The Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah are becoming more and more popular, thanks to social media. However, because they are a relatively new must-see hotspot, information on them can sometimes be scattered and hard to read. So, here is everything you need to know (and probably more) about visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats.
1. Directions: How To Get To The Bonneville Salt Flats
Even though the Bonneville Salt Flats are sort of in the middle of nowhere, they are not difficult to find.
Drive times to the Bonneville Salt Flats vary depending on where you’re coming from. If you are visiting from out of state, you’re probably coming from one of these places:
- Salt Lake City (1.5 hours).
- Moab (5 hours).
- Kanab/southern Utah (6 hours).
- Las Vegas (7 hours).
Salt Lake City to Bonneville Salt Flats
Moab to Bonneville Salt Flats
Kanab to Bonneville Salt Flats
Las Vegas to Bonneville Salt Flats
Likewise, depending on which direction your coming from, you will either see a lot of mountains (Kanab/southern Utah), a lot of desert (Moab and Las Vegas) or a lot of other unprotected salt flats (Salt Lake City) on your way.
If you see dirty, littered or vandalized salt flats on your way to Bonneville (usually closer to Salt Lake City), don’t panic. The Bonneville Salt Flats are on protected and maintained land. They are much cleaner, more enjoyable and more appealing to the eye.
Upon arrival, you’ll see the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) site right off of the highway.
2. What To Expect At The Bonneville Salt Flats
You can expect a ton of photogenic beauty at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Bright white, dried patches of salt stretch from east to west as far as the human eye can see. In fact, according to the Bonneville Salt Flats Special Recreation Management Area, the flats spread over 46 square miles on 30,000 vast acres of land.
That salt crystalizes right beside the parking lot and beyond, making you seem like a stranger on a foreign planet, while the crusts chip away onto your shoes while you explore.
3. What To Bring
Because of the sharp salt floors, I highly suggest bringing close-toed shoes. Instagram loves to show off all of the luxurious-looking barefoot dreams of the salt flats, but I can pretty much guarantee that every one of those models has boots or tennis shoes on the other side of the camera.
(Here are my favorite hiking boots from Timberland’s, in case you’re interested!)
Furthermore, you’ll witness the majestic Silver Island Mountains towering over the distant Bonneville salt flats — and perhaps even reflecting off of the springtime puddles (which we’ll talk about later).
The combination of the desert heat potential and the high mountainous elevation creates a suitable environment for intense UV indexes. Always wear sunscreen to protect your skin.
I love Neutrogena’s Clear Face SPF 55 sunscreen. It is oil-free and non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores. I have extremely sensitive skin and have never broken out from this sunscreen.
The same rule for your skin also applies to your eyes. You only get two eyes — take care of them!
If you need prescription sunglasses like I do, Zenni has hundreds of extremely affordable and trendy options.
Light Jacket Or Windbreaker
Bring a light jacket or windbreaker, especially if you plan to visit in the winter, spring or late fall. Salt flats in Utah can become extremely windy, which makes for surprisedly cold air temperatures.
3. Park Amenities
The park itself, or BLM land, rather, has very few amenities. There is a basic set of public bathrooms, but nothing other than that. The camping sites there are considered primitive.
I definitely recommend filling up on gas before coming to the flats, but before you depart, fill up again about ten minutes down the road in Wendover, Nevada. You never no when you’ll see a gas station next, and running empty in the middle of the desert (or mountains) would put a real damper on your trip.
4. Park Hours And Rules
As BLM land, the Bonneville Salt Flats are open 24 hours, seven days a week. But, there are a few ground rules.
- Do not drive your car out on the flats if the ground is wet or flooded. Your car could get stuck.
- Only camp in the designated areas. (See the designated areas on this map).
- Do not “access, swim, float, kayak, canoe, or pursue any other recreation activities” in the canals. These canals are partially on private property “and are not designed or safe for public recreation” (Bureau of Land Management, n.d.).
- Do not litter.
- Leave no trace. (You can learn the seven Leave No Trace principles here.)
5. Activities: What To Do At Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats
Camp For Free
Yes, that’s right. You can camp here for free!
All BLM lands are public, so you can camp on most of them for free. Some BLM areas, including the Bonneville Salt Flats, maintain designated camping spots, though. Be respectful of the signs and only camp where designated.
This is honestly the perfect place for a picnic, as long as the winds aren’t too strong when you visit.
Set up anywhere on the flats, choose which direction you face (would you prefer mountains or an endless crystal salt-flat view?), grab your wine and finger sandwiches, and enjoy.
Have A Photoshoot
This location is notorious for the best, most dramatic Utah photos on Instagram.
Regardless of whether or not you hire a professional photographer, own an expensive DSLR camera or just volunteer your friend to take iPhone photos of you, you’re sure to get some amazing shots here.
Bike Or Ride Horseback
Believe it or not, bikes AND horses are allowed on the flats.
Now, bikes are definitely easier to transport, but if you have a horse and a trailer, this would make a super unique spot to trot. Just be sure to clean up after your horse… Leave no trace!
Last but certainly not least, you should definitely schedule some nighttime at the salt flats to stargaze. You’re in the middle of nowhere. There is essentially zero light pollution. Plus, if you’re from a bigger city like I am, you never get to truly take in the stars up above.
Allow your eyes between 15 to 30 minutes to adjust to the dark sky, and awe at all of the natural twinkling lights that our universe has to offer.
6. Go At The Right Time Of The Year
“If you’re looking to see the Death Valley-resembling, desert-dry salt flats portrayed in every other Instagram post, you need to visit the Utah Bonneville Salt Flats in late spring, summer or fall.
If you visit the salt flats in winter or early spring, the snow will be freshly melted and puddling across the entire flat.
Both the dry and wet salt flats are beautiful and picturesque, as shown below and throughout the rest of this post. Just be sure you know which flats to expect so that you are not disappointed” (Indigo Sahara, 2021).
7. Be Sure To Check The Weather Before You Go.
Mountain weather can change fast — for better and for worse. In the one hour that we were there, we personally experienced both a dark-skied salt storm with hurricane winds and sunshine with a subtle breeze.
You can read more about our diverse-weather experience here.
8. Are The Bonneville Salt Flats Worth It?
Are the Bonneville Salt Flats worth the long drive, few amenities, few activities and potentially unpleasant weather?
This unique piece of land has been pristinely unkept compared to other salt flats in the area. It will have you feel like you transported to another universe, complete with its own one-of-a-kind look and environment.
We traveled between five and six hours out of our way to visit the flats, and we would most definitely do it again.