We were just looking for an epic sunset spot near Salt Lake City, and the unique landscape of Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats kept showing up in our search. So, we made the 1.5-hour, very straight and boring drive out to the middle of nowhere to pick a spot for photos – having no idea what a spectacular, experience we would have out there on that vast white, barren playa.
We were amidst the salt flats long before we actually reached the parking area for visitors. And as we walked out onto the hard salt earth, we were not alone. A dozen or so people were there taking selfies and wondering at this strange place along with us. With a few hours to spare before sunset, we decided to drive out to the Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway to see if our photo opps would be any different and less crowded.
Salt on the tires
Now, I’m very cautious when it comes to exploring in places we can get stuck and stranded at night where no one knows where we are. So, when Buddy suggested we drive out on the flats (which is allowed in this area), I gave him a highly arched eyebrow look and a very hesitant “I don’t know…”
Although this area was much firmer than the more popular area 15 minutes away, I was still nervous about hitting a soft patch. Then a truck appeared out of nowhere from somewhere way out there, and a car followed (which was way less off-road friendly than the Subie). Screw it, let’s go.
The three other groups there had the exact same thought. Almost simultaneously, we all hopped in our cars and took off. And since this is also used as a speed test area, you bet your ass we were all hitting the gas to the floor.
Alone in another world
As each vehicle sped off into different directions, we found ourselves in our own little play area. It was silent, except for our laughter as we did donuts in the car and goofed off taking photos. Who would have thought the dried up remnants of a giant lake could offer so much fun?
We examined the hard, salt ground which looked and felt like a coral reef. What a strangely amazing, desert-like place. And it went on and on for miles. We couldn’t see anyone. There were no plants or life of any kind. Just the mountains behind us and an endless horizon ahead of us. It felt safe and fake and perfect. Like the world had been wiped clean.
As we played and admired in this wide-open wonderland, we almost forgot why we were here. But as the sky around us changed to cotton-candy colors and the air got a little cooler, we were reminded to take a moment to enjoy this magic hour in an even more magical place.
As the sun slowly lowered behind the neighboring mountains, we decided we weren’t even close to ready to leave. We discovered a strange peacefulness out there alone, with miles and miles of nothing but salty land.
It was romantic and soul-filling – one of those places and moments we wish existed more. So simple, yet so immensely rich with wonder.
Despite a 1.5-hour drive back to the house in the dark that we had waiting for us, we decided to stay and play some more.
We turned on some music and danced outside the car in the light of the moon – which illuminated the glistening salt flats for miles around us. First, we swayed slowly and lovingly. Then, we had our own mini rave and flailed around in circles, jumped up and down and remembered what it was like to just not care. Why are we not silly like that more often? What is it about being in the middle of nowhere, all alone that gives us permission to let our inner children out? Why do we ever take anything seriously?
After hours of just enjoying the magic, the peace, and the immense joy of experiencing it all together, we finally drove off the flats and back into reality around 10:30p.m. With tear-filled eyes we shared a look of understanding as we reluctantly reached the pavement.
This is why we gave up any semblance of a “normal” or “safe” life plan. Because we knew these moments were waiting for us. We knew we would be forever changed by places that filled our hearts and nourished our spirits. Places that allow us to feel closer to God and each other because the beauty and peace we find there silences all the distractions that separate us. And they were always there, we just had to be ready to find them.
Watch this video for a better feel for what this magical place is like:
Tips for Visiting Bonneville Salt Flats
Getting there: The rest area/visitor parking is located off 1-80, about 110 miles west of Salt Lake City, UT, and 10 miles east of Wendover, NV, near the border of the two states. There is also a shoe wash and bathrooms here. The speedway is further west about 10 more miles. Learn more about the Bonneville Salt Flats here.
If driving on the speedway:
- Be prepared to be there a while.
- Drive safely and make sure it is firm enough first. Do not drive if it is wet! It can damage the flats as well as possibly shorting out your vehicle!
- Keep a light on at night, so no one hits you
- Bring plenty of water. It is extremely easy to get lost out there.
- Make sure your phone is charged, in case you need GPS to find your way out.
- Camping is not allowed.
- Wash your car as soon as you can afterwards. You definitely want to get all that salt off!