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Off-roading gets elemental at the Bonneville Salt Flats

Fans of off-road driving on the hunt for a completely unique experience need look no farther than Utah. The state is home to one of the most remarkable environments in the U.S. - and it doesn't even consist of some of the towering mountains the Beehive State is known for. Instead, the region that attracts so many adventurous off-roaders is entirely flat. 

About the Bonneville Salt Flats
Located in northwestern Utah, the Bonneville Salt Flats are a large expanse of land nestled on the western edge of the Great Salt Lake. It formed when the ancient Lake Bonneville dried up at the end of the Ice Age and left salt deposits behind. Over time, this salty terrain halted almost all growth of vegetation in the area and condensed to form a hard crust. This layer can be as thick as 5 feet or as thin as an inch, depending on the location, creating a one-of-a-kind spot for driving. 

Part of the allure of the Bonneville Salt Flats is what is known as "Bonneville Speedway." Unlike other circuits, this track is naturally flat and is made up of the salty soil, creating a slick and fast-paced environment that has been the cause of a number of land speed records. 

The Utah Salt Flats Racing Association regularly hosts events throughout the year, and some motorists make it a point to visit the area during one of these festivities to experience the events. There are five major contests held throughout the year, including Speed Week, World of Speed, the World Finals, the Bub Motorcycle Speed Trials and the Mike Cook ShootOut. 

What to expect
Off-roading is one of the biggest draws at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The area is on the National Register of Historic Landmarks due to its contributions to land speed racing, and as such it attracts many fans of motorsports and off-road driving. It is free and open to the public for most of the year, with the only scheduling difficulties arising when organizations are filming on the site. 

Drivers should also be prepared to deal with other travelers checking out the salt flats. The natural phenomenon attracts a number of traditional tourists in addition to off-roaders, so you have to be aware of everyday visitors as you drive around. The last thing you want is to encounter a potentially dangerous situation, so be on the lookout for wanderers in the area as you zip around the salt flats. 

Although the majority of the Bonneville Salt Flats are perfectly level, there are a few sections where hills and even low mountains are present. These geographic landmarks provide a welcome challenge for many drivers, especially with the slick surface, and you will be able to test your skills and truck modifications on these difficult passes. While the Bureau of Land Management asks that visitors stick to established trails, there is still plenty of opportunity to explore the region. 

The necessary truck mods
Navigating over flat areas may sound easy, but handling the Bonneville Salt Flats is harder than you may expect. To successfully get around the land, you have to make sure your off-road vehicle can handle the unique nature of the salt. Tires suited for slick surfaces are a must, and drivers will also want to have recovery straps and towing tools on hand. Mud is common within 100 yards of the edge of the crust, and those who drive too close may find themselves stuck if they are not paying attention. 

Water occasionally floods the area, especially in the winter and early spring, so you may want to be prepared to deal with wet conditions depending on when you visit. Heavy winds and rainstorms are also common, and these elements may change the driving conditions.