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18 Apr 2020
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There’s no doubt that one Salt Lake City’s greatest appeals is its proximity to the Wasatch mountains: beauty, hikes, skiing, bike trails, fresh air….the appeal is endless; but if you’re anxious for something a little different, then check out these unforgettable day-trips from Salt Lake City. 

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1. Bonneville Salt Flats

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Setting foot on the Bonneville Salt Flats feels like setting foot on another planet in a galaxy far, far away. Formed when the ancient, salty Lake Bonneville dried up thousands of years ago, these flats are covered with a layer of salt so thick, it makes certain portions almost completely inhospitable to life. 

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Many movies have been filmed here, including Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence, The Need for Speed, and more. 

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In the summer months, the salty top layer is so dry and hard that it becomes the perfect surface for high-speed racing. Many land speed records have been set and broken at the Bonneville Speedway. 

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Visitors can drive on the hard salt flats with almost any kind of car in the summer months but are highly discouraged from doing so in wetter seasons (fall, winter, spring). Not only are cars almost certain to get stuck in the wet, sticky top layer, but it also destroys the delicate ecosystems of the salt flats that are essential to the area. However, visitors are still welcome to walk on the flats any time of year! 

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Location: West of the Great Salt Lake

Accessible by: Car, foot

Click here for more information

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2. Goblin Valley State Park

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Goblin Valley was discovered in mainstream American culture by cowboys searching for cattle, and we can only imagine their surprise when they found such an unusual place! Its famously-odd geological formations called hoodoos are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. 

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Goblin Valley’s night skies are almost as notable as its hoodoos. They’ve been named some of the darkest in the world thanks to the almost complete lack of light pollution in the area. Go on a self-guided gazing tour, or join one of the monthly ranger-led events

Hiking and mountain biking trails for all ages and skill levels make this puzzling place fun and memorable for anyone. 

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Location: South of Salt Lake City, near Capitol Reef National Park

Accessible by: Car, foot, bike

Click here for more information

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3. Little Sahara Recreation Area

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“Since when does she go to the dunes?” (Name that movie...)

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Have you ever seen free-moving sand dunes? Better yet, have you ever gone SLEDDING on free-moving sand dunes? 

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Little Sahara Recreation Area is 60,000 acres of flats, hills, and sand dunes less than 2 hours south of Salt Lake City. It’s a blast to dune buggy or ATV on the dunes, but there’s still plenty to do even if you don’t have an off-road vehicle! Fat-biking, sandboarding, sand skiing, sand sledding, hiking, and wildlife viewing are just a few of the fun activities accessible to anyone. 

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The dunes are another leftover from ancient Lake Bonneville. When the lake receded, winds picked up the exposed sand and deposited it in about 124 square miles of free-moving dunes. 

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Location: 1 hour 45 minutes south of Salt Lake City

Accessible by: Car, foot, bike, dune buggy, ATV, or similar

Click here for more information

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4. Mirror Lake Scenic Byway (Uinta Mountains) 

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In the mood for something more easy-going? Explore the Unitas and see one of the highest roads in Utah from the comfort of your car on the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway. 

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If you’re thinking, “Don’t all mountains look the same? How are they any different from the Wasatch?” then think again. The Unitas have a distinct look characterized by carved glacial valleys, plentiful lakes stocked with fish, and forested valleys that suddenly disappear as you rise above the treeline. 

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Be sure to check out Mirror Lake and the Provo River Falls on your journey. The route from Salt Lake City also passes through Park City and Heber Valley, which are both very picturesque and worth exploring during any season. 

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Location: About 1 hour east of Salt Lake City

Accessible by: Car, foot

Click here for more information

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5. Floating in the Great Salt Lake

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It’s not the Dead Sea, but it’s as close as you’ll get on this side of the world! The Great Salt Lake is so salty that you can float without treading water, similar to the Dead Sea. 

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Most people agree that the best places to enter the lake to float are the Great Salt Lake Marina and Bridger Bay at Antelope Island (see #7 below). 

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Location: Great Salt Lake Marina: 20 minutes west of Salt Lake City; Bridger Bay: 1 hour northwest of Salt Lake City

Accessible by: Car, foot, bike

Click here for more information

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6. Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef is Utah’s most neglected national park, but we don’t know why! It’s absolutely incredible. Think of it as a mini Zion National Park without the crowds and with a lot more charm.

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The park features all of the things you expect from a Utah national park: arches, magnificent rock walls, red sandstone, fossils, unique ecosystems, bighorn sheep, etcetera; but it also features things 100 percent unique to itself: the Waterpocket Fold (which creates most of the iconic features in the park), and the Fruita fruit orchards (where you can pick your own fresh fruit INSIDE a gorgeous national park...unforgettable!).

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Capitol Reef is situated right next to Goblin Valley State Park (see #2 above), which means it shares Golbin Valley’s famously dark night skies. We can tell you from experience, that the night skies in that area are some of the most magnificent you’ll ever see.

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Location: South of Salt Lake City, near Goblin Valley State Park

Accessible by: Car, foot, off-road vehicle

Click here for more information

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7. Antelope Island

Yes, there’s a large island complete with beaches, wildlife, and recreation of all kinds just miles from Salt Lake City: Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. It’s a magical and unique way to experience the Great Salt Lake and the surrounding mountains. 

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See a bison or antelope herd, hike and see a unique sunrise, or just stop in for a picnic. Be sure to check out Bridger Beach, a two-mile beach that’s a great place to float in the lake. 

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Location: 1 hour northwest of Salt Lake City

Accessible by: Car, foot, bike

Click here for more information