A visit to Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah allows you to see one of the most unique landscapes in America. It’s home to two kinds of salt deserts-the Great Salt Lake Desert and the Bonneville Salt Flats. The first is a dry, white desert; the second is a flat expanse that has turned into an endless plane of shimmering white salt crystals under bright blue skies.
The Bonneville Salt Flats is not just home to the world-record setting land speed racers, it also has some great hiking and camping for those who want to get out of their cars and explore. While you might think it would be impossible to hike here due to the salt crust, there are actually quite a few trails through this unique landscape. If you go during the right time of year (winter), you can even find some fresh water ponds!
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10 Important Things to Know Before Visiting Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah
1. Best Time to Visit Bonneville Salt Flats
The best time to visit the salt flats for anything more than a pit stop is during an event. This area is very desolate and there’s not much to do when there isn’t an event. The events are listed below.
Visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats is a bucket list item for many travelers. However, if you are planning to visit Utah’s salt flats, it is important to plan your trip carefully. The salt flats are not always accessible due to weather conditions and can be dangerous when wet. If you want to avoid these issues and take some amazing photographs, read on!
Weather wise it’s best to visit from June to September. May and October can also be good weather permitting. Even though the weather is hot in the middle of the summer, through November because there are less people around and you’ll have a better chance for peace and quiet. There also tends to be snow on the ground in these months which means some spectacular photo opportunities with snowfall in the background!
Bonneville Salt Flats is an area of 30,000 acres of salt that are the remains of a dried up ancient lake Bonneville that was the size of Lake Michigan. The salt flats are located about 110 miles west of Salt Lake City. We visited during the summer on our USA road trip in 2020.
2. The Weather at Bonneville Salt Flats Can Be Extreme
Weather is a factor when visiting Bonneville. When we were there it was a stifling 90 degrees at night. Let’s just say we had some RV air conditioner envy from our little tent. That said, summer is a good time to go because it’s dry. If we were doing it again, we would take a van or RV with A/C.
Average temperatures: March 53/33 F (12/0 C), April 61/41 F (16/5 C) and May 72/50 F (22/10 C)
Spring sees a huge change in weather from March to May. While the temperature may be conducive to a visit, you should know that the salt flats are often wet and the dreary weather can be a bummer. You can take cool water photos sometimes when the flats become like a reflective mirror.
Average temperatures are highs of 90 F (32 C) and lows of 65F (18C)
Summer weather is hot, hot, hot! It is a dry heat so it’s not awful but there is is absolutely no shade and when we were there no breeze either. The good news is that it cools off over night. At this time, you can expect the salt flats to be dry allowing you to drive out on them.
Average temperatures: September 78/54 F (26/12 C), October 62/42 F (17/6 C) and November 47/29 F (8/-1 C) with 6-8 days of precipitation.
Like spring, fall sees a big change in weather from September to November. Early in fall is a good time to visit. After October, it starts getting dreary and cold.
Average temperatures are highs of 40F (-1C) and lows of 20F (-7C) with 8-10 days of rain or snow.
The temperature from December to February is pretty consistent with February being just a tad warmer but let’s just agree, it’s cold!! It’s also often wet, damp and snow is a possibility. Be prepared with the right gear to stay warm.
3. You Are Allowed to Drive onto the Bonneville Salt Flats
There is a Salt Flats rest area with plenty of parking and a place to drive down onto the salt. The salt is very hard and easy to drive on unless it’s wet. You’ll be amazed at how big of an area it is and how far you can drive! If you’re traveling with a new driver, this is a perfect place for them to test out their driving skills.
4. But Don’t Drive on the Salt Flats When it Rains
The salt flats are quite delicate even though you will find parts that feel surprisingly solid and hard. Below the perfect white salt crust is soft mud. Driving on the flats when they are wet will create damage to the salt and potentially your car.
Caution: We stopped at a spot off the side of the road about 20 minutes before the flats that deceivingly looked like a perfect spot for a photo. Guy stepped on it in flip flops and immediately started sinking like quicksand.
Thankfully he made it out but one of his shoes was not so lucky. When you visit Bonneville Salt Flats, be careful where you walk, especially when it’s wet.
5. Bonneville Salt Flats Kayak Location is Off Limits
You may have seen the incredible photos that went viral of people kayaking in impossibly blue water in Utah and wondered how to make it happen. Unfortunately, the Potash Canals are industrial and not meant for any type of recreational activity.
Additionally, the only way to get there is parking on the I-80 which is illegal and unsafe. Don’t be one of those people who shows up on the news doing something dumb for an Instagram photo.
6. Camping on BLM Land at Bonneville Salt Flats is Free!
Bonneville Salt Flats camping is on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Land and it’s awesome! You can drive up in an RV, camper van or just your car and pitch a tent. There is plenty of room to find a somewhat private location with a beautiful view.
The ground has a hard packed layer of dirt and salt that makes the perfect flat spot if you are putting up a tent or want a seating area outside your RV. It’s relatively clean, not muddy and bug free, at least when we were there. The only downside is that it can get hot in summer if you’re there with a tent or a van with no A/C.
To find the BLM campground, I-80 Exit 4 at Leppy Pass Road and go right. You will see places to camp on both sides of the road at the intersection of Leppy Pass Road and Bonneville Speedway Road. It’s close to the highway but still pretty quiet. If you need hookups, there are private campgrounds in Wendover.
Since you’re staying in a place with limited resources, we made a list of campervan gadgets and accessories that are very helpful to have with you!
7. There Are Lots of Bonneville Salt Flats Photography Options
Mirror Photos – There are so many photo ops at Bonneville Salt Flats. When it rains and a layer of water covers the salt, it turns into a huge mirror. Just keep in mind that you have to be extremely careful when the flats are wet.
Optical Illusion Photos – You can also play around with the cool optical illusions that are possible on a big flat background.. We had a little bit of fun but had a hard time keeping the dogs out of the photo. It’s easier if you have someone directing the photo than trying to do it yourself but it’s
Sunrise and Sunset photos – If you can manage to be at the flats for sunrise of sunset, it’s really pretty. We felt like sunrise was better because the light lasted longer. If you camp on BLM land at Bonneville, you can catch both and tell us what you think is best.
Astrophotography – Bonneville salt flat is the perfect place to capture the Milky Way. With no light pollution, the star filled sky is spectacular.
8. Big Events at Bonneville Speedway
There are some really cool events at the Bonneville Salt Flats if you time your trip right. We got so lucky and managed to be in the area during Bonneville Speed Week. My dad told me about the rocket cars on the salt flats for my whole childhood so I was embarrassingly excited.
Salt Flats Endurance Runs
The Salt Flats Endurance runs offer 4 courses – 5K, 50K, 50 miles and 100 miles in May. It’s a great race opportunity for people that really want to take on a huge physical challenge. For event details and sign up, click here.
Bonneville International Speedway is well known from car enthusiasts because it’s the site where land speed records are set by cars that resemble rocket ships. We went to Speed Week and IT WAS AWESOME!! Check out our Bonneville Speed Week video to see what it’s like. After watching cars and motorcycles race, you can get up close to see them afterwards. You can check the racing schedule here.
9. Getting From Salt Lake City to Bonneville Salt Flats is Easy
Salt Lake City to Bonneville Salt Flats is approximately a 1.5 hour drive. You will take the I-80 West towards Reno. It’s approximately 109 miles from the I-80 / I-15 interchange. Even though it’s about 3 hours of driving in total to visit Bonneville Salt Flats as a Salt Lake City Day Trip, it’s completely worth it – especially for an event.
10. Bonneville Salt Flats is Near West Wendover, Nevada
Why would you want to know this random piece of information? If you are not a person who likes camping and want to stay overnight in the area, the Best Western Plus Wendover Inn is the best choice. There are also fast food restaurants, casinos, gas stations, and grocery stores in the area.
A trip to Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah is something you’ll never forget. We highly recommend timing your visit with an event like Bonneville speed week. It’s a perfect stop to add to a Utah or USA Road Trip.