West Desert Area
The western portion of Utah is a unique area very different from other parts of the state. It is mostly arid desert accented by low mountain ranges. Water is scarce. The Bonneville Salt Flats are included in the west desert area.
There are few towns in this part of the state. Few gas stations; few motels. You won't even find very many campgrounds. You can expect to drive 100 miles or more between communities. Often, roads are dirt and you can sometimes go many hours without seeing another vehicle.
Solitude is an important attraction here. But it also brings risks. If you drive the backroads here, you need to be self-sufficient. Make sure you start with a full tank of gas. Carry food and water - more than you think you will need. Make sure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition and you have a good spare tire (and jack).
Attractions here include:
- Bonneville Salt Flats: See our comprehensive information on the Salt Flats.
- Deep Creek Mountains: This is a mountain range with high peaks located on the Utah/Nevada border. The mountains offer a surprisingly lush oasis in the otherwise stark desert. Several streams cascade down mountain canyons and provide a great environment for a wide variety of plans and animals.
Many people are surprised to learn that the Deep Creek range is the third-highest range in Utah. The High Uinta Mountains in eastern Utah contain the highest peaks in the state. Next is Mt Peale near Moab, at 12,720 feet. After that comes Ibapah Peak in the Deep Creeks, at 12,018 feet. Mt Nebo climbs to 11,860 feet and is the highest mountain near Salt Lake City. (Mt Timpanogos tops out at 11,749 feet.)
Hiking, camping and hunting are popular activities in the Deep Creeks.
Other mountains in the west desert are attractive, but not nearly so high.
- Pony Express Trail: This scenic backway cuts across the desert just south of the Salt Flats. It is one of several enjoyable backroads in this area. See our detailed information on this attraction.
- Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge: Located along the old Pony Express Route south of the Salt Flats, this area has several interconnected ponds and marshes. They provide important habitat for a large number of migratory birds, plus many birds and animals that live in the area year-round. See our Fish Springs page.
Rockhounding is a popular activity in Utah's west desert. Sites like the Antelope Springs trilobite beds and Topaz Mountain are famous and command considerable attention. Other sites are less famous but offer the potential to find beautiful and sometimes valuable stones and minerals.
Herds of wild horses roam the west desert area and are seen occasionally by visitors. They are considered to be an important part of our national heritage and are protected by federal law. Most people think it is a thrill to see them running wild and free.
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