How to Visit the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah

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The Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah stretch for miles.
The Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah stretch for miles.

If you watch TV, you've probably seen the Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah many times without knowing it. The flats show up repeatedly in car commercials and other advertisements. It is also the place where many world land speed records have been set at the Bonneville Salt Flats International Raceway, which sits on the salt flats. The flats are the remnants of an ancient inland sea known as Lake Bonneville that once covered much of the Intermountain West. The ancient ocean left behind a large, flat expanse of salt. Today the flats are surrounded by mountains that once were islands.

Things You'll Need

  • Sunscreen
  • Water

Take Interstate 80 west from Salt Lake City. It takes approximately 90 minutes to reach the flats from Salt Lake City, but you will see them off the right long before you get there. There's one rest area that overlooks the flats before you get there.

Get off at Exit 4 on I-80 in Utah and head north. Take the first right on Salt Flats Road and head east until it dead-ends. There will be no signs to guide you at this point, and all you will see will be the salt flats all around you

Mark your odometer, then drive onto the flats. It will seem as if you are driving into the ocean at first. Just do it.. When you get onto the flats with your car, you can drive as fast as you want. That's what people do here. If you head due east, for a few miles, you will eventually come to the raceway, which is marked by small lines and flags/cones. More than likely, there will be official race teams or unofficial racers out here. Keep to the sides and watch them do their thing. Head west to get back to Salt Flats Road when you're ready to leave.

Stop at the gas station before getting back on I-80 and use a hose to wash off your car. If you leave the heavy salt concentration on your car for more than a day or two, it will ruin your paint job and start to corrode the metal. If you have a rental car this is even more important -- if you want to get your deposit back.

Tips & Warnings

  • Set your odometer to zero when entering the flats; when you're ready to go back to Salt Flats Road, mark your miles and drive that many back. It doesn't always work exactly, but it does give you an approximation of where the road should be.
  • And it can't be stressed enough: Don't forget to wash off your car after leaving the flats, especially underneath and on the sides. The intensive salt concentrations will corrode the paint and metal on your vehicle rather quickly if you don't.
  • Have sunscreen and water on hand should your car break down on the flats.

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