9 Tips from Locals on How to Make Most of Your Time in Tooele

The Great Salt Lake never ceases to amaze.
The Great Salt Lake never ceases to amaze. Marianne Kirby
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[Tooele County](www.tooelechamber.com) (pronounced too-will-uh by those who live there) offers an eclectic mix of amazing outdoor experiences in northwestern Utah. Located just west of Salt Lake City and extending to the Nevada border, the county is huge, encompassing nearly 7,000 square miles. It includes parts of 12 mountain ranges, the Deseret Peak Wilderness, the Bonneville Salt Flats, the Cedar Mountain Wilderness—and the Great Salt Lake. Anyone who loves the outdoors will enjoy the miles of mountain and lakeside trails open to hiking, trail running, and mountain biking, excellent roads for cycling, spots for sport climbing, and lots of geographic wonders to explore. And it’s all easily accessible, starting just 25 minutes from the Salt Lake City airport. From the locals who love the area, we compiled these nine tips for getting the most out of your time in Tooele County. You’ll be glad you made the trip.

1. Go Biking Year-Round

The Left Hand Fork Trail is a favorite for mountain bikers in Tooele County. Ken Lund

While Tooele County is relatively close to Salt Lake City, you wouldn’t know that from hitting the roads and trails. Road cyclists will find the majority of the rural roads have light traffic, and mountain bikers will find little company on trails that feature amazing views. While snow does cover the Oquirrh and Stansbury mountains during the winter, most of the lower-elevation trails can be ridden year-round, (allowing off-road riders to get their fix many of the state’s trails aren’t available.) During the warmer months, riders like to go to the Middle Canyon, just outside of Tooele City in the Oquirrhs, which features a challenging ride to the summit of West Mountain. In Settlement Canyon, the Dark Trail is perfect for novice and intermediates, with little climbing over the course of just under three miles. Also in Settlement Canyon, the Left-Hand Fork ride is more difficult, with more technical sections and a difficult climb to the summit. Riders of any ability will find something to love no matter the time of the year.

2. Spend the Night Outside

Tooele County is filled with public land to explore, and it has several camping options, both for those who want something primitive or with more traditional amenities. The Loop Campground is the place to be if climbing Deseret Peak, as it’s located at the hikes trailhead. You’ll also find campgrounds in Ophir Canyon and the Upper Narrows. If you have access to an RV, the Vernon and Grantsville reservoirs are good options. For those willing to give up amenities for more solitude, dispersed camping is allowed on BLM land in the area, including at Lookout and Five Mile Passes, White Rocks in Skull Valley, and in the Silver Mountain Range at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

3. Take Advantage of Rock Climbing

Most people know about hiking Deseret Peak, but you’ll also find good rock climbing in the area. summitcheese

While the best known experience in the Stansbury Mountains is probably hiking to the top of Deseret Peak, there is also a good amount of traditional rock climbing to do as well. Located near Grantsville, South Willow Canyon features more than three dozen established sport climbs, mostly 5.10 and harder. In the Upper Narrows section of the canyon you’ll find some difficult and high-quali routes. Once again, you won’t find a lot of competition for routes, especially if you visit midweek. Plus the crag stays shady even in the height of summer, so it’s an excellent option in hot weather. You’ll also find some less developed sport climbing near Dugway in the Valley of Zion area in the 5.8 to 5.10 range, and some bouldering on Stansbury Island.

4. Learn the Area’s History

If learning about history is more to your liking, Tooele county is home to 10 museums and nearly 60 historical attractions and monuments. The famous Pony Express route runs through the county, and you can bike a 40-mile gravel path that commemorates the historical route. Many of the monuments are surrounded by interesting places to hike or bike, including the historic Benson Grist Mill, which features an excellent 14-mile loop for cycling. The Iosepa Cemetery memorializes settlers from a Hawaiian colony from the early 1900s, and it sits at the trailhead for a hike up Salt Mountain.

5. Enjoy Action Sports

Are you more of a speed person? The Deseret Peak Complex, just 35 miles west of Salt Lake City, features more than 20 different venues across 600 acres, including motocross, BMX, and ATV racetracks. Of course, that’s just the tip of what’s available there: You’ll find an Olympic-size swimming pool, water slide, playgrounds, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, an archery park, and a nine-hole, chip-and-putt golf course. For those interested in fast cars, the Utah Motorsports Campus in Grantsville hosts prestigious international events, or you can ride in karts yourself that reach 40 to 50 mph. Or try a race car simulator to get a sense of what it’s like to ride with the big boys.

6. Explore the Bonneville Salt Flats

The Bonneville Salt Flats is an iconic space to hike and explore. Fabio Achilli

Until the last ice age ended, Lake Bonneville covered about two-thirds of modern-day Utah in water about 1,000 feet deep. The lake receded, eventually leaving behind the 46-square-mile, flat-as-can-be, salt-covered desert floor that’s best known for setting land-speed records. Located near the Utah/Nevada border, it’s a unique place to explore, allowing you actually see the curvature of the earth.

7. Take Advantage of the Night Sky

Little population means little light pollution, and the Stansbury Park Observatory is a great place to take advantage of those dark nights to explore the cosmos. The observatory hosts annual star gazing parties, which allow visitors to spot black holes, sunspots, star clusters, nebula, and more through the one of the three permanently mounted telescopes. Even if you don’t make it to the observatory, spend some time at night to look up and enjoy a spectacular show.

8. Explore the Great Salt Lake

Stansbury Island is the perfect viewing point of the Great Salt Lake. John Morgan

In addition to its desert and mountain landscapes, Tooele County is fortunate to have some of the best access to the Great Salt Lake. Stansbury Island is the second-largest island in the lake (11 miles long by 4.5 miles wide), and it’s a great way to see this impressive body of water. The 16-mile Stansbury Island Trail will take hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers, on an impressive tour of the island, and you have lots of opportunities to scramble up the rocky outcroppings for a better view.

9. Fly High at the Wendover Air Base

Did you know Tooele County was instrumental in fighting World War II? Inside the historic Wendover Air Base, the Wendover Air Base Museum will show you how B-29 flight crews of the Enola Gay and Bockscar trained there before dropping the atomic bombs on Japan. The museum illustrates how the flight crews used the unique Tooele County landscape to prepare for battle. Visitors will also find a gunnery range north of the airfield and the remains of where the V-1 rocket was tested.

Written by Jesse Weber for RootsRated Media in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.

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