Utah's Lake Bonneville Region
Now that it’s high and (mostly) dry, the unique landscape in Utah’s Lake Bonneville region begs to be explored. Brigham City — a quintessential town complete with a historic arch over its Main Street — is at the epicenter of all the epic adventures. From there you can make dusty day trips through the desert and sunny sojourns to the water, stopping to grab some bison burgers and peach shakes along the way.
The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is lush with vegetation. Its wetlands and uplands offer a shady safe haven to our feathered friends. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Knolls Recreation Area. It’s a favorite OHV area with mudflats, rolling hills and free-moving sand dunes but little shade or water. Silver Island Mountain Range borders the Bonneville Salt Flats and boasts a scenic Backcountry Byway. The 54-mile loop is filled with limestone caves, strangely shaped boulders and historical points of interest.
Besides natural beauty, the Lake Bonneville region is also famous for its man-made earth art. Spiral Jetty punctuates the Rozel Point peninsula on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake with 7,000 tons of basalt rock. (If you go when water levels are low, beware of tar pits. Watch your step and keep your pets on a leash.) Tree of Utah — a colorful, 87-foot-tall sculpture that can only be described as “amazeballs” — is another must-see. And after satisfying your need for speed at the Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway, make the remote drive to the massive astronomical display dubbed Sun Tunnels.
Views You Can Expect
People walking out by the Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake. The Spiral Jetty is one of the most remarkable examples of Land Art. You need to see it for yourself.
Willard Bay State Park
Willard Bay is a freshwater reservoir on the edge of the Great Salt Lake. The park here offers excellent opportunities for boating, camping and fishing.
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, near Brigham City, Utah, offers some of the most phenomenal waterbird watching in the western United States!
Golden Spike National Historical Park
Golden Spike is a historic site established in the 19th century to celebrate the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. The final spike to join the rails was a 17.6-karat gold spike.
Tree of Utah
On the edge of the Bonneville Salt Flats, west of Salt Lake City stands the 87-foot high tree, known as the Tree of Utah. Also called the "Tree of Life," the sculpture is located on the north side of I-80 about 95 miles west of Salt Lake City (25 miles east of Wendover).
Planning Your Trip to the Lake Bonneville Region
Driving Directions to Brigham City
FROM THE SOUTH
The 60-mile drive (55 minutes) from Salt Lake City to Brigham City via I-15 N is an easy one. Use Exit 363 and go 2.2 miles east to reach Main Street.
FROM THE NORTH
Coming from Pocatello? It’s a straight shot on I-15 S. Drive for 178 miles (2 hours, 20 minutes) to Exit 365. From there, make a slight right on Promontory Road and another slight right on Brigham City’s Main Street.
Map & Directions to Brigham CityDirections
Driving Directions to Bonneville Salt Flats
FROM THE EAST
The 122-mile drive from downtown SLC to Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway usually takes 1.75 hours. Get on I-80 W and keep going until you reach Exit 4 near the Utah/Nevada border.
FROM THE NORTH
The fastest way to get from Brigham City to the Bonneville Salt Flats takes 2.75 hours (178 miles) via 1-15 S and I-80 W. Take Exit 4.
You can also go up and around the Great Salt Lake using I-15 N/I-84 W and SR-30 W, but this route crosses into Nevada and adds another 40 minutes (43 miles).
Map & Directions to Bonneville Salt FlatsDirections
Things to Do
Scuba diving in Utah? Yep. Blue Lake is a geothermal pond in Tooele County where you can see the steam rising from the surface on a cold day. What you don’t see are the divers below the surface checking out the bubbling hot pots and exploring the sunken boats. The warm water is also good for swimming and fishing. If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground and have your eyes to the sky, birding in Box Elder County is a popular pastime. Other things to do in the Lake Bonneville region include:
- Horseback riding
- Setting speed records*
- Scuba diving
If, like the Joker, you find yourself wondering, “Where does he get those wonderful toys?” — wonder no more. Club Rec offers on-site watercraft rentals at Willard Bay. There are other outfitters offering recreational rentals in the region as well.
*Even if you aren’t a professional driver with a bullet car capable of exceeding 500 mph, you can still watch speed trials and other motorsports at the Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway. Or, grab a helmet and take your street car for a spin around the world-class racetrack at the Utah Motorsports Campus in Grantsville.
Where to Stay
WENDOVER HOTELS AND MOTELS
Overnight stays on the Bonneville Salt Flats are prohibited, but there are a handful of hotels and motels including the Quality Inn Stateline in nearby Wendover, Utah (not to be confused with its casino-filled sister city just across the state border in Nevada). This town is close to Danger Cave State Park Heritage Area, Historic Wendover Airfield and Blue Lake.
BRIGHAM CITY LODGING
There are several hotels in Brigham City, including Crystal Inn Hotel & Suites. Neighboring towns — including Tremonton and Honeyville — have comfortable accommodations close to Golden Spike Historical Site, Crystal Hot Springs and other attractions in Box Elder County.
You can also camp at Crystal Hot Springs if you have an adventure-ready rig and need a place to park it. Golden Spike RV Park, Brigham/Perry KOA and Aspen Grove RV Park are other options in the greater Brigham City area.
WILLARD BAY STATE PARK CAMPGROUNDS
From primitive campsites for tents only to pull-throughs with full hookups for RVs and even a couple of cabins, there are a total of 110 campsites near the warm(ish) water in Willard Bay, a freshwater reservoir separated from the Great Salt Lake. Modern restrooms with hot showers are available in both the North and South Marinas. Reservations can be made through ReserveAmerica.
- Willow Creek: This is the least developed campground of the trio, with 35 primitive sites and two designated for tents only. It’s a short walk to the lake from most spots on the three loops that make up Willow Creek Campground. A path parallels the namesake tributary in the top loop to a small pond.
- Cottonwood: Located a half mile from the water, Cottonwood Campground has 36 full-hookup sites situated on two loops. Three no-frills cabins that sleep up to 8 are also reservable, not far from Eagle’s Beach.
- South Marina: There’s something for everyone at the South Marina. It’s composed of one group spot, two on-site glamping trailers, six tent-only spots and 22 full-hookup sites. Shaded picnic tables are also available here.
Love camping, but hate packing up and backing up? Utah Camping Company, an official partner of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, delivers fully stocked luxury trailers to the Willard Bay site of your choice. All you have to do is show up.
SILVER ISLAND MOUNTAIN RANGE DISPERSED CAMPING
Developed campgrounds? Puh-lease. There aren’t any of those in the Silver Island Mountain Range. But if you like camping in places where you likely won’t see another soul, this is the place. Car camping is allowed within 100 feet of the road and there are a handful of primitive spots at the base of Rishell Peak. Spring and fall are typically the best times to camp here, as shade is scarce and summer temps often reach triple digits.
Whether you have a day, a weekend or an entire week to explore the Lake Bonneville region, there’s never a dull moment. If you find yourself bored? You only have yourself to blame, Mr./Ms. Milquetoast.
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