A Trip to the Moon (aka The Bonneville Salt Flats)
An other-worldly experience forms along the interstate just outside the sprawl of Utah's Salt Lake City.
I've never been to space but my imagination fed by equal parts cartoons and documentaries tells me walking on the moon is something like walking on the Bonneville Salt Flats, a directionless adventure on a crusty surface with a horizon that irresistibly tempts you to take another step.
Utah's salt flats are located about 90 minutes west of Salt Lake City, along the I80, right before the Nevada state line. They occupy about 30,000 acres on the western edge of the Great Salt Lake basin and feature a blindingly white salt crust that ranges from a few inches to a few feet deep. At first sight, the salt flats look completely flat and you feel like you can almost see the curvature of the planet but at closer look you start to see individual salt crystals and crater-like patterns that add to the other-worldly feel.
Unlike snow which comes and goes each winter and melts away in your hands, these salt flats are remnants of Lake Bonneville, a lake the size of Lake Michigan which receded with the last ice age. Traces of the shoreline are etched into surrounding hills and a handful of salt crystals is like holding thousands of years of history. There's something beautiful and unique about experiencing the contradictions of a place that's barren yet invigorating, desolate yet bright, and ancient yet pristine.
Driving on the Bonneville Salt Flats
The salt flats are the site of several speed racing competitions and land speed record attempts each year but you don't have to be a speed racer to drive on them. In fact, driving is one of the funnest activities at the flats because you can drive as fast as you want for as long as you want without any markings or signs telling you where to go or how to get there.
If you're trying to figure out the best place to enter the salt flats by car, you want to take exit 4 off of I80 and head north (turn toward the Sinclair gas station which is a good place to stop for restrooms, gas, food and drinks). Wait to see the Salt Flats sign and continue toward the Speedway. The entrance is wide open and free. Drive straight until the road seems to end and you'll be on salt before you know it. If you turn onto the salt flats earlier, you'll just be on a much more bumpy and possibly muddy part. We didn't find that as fun to drive as the smooth part where you can go as fast as you want and even take your hands off the wheel.
*Driving on the salt flats is only recommended when they are dry. When wet, the soft salt surface can easily be damaged by vehicles, and the salt water is highly corrosive and can "short-out" the electrical system in your vehicle.