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The Best Time to Visit the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2023

The Best Time to Visit the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2023

A famous tourist destination in Utah, the Bonneville Salt Flats attract visitors with their unrivaled natural beauty. Whether you’re just curious, looking for an unusual adventure, or have always wanted to attend one of the Bonneville Salt Flats races, you won’t be disappointed.

However, the time of year you go can make or break your adventure, so it’s important to learn when the best time to visit Bonneville Salt Flats is.

Lucky for you, we gathered all there is to know about the best time to visit the flats, alongside other pieces of information to help you make the best out of your trip.

Why You Should Visit Bonneville Salt Flats

Aerial view showing why you should visit the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah

Jeremy Christensen/Shutterstock

If you’ve never heard about the Bonneville Salt Flats, chances are you probably think traveling all the way to Utah to see “a bit of salt” is pointless. That can’t be further from the truth, however, and we hope the following will reassure you.

Let’s see the reasons why this impressive area should be on your bucket list:

  • Being one of the flattest places in the entire world, the flats are known for creating the iconic mirror effect that leaves no one feeling indifferent.
  • They’re also a great picnic location if the weather allows.
  • The Bonneville Salt Flats are an awesome photoshoot location too. Chances are you’ll make the most dramatic Instagram photos your followers have ever seen!
  • Believe it or not, you can bike here. This may not be as popular as driving or racing, but we’re sure at least some of you would enjoy the unique adrenaline rush on the flats.
  • If you enjoy stargazing, be ready to experience something otherworldly. Embrace what the night sky has to offer and soak in the light of the universe above your head. That said, note that overnight stays are impossible on the flats, but camping in nearby areas is absolutely fine.
  • Spice things up by attending a race, engaging in a recreational activity (there are plenty), or visiting another scheduled event. We’ll provide specific examples in a minute.
  • Finally, visiting the flats is a good opportunity to learn a bit of history. For example, did you know that the Bonneville Salt Flats were named after Captain B. L. E. Bonneville, a US Army officer and nineteenth-century explorer, although he never actually visited the flats?

Now that you know why the Bonneville Salt Flats are absolutely worth the drive, let’s see when you should visit them.

Overall Best Time to Visit Bonneville Salt Flats

Wide view showing the best time to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats during summer with mountains in the distance

Guillermo Olaizola/Shutterstock

The best time to visit Bonneville Salt Flats is during the mid-June – late August period. It’s the ideal time for outdoor sports activities and enjoying warm and dry weather.

In June, temperatures range between an average high of 83°F and an average low of 61°F. July sees temperatures fluctuating between 92°F and 71.°F July is the month with the most sunshine.

In August, visitors can expect temperatures ranging between 89°F and 69°F. These months (June in particular) have the most favorable conditions for ATV riding.

The salts are dry thanks to the summer temperatures and very low levels of precipitation, which means driving on the land is a piece of cake. Advanced drivers can enjoy the land, but beginners will also definitely benefit from the vast area, as they can drive as far as they want.

July visitors should head to Salt Lake City and explore the city’s major attractions. August is known for the Bonneville International Speed Week.

A major annual racing event, the Bonneville International Speed Week welcomes contestants with custom-designed vehicles. Bystanders are free to enjoy the event while watching racers set new speed records.

Cheapest Time to Visit Bonneville Salt Flats

Volcano peak near the flats indicating the cheapest time to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats

Sathish Raj PR/Shutterstock

Sticking to a budget is possible if you visit Bonneville Salt Flats in the December–February period. December has temperatures fluctuating between 36°F and 20°F.

In January, temperatures range between 35°F and 19°F. January is the most humid month in the entire year, with 75%. February welcomes visitors with temperatures with an average high of 41 °F and an average low of 24°F.

It’s also the month with the least sunny days. Winter months are ideal for visiting neighboring areas. If you happen to be in the Bonneville Salt Flats in December, you must pay West Wendover a visit as well.

Hotel prices are low, as it’s the off-season, and the weather is damp and unpleasant most of the time. However, going to West Wendover means visiting awesome restaurants, hotels, shops, and casinos, all of which are unaffected by the grumpy weather.

In January, you can visit the so-called “Tree of Life.” An abstract 87-foot-tall piece, the sculpture’s mission is to colorize the otherwise plain, salty scenery.

With its soggy flats in February, the area allows for a wide range of fun activities, such as building salt castles or engaging in salt ball fights with fellow travelers.

Least Busy Time to Visit Bonneville Salt Flats

After winter rains during the least busy time to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats, the flats flood with water

Ken Wolter/Shutterstock

If you’re not a fan of large crowds, consider going to the Bonneville Salt Flats either during the December–February period in winter or from March through May in spring.

Visiting in the winter shoulder season means having plenty of time and space to enjoy the entire area individually. Going in the spring shoulder period allows you to avoid the intense summer heat and high temperatures while having the flats to yourself.

Spring is the ideal time to hike. If you’re not really into hiking while visiting the flats or are skeptical about hiking in general, keep in mind the white salt takes the hiking game to another level.

April marks the opening of camps, so visitors interested in camping in the Bonneville Salt Flats should get ready for a salty adventure and iconic scenery. The Bureau of Land Management Special Recreation Area is great for camping.

May is reserved for athletic events such as the Salt Flats Endurance Runs. Ready to push yourself as hard as you possibly can? Sign up for the challenge and see how much you can endure.

In terms of the weather, March has temperatures fluctuating between 52°F and 33°F. In April, temperatures range between 60°F and 41°F. May sees temperatures between 70°F and 50°F.

Worst Time to Visit Bonneville Salt Flats

Wide angle view showing the worst time to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats with blue skies and clouds overhead

Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock

The Bonneville Salt Flats are always an awesome idea, but if you wish to avoid them at their muddiest, avoid going in late March through early July. 

In late spring and early summer, the region gets rainy, which translates into muddy flats. Many people get their cars stuck in the mud at this time, which can really put a damper on your trip.

Plus, this is quite a remote area we’re talking about, so getting the necessary help may be somewhat challenging (not to mention how expensive it is to get your car towed!).

That said, people enjoy visiting the flats at this time because the flooded flats create a nice mirror effect — you can see the mountain reflection in the crystal-clear flats. Quite the Instagramable view!

Things to Consider

Empty road with yellow lines showing the best time to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats with blue skies overhead

Marquicio Pagola/Shutterstock

Apart from knowing the best time to visit Bonneville Salt Flats, there are many other aspects worth considering:

  • The sun reflects on the surface producing a blinding light. Wearing sunglasses is more than recommended, but if you visit in summer, don’t forget to bring an SPF cream along too. Wide-brimmed hats are also a must.
  • Consider catching the sunrise or the sunset (we suggest both, though!) and take plenty of jaw-dropping photos.
  • If you’re planning on staying longer in the area, bring enough water, as well as food. With the nearest place being Wendover, there are no shops or restaurants in the area whatsoever.
  • While driving on the flats, do your best to stay in the white part of the land. The darker parts could be covered in mud, which means your car can easily get stuck. When passing puddles, drive slowly. Follow the tracks other vehicles have left.
  • If you plan to walk onto the flats and enter the water, consider the following:
    • The water can get freezing cold;
    • Avoid walking on the salt without any shoes on;
    • Don’t allow any saltwater near your equipment or your vehicle — salt water is corrosive, and it can mean the death of important gear;
    • To take the best shots and catch the reflections as authentically as you can, get low;
    • Just to be on the safe side, bring a waterproof bag to place your items.
  • If you rent a car, check with the rental company whether the insurance covers the vehicle getting into the salt.
  • There are no facilities in the Bonneville Salt Flats, so make sure to use the restroom before you arrive. That said, if you reach the salts from the East, you can access the Salt Flats Area Westbound, which features a fountain to wash one’s shoes and restrooms. A similar area overlooking the south side is the Salt Flats Rest Area Eastbound.
  • Cell phone coverage may be limited at times.
  • Be considerate of other visitors. No one likes getting photobombed after such a long drive. Speaking of driving, and more seriously, though, be mindful of hikers and other drivers. Even though the flats are vast, keep your distance. 
  • Sort out your accommodation well in advance. As the flats are in quite a remote ears, you may need to make day trips to the Bonneville Salt Flats from a hotel or a campsite nearby.
  • Lastly, leave the flats as you found them. Don’t leave any trash behind, try to minimize any vehicle impact, don’t start fires, and don’t engage in activities that may lead to both serious and negative consequences for the area.

Frequently Asked Questions

Reflective mirror surface for a frequently asked questions section on the best time to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats

Ashley Hadzopoulos/Shutterstock

Can anyone go to the Bonneville Salt Flats?

Yes, anyone can visit the Bonneville Salt Flats and drive around unless there’s a permitted event scheduled. Also, there’s no entry fee, and this is probably one of the best parts about the flats.

Why is there salt on the Bonneville Salt Flats?

The flats are remnants of a big lake that existed between 14,000 and 32,000 years ago. The lake was 320 miles long and 130 miles wide. During spring and summer months, this lake was filled with water thanks to glacier melt.

However, as the lake had no outlet, the water gradually evaporated, leaving behind white salt minerals. The Bonneville Salt Flats are roughly two miles long and five miles wide, and they’re made primarily of sodium chloride, that is, table salt.

What towns are near the Bonneville Salt Flats?

Towns near Bonneville Salt Flats include:

  • Salt Lake City — the city most people stay in and take a day trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats.
  • Wendover is a small town in the vicinity of the flats. Wendover is frequently one of the visitors’ top accommodation choices. Even if you don’t end up staying in Wendover, it’s certainly worth paying a visit. A couple of points of interest include Wendover Hill and the Historic Wendover Airfield.
  • West Wendover is in Nevada, but with Wendover, they create an urban agglomeration.
  • Elko — the Northeastern Nevada Museum is worth the visit alone.
  • Winnemucca is not the closest option, as it’s a 3.5-hour drive from the salts, but it’s still a valid exploration base for some, depending on where they’re coming from.
  • Reno, the third biggest city in Nevada, provides visitors with many accommodation options, attractions, and activities. However, it’s six hours from the salts, but if you plan a longer trip in the area, it’s ideal.

Can I swim in the Bonneville Salt Flats?

No, according to the US Bureau of Land Management, swimming in the Bonneville Salt Flats canals isn’t allowed. These canals are classified as industrial facilities and aren’t safe for recreational purposes. This includes outdoor activities such as floating, canoeing, kayaking, and others.

Are the Bonneville Salt Flats worth it?

Absolutely! However, you need to go at the right time to experience them fully and the way you should. For instance, if you go when it’s absolutely muddy or there’s heavy rainfall, you may be under the impression that going there isn’t worthwhile.

However, accessing Bonneville Salt Flats during warm and dry weather and when there are events lined up for visitors is an absolute game-changer.

So, When Should You Visit the Bonneville Salt Flats?

If you wish to plan the ideal Bonneville Salt Flats visit, the best time to do so is during the mid-June – late August period. With the weather being dry and sunny, the number of visitors peaks at this time of the year.

The December – February months are generally the most affordable, so if you’re trying to stick to a budget, keep an eye on this time period!

If you’re more comfortable with fewer crowds and wish to explore the flats in solitude, go either during the December-February period in winter or from March through May in spring.

If getting stuck in mud is something you wish to avoid at all costs, don’t plan your trip anytime from late March through early July. That said, picking a car capable of making it successfully through the mud might just be what you need to ensure a carefree visit in these months.

Finally, regardless of when you decide to go to the Bonneville Salt Flats, you’re armed with all the necessary information to ensure an awesome visit. Just enjoy it, and remember to take a lot of photos along the way!