Bonneville Salt Flats. The end. There really are no words for this gorgeousness. All I can say is: I'm still thirsty.
Many don't know these flats even exist so let's get right down to it. Bonneville salt flats are a 30,000 acre (46 square miles) expanse of hard, white salt crust on the western edge of the Great Salt Lake basin in Utah. It is 13 minutes from the border of Nevada. The property is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is known for land speed records at the "Bonneville Speedway". It is open to the public. AKA: YOU CAN DRIVE OR RIDE ON THEM.
Growing up in a family who planted seeds in the west and had *mint* (quality not color) classic cars and motorcycles like a 1969 gold Chevy Impala and 1974 Harley Davidson Shovel Head with a reverse shifting pattern, Bonneville Salt Flats has been part of my vocabulary since I learned how to talk. Motor vehicle racing has taken place at the salt flats since 1914. Racing takes place at part of the Bonneville Salt Flats known as the Bonneville Speedway. There are five major land speed events that take place at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Bonneville "Speed Week" takes place mid-August followed by "World of Speed" in September and the "World Finals" take place early October.
Even if you're not into racing, this historical landmark is definitely a destination to put on your list based on it's beauty and since it's very obviously in the middle of nowhere Utah, it can easily fall into a one day stop category on a road trip adventure. Buckle up. I'm going to share where to stay, my favorite routes to get there and most importantly WHEN to visit this endless flat track.
R Y T H M & R O U T EBonneville Salt Flats is THE road trip destination. Seeing as the salt flats are *ahem* very remote, plan for lots of drive time and plenty of snacks. Here is a weekend road warrior play list that reflects this crystal desert. Confident, mysterious, peaceful, limitless, dramatic and a little EXTREME.
Last time I road tripped to the flats, I left from Denver, CO and our friends at Tourig graciously lent us one of their custom vans for the trip (seen in photos). Headquartered in Golden, CO, Tourig is the go-to for Mercedes and Ford van conversion. Miss that crew!
Just like Orcas Island, the journey to get to Bonneville Salt Flats is no small feet BUT it's hard-to-get-to quality is what makes it so special. Sure, it's open to every single person on the planet but it's hours away from any large city and it's not "on the way" to anywhere, so plan to go out of your way for this beauty. It basically plays the long game so you're sure to fall in love with it and never forget it. You can choose to arrive at the salt flats driving from any direction. Below are my routes for the WANDERER and the SPRINTER.
WANDERERLONG ROAD TRIPS (4 day)
*I'll only be covering Denver to Bonneville Salt Flats in this post if you were to go for a long weekend. It is my favorite route because there is so much natural beauty to see along the way. This trip is also part of a longer road trip adventure I like to take from Denver, CO to Orcas Island, WA. Colorado > Utah > Idaho > Oregon > Washington > SWOON (for another post!).
Hot Tips: Events & Weather at the FlatsWhile it is the hottest time of year, in my experience, the end of July is the most magical time to lay eyes the salt flats. This area is open year-round, but May and August are when most of the events take place so if you're traveling to the this endless flat track for solitude and sights, you'll want avoid those months. Also, the flats don't always look like a pristine crystal fortress. They change with the weather and only look sparkly when they're dry. If they have been swamped by the rain or a mudslide from a surrounding mountain, you can't even drive on them. This can be very disappointing when making the long trek there so be mindful of timing and check the weather ahead of time. Don't forget to bring sunscreen and water because, although it may seem like you're surrounded by snow, with temps getting up to 100° F, it can feel like you're on a different planet. Remember to bring booties and rinse off the undercarriage of your vehicle in Wendover.
S L E E P & S T A YThe only way to see the sky in rainbows at the flats is by going at sunrise or staying until sunset. Since the closest large city with a wide selection of accommodations is about two hours away, to avoid waking up in the middle of the night or driving home in the heavy pitch black of nowheresville USA, your only option is to stay in Wendover, 10 minutes west of the flats. Wendover is a teeny tiny blink of a town with a few casinos and fast food. Think, What's Eating Gilbert Grape in the desert. Hotels are scarce but there are a few chain options where you can lay your head after a long day in the sun. I like to make my stays part of the experience and, well, a Best Western Plus makes total sense for a trip to the middle of nowhere. A Bowery-esque hotel just wouldn't seem right, or possible, on this adventure. If you're traveling by RV there are hook-ups in town too.
To give you some interior eye candy, on this last trip to the salt flats coming from Denver, before departing the city, I stayed at The Ramble Hotel a new and the first hotel in the RINO Arts District. It took me a second to nail down what this seemingly Gatsby-esque hotel really felt like when I arrived but as soon as I entered my room I got it: Parisian Goldrush. Stay with me here...the brass finishings, deep, rich color palette, beaded crystal chandeliers and European salon style velvet, tufted and pattered furniture paired with exposed bulb vanity lighting around select mirrors, all in an open brick building situated directly in the middle of a growing urban arts district...voila you have Parisian Goldrush. The Ramble's logo even has a hint of the wild wild west. I love a good juxtaposition. It keeps opulence approachable and grounded. The Ramble is also home to Vauxhall, a small music venue, theatre and bar, and an outdoor courtyard. For the dramatic French enthusiast and interior design lover who isn't afraid to get a little wild, this is a must stay.
The bedding and wall art pair nicely with the LK Thatch Pillow, don't you think?
E A T S & T R E A T SBefore leaving Denver I usually pop into my favorite little cafe, Portside, for breakfast. This quaint restaurant serves "healthy-ish" breakfast and lunch and has a front patio great for catching up on work and people watching on Larimer Street.
Since I eat unprocessed food no matter what, on my way from Denver, I make sure I prepare by making a stop in Salt Lake City and packing a cooler full of my favorite fresh foods for the road BEFORE I hit Wendover. If I don't prepare, I know I'll be living on Jamocha Shakes from Arby's and after not eating processed sugar for a decade that would probably send my system into shock. That said, there are fast food options in Wendover so if that's your thing you'll be good to go. On all road trips, I pack fresh road food so I won't be listing any more restaurants in this guide. You might think of road food as all processed and GROSS but it doesn't have to be if you bring a simple item: a cooler. Even if you're flying into your initial road trip location and renting a car or van you can still bring a soft cooler with you — just collapse it and place it in your suitcase. You can get ice/packs on the road. I will usually find an organic market in town and stock up on fresh fruits (granny smith apples, grapefruit, bananas) and vegetables (yellow bell peppers, avocado) that are easy to cut and eat, raw walnut and cashew butter, and create a few salads to-go with hardboiled eggs if they have a salad bar. Raw Cocoa, raw nuts, GF oatmeal and granola are always a must too. If they have a water station, this is a great time to fill up your water bottles. I eat this way at home too and it is the same amount of effort no matter what. There's no point in dampening my own experience and going rogue with a Big Mac just because I'm on the road. There are usually organic markets in every big city so just prepare to stop and stock up no matter where you're coming from because I as I said above, fresh food in Wendover is a contradiction in terms.
*Bringing a hotplate or using a camping stove is only really necessary if you want to cook meat, pasta or quinoa. If these items are part of your regular diet and you can go a long weekend without any, definitely do just to make things easier on yourself. You can find plenty of nourishment from the list above.
E X P L O R A T I O N & E N T E R T A I N M E N TThe road trip to get to Bonneville Salt Flats and the day at salt flats themselves ARE the entertainment on this adventure. Whatever route you take to get to the flats, there is an abundance of natural beauty along the way. As mentioned, I like to combine this trip with a longer adventure from Denver, CO to Orcas, Island WA because as you can see by the pins on the map below, this area is where The Mother really likes to show off her natural beauty. Stay tuned for this post... it's a two week adventure.
G I F T S & G O O D SThe only shopping you will be doing on this trip is for food. The gifts are the beautiful land and the goods are the everlasting memories you get to take back home with you.
A D O R A T I O N & I N S P I R A T I O N
Driving or riding on a white endless terrain and being surrounded by crystals on a 90° day, with the pink sun setting behind mountains is a contrast high experience that might not even seem real, yet it exists right here on Earth and is open to all. The limitless vibes and dramatic vastness of Bonneville Salt Flats are much like the high desert with even more intensity. Although the salt flats were sadly formed due to climate change after ancient Lake Bonneville dried up, they serve as a reminder that often it is necessary to be completely empty before a beautiful transformation can occur and that loss is really just another word for change. I go to the salt flats when I need to empty out and wipe the slate clean (usually during a transition or when starting a new creative project) to be reminded by The Mother to trust my next steps. She's masterful at change and transformation. Whether you're looking for peace, adventure or finding ground, no doubt Bonneville Salt Flats will serve you. As always, respect the land when you go and and send pics!
STAYThe Ramble Hotel // Best Western Inn Plus
EAT• Breakfast: Portside• All Other Meals: Local Markets // Salt Lake City Wholefoods // Denver WholefoodsDOBonneville Salt FlatsPRODUCTS FEATUREDLittle Korboose x Vacilando Studios Sustainable QuiltPS: Fun little video from last time at the flats! I was on a job...
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May 09, 2021