneville Speed Track is likely what the salt flats are most famously known for. There is no speed limit on the salt flats, so people love to test out how fast their vehicles can really go! The current record is held by Danny Thompson at 317MPH.
Each year, they host Bonneville Speed Week (in August of 2021). You can enter to race or just watch the fun from the sidelines.
Here’s more information on Bonneville Speed Week if you want to experience this!
Take Epic Photos
This is probably the most common reason that people visit the Bonneville Salt Flats aside from Speed Week. A lot of photographers in the area take their clients here for an epic photoshoot. BUT, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to get amazing shots. Just bring a friend or a tripod!
Since this is such a large area, you’ll likely be able to find a spot without a lot of people by you. Try to drive a bit toward the mountains for an interesting background. These photos will be nearly completely white because of the salt, so if you’re looking for some quality instagram content, I’d suggest wearing something with at least a little bit of color in it. It also happens to be very windy in this area, so something that can flow in the wind would make for incredible photos.
As long as you find a spot without any other vehicles in the background, you’re likely going to get some good shots. However, there are a few spots where there’s still a bit of water. Photographers like to use these spots to shoot with a reflection in the water. When you’re driving toward the mountains, you’ll see a barrier line and then a break in that barrier – this is one of the water spots. If you stand in or behind the water, your photo will have you, the salt flats, the mountains in the back, and your reflection in the water!
Have a Picnic
There’s not much else to do in this area aside from take photos, explore, and visit the speed track. However, it’s such a beautiful area that you’ll likely want to spend some time just looking at it! A picnic is the perfect way to do this. Just bring a blacket, some food, and maybe even some wine (for those not driving, of course!).
When I went, it was so so hot and I had an air mattress bed made in the back of my truck, so I cozied up in the back with the air conditioner blasting. This is where I ate dinner and watched some Netflix before heading to my campsite for the night.
Camping at Bonneville Salt Flats
If you want to spend even more time visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats or you don’t want to pay the hotel prices in Salt Lake City, there is a lot of backcountry camping about 10 minutes from the flats. I have an entire blog post about how to find free camping and one of the main ways is to look for BLM land.
You can camp for free for up to 14 days on BLM land and there happens to be a lot of it near the Bonneville Salt Flats.
–> Here is the map to show where to go to camp for free (BLM land is in yellow) <–
When leaving the salt flats, you’ll want to turn right and keep going down I-80. Drive to Exit 4 and get off at that exit. Turn right again and you’ll pass a gas station. Keep going until you see another right turn with a dirt road. Make that turn and follow the dirt road about a mile or so. This is all BLM land where you can pull over and camp for the night!
When I was trying to find a spot to park, I was very stressed that I wouldn’t find it, or I’d be in the wrong spot, but it was very easy to find! Don’t stress too much. You’ll also likely see others camping in this area, so you won’t be alone!
Have you been?
Have you been to the Bonneville Salt Flats? Let me know how your experience was in the comments! Feel free to also let me know if you plan on visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats soon!