There may be no place in the United States quite like the Bonneville Salt Flats. For the past several decades it’s been attracting speed addicts, filmmakers, and curious travelers to its vast 30,000 acres of dazzling white, salty earth.
The Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway portion of the salt flats brings the most visitors to the area, and the speedway has helped give new life to nearby Wendover, UT, a former military-base town now catering to tourists and racers year-round. This guide will help you make the most of your trip to Wendover and the Bonneville Salt Flats...
If you want to see cars run on the salt, your best bet is to visit during September when the “World of Speed.” (Check saltflats.com for annual dates) The Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway also hosts some racing action in July as the land speed record racers use the month to test and tune in preparation for September.
Of course, during these months the town of Wendover comes alive with racing fever, so consider booking your hotel rooms well in advance.
A trip to Wendover, UT and the Bonneville Salt Flats can be a great experience, however, any time of year. Whether you’re in town for racing or just passing through, these are some places you’ll want to be sure hit up:
Just outside the entrance to the Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway sits a little gas station/restaurant combo. The gas station is one of only a few places to get some salt flats souvenirs, so be sure to stock up, but the real draw of this stop is the Salt Flats Cafe.
Just a simple little Mexican diner, it wouldn’t normally be anything to write about, but this cafe just happens to be the place to be if you want to shoot the breeze with the biggest names in land speed record racing.
The walls are lined with famous photos of men like Burt Munro, Art Arfons, and Craig Breedlove. You may even recognize the cafe from its role in “World’s Fastest Indian.” Well, true to the movie, Munro frequented the cafe back in his Bonneville racing days. A trip to the Salt Flats Cafe makes you feel like you’re part of the LSR community. You just can’t not stop here. Simple as that.
This airfield was a critical training spot for bomber groups during WWII and housed tens of thousands of troops during the war effort. Historic Wendover Airfield tells about the war efforts here:
"All told, there were 21 bomber groups and over 1,000 aircrews that completed training at Wendover airfield, enough to outfit the entire Eighth Air Force, but not all went to that organization. The crews participated in the strategic bombing of Germany, flew in support of D-Day, and conducted combat operations around the world. Three of the groups had Medal of Honor recipients."
Wendover Airfield’s most well-known contribution to the war effort, however, was its testing of inert “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” test bombs from B-29s to provide valuable ballistic and flight data for the eventual nuclear bombs dropped on Japan.
After the military stopped using the airfield, it became famous on the silver screen… Wendover Airfield has played a major role in multiple movies, but you’ll know it best as Area 51 in Independence Day and Lerner Field in Con-Air. The “Jailbird” airplane from the movie still sits on the tarmac.
Stop by the airfield to learn more about its important role in WWII and get your picture taken with the “Jailbird”.
On the west side of Wendover (actually, Wendover, NV), over by the truck stops, you’ll find everyone’s favorite 90 ft. tall cowboy, Wendover Will. Get yourself a picture with the world’s largest cowboy.
Calling a spade a spade, Wendover is a casino town. The Montego Bay Resort is coming off some fresh remodels and the Red Garter Hotel and Casino, Wendover Nugget Hotel & Casino, and the Rainbow Casino are all good options right in the heart of Wendover.
The Bonneville Salt Flats need your help to make sure they remain for others to enjoy for years and years to come. utah.com has some tips from the Bureau of Land Management on how you can help preserve the salt flats:
"Stay on existing roads or areas designated for vehicles. Despite the appearance of a hard surface, much of the area is a thin salt crust over soft mud. It easily breaks under the weight of a vehicle.
Stay off the salt surface when it is covered by water. When wet, the salt surface is soft and easily damaged by vehicles. Furthermore, the salt water is highly corrosive and can "short-out" the electrical system in your vehicle.
Be prepared for desert conditions. Temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and drop well below 0 in the winter.
There are no facilities or services on the salt flats. Temporary facilities are available during racing events.
Overnight stays are prohibited on the salt flats. Camping is encouraged on surrounding public lands."