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10 Things to See and Do at the Great Salt Lake

Not sure where to start with a visit to the Great Salt Lake?

Here are 10 activities to get you going on your salty adventure.

#1 Visit the Natural History Museum of Utah

Before venturing out to the lake, we suggest getting your feet wet at the Natural History Museum of Utah. This impressive museum is near the University of Utah, right on the Bonneville Shoreline. Get a panoramic view of the Salt Lake Valley from the fourth floor balcony and try to imagine how this basin looked when it was full of water. Then step inside and learn all about the history and ecology of the lake in the interactive Great Salt Lake exhibit. On the museum’s website, you can also take a virtual field trip.

#2 Watch the Sunset from the Marina

The Great Salt Lake (GSL) Marina is headquarters for the GSL Yacht Club (one of the oldest yacht clubs in the nation), a community rowing association, and Utah’s first Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Club. You can make reservations to go on a sunset cruise or rent paddle boards from Exclusive Excursions. There’s a rocky beach for those interested in getting up close and personal with the water.

#3 Visit Historic Saltair

Just six miles down the road from the marina is Saltair. During its heyday in the 1920s the Saltair was referred to as the “Coney Island of the West.” It’s an architecturally and historically interesting place. The roller coasters and fancy ballrooms are long gone. But people still come here for good music as it is now an all-ages music venue.

#4 Drive By the Tree of Utah

Artist Karl Momen’s internationally-acclaimed, colorful 87-foot tall sculpture stands out against the salt. Have your camera ready as you drive by—there’s not an exit and the sculpture is surrounded by razor wire.  

#5 Check Out the Bonneville Salt Flats

The expansive dried-lake bed to the west of the lake is known as The Salt Flats. Just as the name implies, it is a long stretch of barren, flat land covered in white salt. There are a few rest stops along I-80 where it’s possible to get out of your car and explore this unique environment. Take a break from driving and see the curvature of the Earth along the flat horizon. It’s a favorite spot among area photographers because of the colorful sunsets and highly reflective puddles.

#6 Catch Salt Fever at Speed Week

The famous Bonneville Speedway is located in the western portion of the flats, near Wendover. For one week each August the flats are full of dragsters, motorcycles and hot rods, all vying for a spot on the list of speed records. If you are there any other time of the year, still make it a point to stop by the Speedway. Land-speed records have been made and broken at this nationally-registered historic sight since 1935.

#7 Admire the Spiral Jetty

Artist Robert Smithson installed the Spiral Jetty in 1970. According to the Holt/Smithson Foundation, “Spiral Jetty is a testament to Smithson’s fascination with entropy. Its precarious location lends itself to the structure’s inevitable disintegration, yet its impressive size and deliberate shape command the surrounding landscape. Constructed from 6,650 tons of rock and earth, the spiral continuously changes form as nature, industry, and time take effect.”

This land art gives an amazing visual impression of the effect the lake has on the surrounding landscape over time. The jetty’s appearance changes from season to season and year to year. The microbes in the lake cause the water around the jetty to turn pink in the fall. Here is a helpful itinerary for planning a day trip to the jetty.

#8 Explore the Great Salt Lake’s Unique Wetlands

In order to truly appreciate the greatness of the lake’s astonishing ecology, visit the Eccles Wildlife Education Center or the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve. Both are located on the Farmington Bay wetlands and feature interpretive nature trails to enhance your understanding of what makes the lake so special.

#9 Boat, Swim, and Fish at Willard Bay

Willard Bay is on the northern end of the lake, not far from the Shorelands Preserve. Tall cottonwood trees shade the campground in the summer and provide nesting for bald eagles in the winter.

#10 Visit Antelope Island State Park

Just an hour from downtown Salt Lake City is a vast wilderness where bison, antelope, and bighorn sheep roam. Drive across the seven mile causeway to access Antelope Island State Park and you will feel like you’re a world away. Visit the Fielding Garr Ranch, get lunch at the Island Buffalo Diner, and camp under star-filled skies.

Looking for more summer fun around Salt Lake City?

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