Tooele County, Utah, is one of the state’s most beautiful places, featuring 11,000-foot high mountain peaks, the Great Salt Lake, green valleys, rocky canyons, and an unforgettable expanse of white salt. There’s so much to explore: Utah’s second-largest county could almost fit the state of New Jersey inside of it. If you love to hike, ride a bike, go horseback riding, camp in the mountains, ride an OHV or ATV, or even scuba dive,Tooele County has something for you. Here are some things to know to get the most out of your visit.
On the Water
While known mostly for its desert landscape, Tooele County is also known for its access to the Great Salt Lake. Two options for enjoying the lake are Black Rock on the border of Tooele and Salt Lake Counties, and the Great Salt Lake State Marina. You can access both easily from Interstate 80 (exit 104). You’ll find an even better view if you get on the lake yourself in a sailboat, available from the marina. Even more unusual in Utah, you can actually go scuba diving in Tooele County. At Bonneville Seabase, an inland ocean five miles northwest of Grantsville on Highway 138, people have been?of been exploring the water from below for more than 20 years. Visitors can book an appointment Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. You’ll be amazed at the size of the fish you see.
Tooele County’s vast terrain is perfect for those who like to ride off-road, from mountain bikes to ATVs and dirt bikes The county offers miles of trails to explore, plus you can take advantage of the race tracks for ATVs and dirt bikes at Deseret Peak Complex. The Stansbury Front Trail in Mack Canyon offers one of the most scenic rides in the area. The trail runs through the foothills on the eastern side of the Stansbury Range, and within eyeshot of the Deseret Peak Wilderness Area.The trail, which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, is accessible at Hickman, West, North Willow, Davenport and South Willow Canyons. The trail’s narrow width means that only horses or two-wheeled vehicles, specifically mountain bikes or motorcycles, are permitted.
But ATV’s have lots of miles to explore at two popular sites: Five Mile Pass at the southern end of the Oquirrh Mountains, and the Knolls OHV Recreation Area just off of Interstate 80 in the Great Salt Lake Desert. From Tooele City, Knolls is a bit further away than Five Mile Pass, but the number of riding options (and fewer crowds), make it a very appealing option.
Mountain Biking and Road Cycling
Starting from Tooele, cyclists will find lots of open roads to explore—with very little traffic. And most of the lower elevation trails and roads can be ridden year-round, making it a welcome escape for riders looking to get away from the snow. Even for off-road riders, The Stansbury Island Trail remains open most of the year. Additional trails in or near the Great Salt Lake Desert also remain snow-free and ready to ride.
The 50-mile Mormon Trail Loop is a classic road ride that runs through the Tooele and Rush valleys, with scenic views of the Oquirrh and Stansbury mountains.
For mountain bikers, the Middle Canyon above Tooele City features a challenging 19-mile round trip mountain bike ride to the summit of West Mountain in the Oquirrhs. Also in Middle Canyon is the White Pine Trail, a fun singletrack ride that crosses Butterfield Peak’s lower slopes and ends in White Pine Canyon.
You can explore some of the state’s best hiking trails in Tooele. The county’s signature hike is climbing to the 11,031 foot-high summit of Deseret Peak in the Stansbury Mountains. It’s an eight-mile round trip with 3,500 feet of elevation gain, but at the top you can see a 360-degree view of Tooele Valley and parts of the Wasatch Front. You’ll find the trailhead for Deseret Peak at the Loop Campground at the top of South Willow Canyon. Along the way, the trail traverses a number of groves of large aspens, through meadows of wildflowers, fir trees and snowfields before following a rocky ridge to the summit. It’s one of those hikes you won’t ever forget.
Where to Stay
The county starts just to the west of Salt Lake City, and the city of Tooele can serve as your base of operation for getting started. For those looking for a place to stay the city offers several national chains to choose from, including the Best Western, Holiday Inn Express and American Inn and Suites. While the county is expansive, you have lodging options in close proximity to attractions like Utah Motorsports Campus, golf courses, National Parks and recreation areas, Historical Museums, Wilderness attractions, casinos and much more. Another option is the Millpond Spa & Retreat, located just north of Tooele on the shore of the historic "millpond" and Stansbury Lake. The Mediterranean-themed inn features a redwood dry sauna, a steam room, and pool. You’ll also find plenty of restaurants in the area to splurge after a day on the trails.
No matter where you end up in Tooele, chances are that you’ll see something unique. It’s an easy, rewarding getaway that’s not far from Salt Lake City, yet a will give you something that you can’t find anywhere else.
Written by Jesse Weber for RootsRated Media in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.