How to Best Explore the Bonneville Salt Flats

If you’re laying on the couch and wondering what your next big adventure could be, you have found your answer! The Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah are among the most interesting and unique locations you’ll come across in your entire life.

With the white salt crust extending as far as the horizon, and the blue profile of the mountains in the background, the charming and unearthly atmosphere of the salt flats will make you feel like you’ve been transported to a different planet.

Looking to update your social media with stunning pictures in one of the most photogenic locations in the world? The undeniable beauty of the salt flats makes them one of the preferred locations by couples for wedding photoshoots, romantic proposals, and scenic picnics.

But how do you reach the flats? Is it possible to walk and drive over the salty surface?

Keep reading my guide to finding the answer to all of your questions regarding the Bonneville salt flats, and start planning your trip today.

The Bonneville Salt Flats: Everything you need to know

What are the Bonneville Salt Flats

Are you a road trip enthusiast? Do you long for exciting experiences? When planning a trip through Utah, you must stop by to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats, one of the state’s ultimate bucket list destinations.

The diverse environment of this State would not be the same without the flats, one of Utah’s most singular and remarkable natural formations: a natural salt span covering over 30,000 acres.

This unique, otherworldly location will give you the illusion of having traveled around the globe, without even leaving the US!

But what do the flats actually look like? The Bonneville Salt Flats look like a wide expanse of white salt, interrupted only by thin cracks disrupting the otherwise seamless salt crust, almost resembling the wide expanses of ice in Greenland.

The awe-inspiring location attracts thousands of tourists every year, especially those visiting nearby Salt Lake City.

For this reason, I have put together a short but exciting 1-day itinerary from Salt Lake City to the Salt Flats and added a few stunning locations to check out in between.

How to reach the Bonneville Salt Flats: 1-Day Itinerary from Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City itinerary

Located less than 2 hours outside Salt Lake City, the Bonneville Salt Flats are easily reachable by car.

The most straightforward way to reach your destination is to follow the I-80 highway along the southern side of the Great Salt Lake and head west towards the Salt Flats.

Since the flats can be visited in just a few hours, you should definitely consider making a day out of it and check out some other destinations along the I-80 highway:

First Stop – From Salt Lake City to the Great Salt Lake:

Great Salt Lake

Location: Antelope Island State Park, 4528 W 1700 S, Syracuse, UT 84075, United States

If you’re staying in Salt Lake City and you’re looking to spend a day out of town immersed in pristine nature, check out all of the salt-related landmarks around the city:

If you’re yarning for a swim surrounded by unparalleled scenery, hit the Great Salt Lake in the morning and enjoy floating effortlessly in the salted water.

Maybe you’re wondering “can I swim in the Great Salt Lake?”. The answer is yes, and because of the high salt concentration of the water, you don’t even need to be a pro swimmer to enjoy a bath in the Great Salt Lake!

An alternative activity to swimming is boating in the lake.

Even if you don’t know how to sail, you can still enjoy cruising by booking a 45 Minute Great Salt Lake Boat Tour.

The cruises also include a guided tour of the lake, with plenty of information provided by local experts.

Second Stop – Stansbury Island

Location: Stansbury Island, Utah, United States

Back on the road for your second stop: reaching your next destination calls for a short deviation from the I-80: taking exit 84 toward UT-138 Grantsville will lead you to Stansbury Island in less than 20 minutes.

This is a destination for the backpackers and great outdoors lovers:

The beaches there are characterized by a bare, yet stunning scenery, and an unmatched natural backdrop, with the mountains reflecting on the deep blue lake water.

Third Stop – Tree of Utah:

Location: Tree of Utah, Wendover, UT 84083, United States

The third stop along the way is perfect for the modern and conceptual art lovers: on your way over to the flats, consider taking a break to check out the Tree of Life, also known as Tree of Utah or Metaphor, a truly impressive modern art piece, towering over the salt flats in stunning colorful contrast.

The sculpture represents an abstract tree with multicolored leaves and is a staggering 87-foot-tall.

I would recommend stopping for a few minutes at the Tree of Utah as it’s easily reachable from the highway, is completely free, and makes for a great photo opportunity.

Final Stop: The Bonneville Salt Flats:

Location: Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah 84083, USA

You have reached your destination! After around 1 hour and 50 minutes, pull out of the designated rest area and park your vehicle. From there, you’ll be able to just walk towards the Bonneville Salt Flats.

I recommend spending most of you’re day here and waiting out for the sunset.

On a clear day, the sky will be painted in bright red and pink colors and will reflect on the white surface of the flats, creating a truly memorable scenery.

While camping is not permitted on the Salt Flats, it is possible to wait in the parking area for the night to come.

With the flats extending for miles with no artificial light on the horizon, the absence of light pollution makes this a perfect location for astrophotography and stargazing.

Back to Salt Lake City:

Are you looking for more fun activities in Salt Lake City?

If you are planning on spending more time in town and you want to make the most out of your time, check out my 3-day itinerary packed with the best things to do in Salt Lake City.

Can you lick the salt flats?

This is a great question, and yes, you can lick the Bonneville Salt Flats. It is relatively safe, although probably not the most good-tasting. It does feel like licking salt after all.

Getting a taste of the salt flats is surely tempting and one of the most popular activities among visitors.

I would not recommend eating salt from the flats, however, just licking it can make for a great memory and surely a fun photo.

Going for a scenic stroll on the Bonneville Salt Flats:

Walking on Bonneville Salt Flats

Can I walk on the Salt Flats?

Of course! The best way to experience the flats is to enjoy a nice walk. You can walk on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Walking on the salt crust is always safe, regardless of the weather conditions and consistency of the ground.

While the best time to walk on the flats is when the salty crust is dry and comfortable, even during wintertime or spring you can enjoy going for a walk.

What kind of shoes should I bring to walk on the Salt Flats?

Bought some new expensive shoes? This is the perfect occasion to leave them at home. The best shoes to bring to the salt flats are protective of your feet, as the salt hitting directly could hurt a bit, and already a bit worn off since the salt could ruin brand new shoes.

If you’re expecting bad weather, I recommend bringing along a pair of water shoes, either the sock-style water shoes for maximum traction on the muddy surfaces, or just any kind of beach slippers.

Bonneville Salt Flats through the seasons:

Best time to visit Bonneville Salt Flats

The best time to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats depends on your expectations and what you are looking for.

The most popular time to visit is late summer and early fall.

During the hottest months and up until September/October, the Bonneville Salt Flats are at their driest point, which means the flats are going to have their iconic dry and cracked look. Also, this time of the year is the best safety-wise, especially if you’re planning on driving on the flats.

The colder months and the early spring is not ideal time to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Visiting during wintertime and spring means the flats are going to be much more “moist”, almost resembling quicksands.

During wintertime (or at any point during the year if it has just rained) it is not safe to drive on the flats as you are more likely to get bogged down.

The upside of scheduling your trip to the flats during winter is the surface water’s mirror-like effect.

The spectacle of the sky reflecting on the salt flats is mesmerizing, especially at sunset.

Swimming in the Salt Flats? Unfortunately, not an option. But there is an alternative:

As the Salt Flats are usually dry, you can’t go for a swim. Even during wintertime or the more rainy months of early spring, swimming in the Salt Flats is not an option.

If you’re looking for a location nearby to enjoy swimming in heavily salted water, check out the Great Salt Lake.

You can hit one of the beaches on the Great Salt Lake on your way back from the flats, or earlier in the morning.

This is a great activity for the great outdoors lovers, who are not afraid of the cold water and are not put off by an almost desert-like natural environment.

Swimming in the Great Salt Lake is not a popular activity, partially because of the high concentration of salt making swimming almost painful if you have small open wounds on your body, and partially because of the strong smell.

Can anyone drive on the salt flats?

Driving on Bonneville Salt Flats

Seasonal closures aside, anyone anytime can drive on the salt flats, no permit required.

Driving on the salt flats can be an incredibly fun and exciting experience, and is one of the preferred activities by tourists, locals, and photographers.

The weather plays a crucial role in driving on the flats since the mud-like consistency of the salty crust can make driving dangerous.

If the weather is dry, hot, and sunny, the surface will be stable, making driving on the flats safe.

Do you have to pay to go to the Salt Flats?

No, visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats is completely free, with no need to reserve a spot or buy an entrance ticket.

The only expenses you must account for when planning a trip to the flats are those related to the highway and the gas.

What’s Next?

For the ultimate road trip through Utah bucket list, check out my favorite destinations in this stunning State: read more on the 7 Cool Utah Caves to Explore This Year, or check out Highway 12 Utah: Take A Scenic Road Trip Through Time.

Go Out and Explore