Driving on the Bonneville Salt Flats has been on my wish list for a few years. We recently drove through this area on our Ely, Nevada trip and I insisted that we save time for the Salt Flats on our way home.
The Bonneville Salt Flats are an exceptionally flat, hard and dry area in Utah's west desert. Many land speed world records have been set here. There aren't many places in the world like it.
The Bonneville Salt Flats are open to the public and there is no entry fee. The entrance to the Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway is less than five miles from Interstate 80, just outside Wendover, Utah.
Here's what you need to know to make the most of your visit to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
How to Get There
The Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway is a little less than two hours drive from Salt Lake City, Utah. It's near Wendover, on the Utah-Nevada border.
If you're driving from Salt Lake City, you'll see a lot of desert and salt flats before you actually reach the International Speedway. You'll probably notice tire tracks on the shoulders of Interstate 80. It's easier and safer to drive all the way to the International Speedway entrance than to pull off the interstate highway, and you'll have a lot more room to drive.
The International Speedway exit is the last westbound exit before you cross into Nevada. Or it's the first Utah exit after Wendover if you're traveling east. The exit is clearly marked, and then the drive is less than five miles.
You'll find a small paved parking area and a sign. From there, you can drive onto the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Related: Tips for Swimming in the Great Salt Lake
What to Do
Most people come to drive on the Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway, or to watch other people drive on it.
You can easily drive onto the Salt Flats with just about any type of vehicle. The salt is hard. As long as you stay out of other drivers' way, there is nothing to hit, and you can drive as fast and far as you dare. I'm not very daring, so my son and I got out of the car while my husband and teen daughter put our minivan to the test.
My 13-year-old son got his first driving lesson here. We put him behind the wheel and he asked, “What do I do with the pedals?” After we covered the basics, he did a great job!
Since there is nothing to hit, the International Speedway is a good place to let younger kids try driving for the first time.
There is a risk of getting stuck in soft mud if you drive too close to the edges of the Speedway, or when the Salt Flats are wet. Get familiar with your track before you see how fast your car can really go.
Related: 10 Fun Things to Do in Ely, Nevada
The Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway is home to several racing events each year. Speed Week is the biggest, and is typically held the first week of August. Learn more about it at http://www.scta-bni.org/.
Most events welcome spectators. Search “bonneville salt flats events” to find more racing events.
When to Go
We visited on a sunny day in July. The weather was hot and dry, but those are the best conditions for driving on the Salt Flats.
The Bonneville Salt Flats are open most days of the year. The Salt Flats may be closed when the salt is moist or has standing water on the surface – usually in the spring. Signs will be posted when the Salt Flats are closed.
Related: Why We Loved Nevada Northern Railway in Ely
What to Bring
We were only there about an hour, so we didn't worry about packing much stuff or wearing special clothes for the Salt Flats. There is a gas station and convenience store just off the International Speedway exit.
The Bonneville Salt Flats are often hot and dry, with no shade and no on-site services. Here are a few items you might want for a short visit.
- drinking water
- snacks or picnic
- shoes that can be easily cleaned later
Expect a Mess
Plan to bring salt home with you if you walk or drive onto the salt flats. Salt sticks to shoes and tires and the undercarriage of your car.
I vacuumed and used a power sprayer right after our trip, and didn't get it all clean on the first try. Don't walk or drive onto the salt flats unless you are willing to do some clean-up later.
Where to Stay
The Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway is an easy day trip from the Salt Lake City area. Most visitors who are not attending a racing event will probably get their fill of the Flats in 1-2 hours.
Hotels in Wendover, Utah and West Wendover, Nevada are close to the International Speedway. Choose a hotel in Wendover, Utah if you want to avoid the casinos. Book a casino in West Wendover if you want to combine your visit to the Salt Flats with some gambling or a concert.
Camping is allowed on the Bonneville Salt Flats. There are no established campgrounds, running water, bathrooms, or any other amenities.
Click the button below to see hotels in Wendover and West Wendover on TripAdvisor.com.
Where to Eat
We packed our own picnic and found a rest area along Interstate 80, a few miles east of the International Speedway exit.
Similar rest stops with shaded picnic tables and an observation tower sit on both sides of I-80. We stopped on the eastbound side. However, I think the westbound side is better because it's closer to the Salt Flats and we saw cars driving on the Flats at the rest area. You can't do that on the eastbound side.
Wendover and West Wendover have a variety of restaurants to choose from. Other than a few fast food chains, most local restaurants are in the casinos.
I've wanted to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats for a while, and am glad that we had this opportunity to check it out. It's an easy side trip if you're traveling near Wendover on Interstate 80.
Learn more about visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats at the official Bureau of Land Management website at https://www.blm.gov/visit/bonneville-salt-flats.
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