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. It seemed to be the best time to visit Utah salt flats, but little did we know night would be even better!
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 on our night out there on that vast white, barren playa.
We were amidst the Bonneville 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.
About the Bonneville Salt Flats
One of the best things to do in Utah is to take a drive out to the iconic salt flats for a unique experience that feels other-worldly. While seeing the white salt crust remnants of this lake in Northern Utah makes for a fun day trip, the best time to visit Utah Salt Flats is at night – in our humble opinion.
It is the perfect place to enjoy some hiking and outdoor activities before the sun sets, stargaze up at the Milky Way at night, and just pretend you are a big kid out on the 46 square miles of the flats. It is such a great time and one of the best ways to “get away from it all” in this area of the country!
The Bonneville Salt Flats is actually a free-entry special recreation area run by the Bureau of Land Management. It is right at the Nevada border, about 1.5 hours from the Great Salt Lake and a little over two hours from Park City. While many people see it as a quick rest area on their way through Utah, it is actually one of the most interesting natural places you can go in the United States.
Driving on the Bonneville Salt Flats
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 our Subaru). 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 Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway is also used as a speed test area, you bet your ass we were all hitting the gas to the floor.
Alone At the Bonneville Salt Flats
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.
Bonneville Salt Flats Sunset
As we played in and admired 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 alone on the Bonneville Salt Flats, 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.
Proof Night is the BEST Time to Visit Utah Salt Flats!
Despite a 1.5-hour drive back to Salt Lake City in the dark that we had waiting for us, we decided to stay and play some more at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
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 Bonneville Salt Flats and back into reality around 10:30 p.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 of us driving Bonneville Salt Flats for a better feel for what this magical place is like:
Tips for Visiting Bonneville Salt Flats
Getting to Bonneville Salt Flats
The rest area and 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.
Tips for driving on the Bonneville Salt Flats 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!
FAQ About Visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah
When is the best time to visit Utah Salt Flats?
Night time is definitely the coolest time to visit the Salt Flats in Utah (cool in temp and experience!). However, early morning is also a great time. Just avoid mid-day in the summer since it gets super hot! There are also fewer crowds at these times.
What is the best time of the year to visit Bonneville Salt Flats?
The best month to go to Bonneville Salt Flats is June or August when the salt flats are dry. The summer months are ideal, however, it can be very hot as well. If you want to hike or drive on the flats, just check weather conditions before going. Late spring, or even early spring, and fall can still be a perfect time to go.
What months are the salt flats dry?
The salt flats in Utah are usually dry in the summer. It is one of the best places to go out for an off-road drive in the area, but you can get stuck if it is muddy. If you are afraid to damage your vehicle, making it a rest stop on a road trip is also a great way to embrace this unique BLM land.
Do people race on the Utah Salt Flats?
Yes, there is actually a Bonneville Speed Week where vehicles race to get the fastest speed and try to set world records. There are other racing events during dry season to check out also. While no set speed limit for the “Bonneville Speedway” or flats in general, be sure to be careful when out driving around since other people may be hanging out with their lights off.
What other places should I visit while in Utah?
Utah is known for having some epic national parks in southern Utah: Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park. However, there are also some other amazing hiking trails outside of the parks and natural hot springs to visit. We really loved Mystic Hot Springs for a quirky experience! If visiting in winter, snorkeling or scuba diving in the warm waters of Homestead Crater is a unique activity also.
We hope you have an amazing time visiting the salt flats in Utah and exploring this wonderful area of the country!