After having an amazing time in Hanksville, Utah we continued our journey West through Utah, Nevada, and beyond. We camped in Truck Stops, slept under the stars, and watched a gorgeous sunrise at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Also, we were able to continue our goal of seeing all the National Parks by going to two more: Pinnacles & Great Basin. Then, we finally made it back out to the coast of California!
Over this week, we drove a total of 16 hours in just three days and we even drove the “Loneliest Road in America.” It was an exhausting experience, but we saw so many incredible places along the way. Read all about our time in the van in the past week and learn all the things we explored!
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Table of Contents
Where We Went: Salt Lake, Bonneville Salt Flats, Great Basin & Pinnacles
Salt Lake City
We started the week in the Salt Lake area where we decided to do a lot of work and explore a couple unique natural areas nearby. We spent a few nights in parking lots, but it was worth it for the awesome experiences we had.
Diamond Fork Hot Springs
Dylan and I decided to go on an adventure to yet another hot springs. Online I had seen pictures of this hot spring with light blue water and deep pools. It looked like a magical oasis in the middle of a forest and I knew that we had to try and go. Plus, we were ready to relax and rest after a crazy adventure in Utah.
We drove through meandering hillsides until we got to the parking area for the Diamond Fork springs. As soon as we arrived, I could tell that this was a popular spot. The parking lot was full at 4ish on a Monday. We started making our way on the 3 mile trail towards the springs (6 miles round trip), walking along the river, and over some hills. I was disappointed to see a lot of litter and graffiti amongst this otherwise peaceful natural setting.
Along the way, we saw a number of people returning from the springs, so we were hopeful that it would be somewhat empty by the time we arrived. As soon as we rounded the corner for the springs the stench of sulphur hit our noses. It was one of the most fragrant hot springs I have ever been, and the only comparison to the smell is rotten eggs.
Getting past the awful stench, we looked on at the various pools that lined the river culminating in a large falls over a cliff. It was one of the most beautiful free hot springs that I have ever seen. Dylan and I quickly undressed to our bathing suits and made our way into the pools. They varied in temperature and we found the perfect one across the river. Luckily, two girls left right as we wanted to soak, so we had the pool to ourselves.
Dylan and I enjoyed just relaxing and soaking in the beautiful setting. We stayed for 30ish minutes before our skin pruned and it was time to leave. We returned the same way and rested afterwards.
Antelope Island State Park
Although we didn’t do much exploring of the Salt Lake area, I knew that I wanted to get a good view of the Great Salt Lake. We decided to venture into Antelope Island State Park, which we had read good things about. This state park is well known for being a place to hike, backpack, camp and… see Bison! I had no idea there were bison in the area before going to this park.
The main thing to do besides hiking is driving around the island and partaking in wildlife spotting. We drove around the island looking out for these huge bumbling creatures. It didn’t take long to come upon a bison roaming the fields and then we continued to see many of them crowded in groups throughout the water and fields. It was almost like being on a safari of sorts. We really enjoyed the views and the animals in the park.
Bonneville Salt Flats
After our wildlife entertainment, we drove West to go to a place that had been on my bucket list for a very long time: The Bonneville Salt Flats. Unfortunately, when we arrived it was cloudy and the salt flats faded into the sky. Luckily, we had planned on camping in the area so we went to find a spot for the night to just relax.
There is plenty of BLM land to sleep on surrounding the flats, so we had no problem finding a place to sleep. However, winds howled that night making it hard to get good shut eye, but we still woke early to catch the sunrise. We drove our van over to the rest area and slowly drove it onto the Flats.
We had the flats all to ourselves for the entire sunrise, which was a magical experience. Oranges, pinks, and purples spread over the white hexagons of the salt flats. It was a mesmerizing sight as we watched hues color the sky to start the day. I would love to return during the wet season to see the lights reflect in the pools of water that dot the ground. I can’t wait to make it back to the Bonneville Salt Falts!
On Friday, we went to one of the harder parks to get to in the US: Great Basin National Park (NP #31). Unfortunately, much of the park was still closed because of snow and high elevations, but we were able to book a tour through the Lehman Caves.
This was our third cave that we have visited during this year in the van and it was one of the most interesting. Rock formations rose up and down the cave walls and we marveled at the incredible natural sight. The tour lasted an hour and was a great way to learn more about the caves and the science behind it all. I highly recommend going on a cave tour when you visit this park.
We continued West and began our journey on route 50 through Nevada, deemed the “loneliest road in the US.” It soon became evident how it got this moniker as people, towns, and signs of life were few and far between. We drove for hours without seeing anything besides gorgeous mountain views, road, and sunset.
It was a bit creepy to be on the road with nothing around, but it was also exciting. Eventually, we made it back to civilization in the Reno, Nevada area and we searched for a place to sleep and recover from our long drive.
Lake Tahoe & Pinnacles National Park
We woke up near Reno and drove an hour to the Southern area of Lake Tahoe. As soon as we got close, the bright blue water started appearing in the dsitance and my excitement was palbable. Lake Tahoe is a kaleidoscope of blues from darker royal blues to glistening turquoises near the shores. Dylan and I did a quick hike up to Monkey Rock for a better vantage over the lake and to get a break from driving.
We continued onto Mountain View to see a couple friends for dinner, games, and a place to rest our heads. It was really nice to break up a long drive with activities and social ventures. But, we continued on the very next morning to Pinnacles National Park (NP #32) which protects a mountainous range with nesting Condor sites.
When we arrived at the park, the Ranger told us to stay off the high peaks due to the hot temperatures. We decided to just stick to a couple short hikes and take it relatively easy. First, we hiked the Condor Gulch Trail and looked out on the peaks above. Then, we continued on into the Bear Gulch Caves, which were really amazing! You had to walk on narrow walkways and climb up stairs within the dark and cool cave walls. It was a truly unique experience and a great way to end an awesome week!
Where We Stayed:
- Cracker Barrel in Provo
- Walmart near Antelope Island
- Cracker Barrel West Valley City
- BLM Land near Salt Flats
- Loves in Ely
Let me know if you enjoyed this recap in the comments!
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