Interesting Sites When Driving from Utah to California

Recently, our roving retirement took us to a number of interesting places. During our time in Utah, we visited a small town near Snow Basin called Huntsville, the Golden Spike National Historical Park, and the Bonneville Salt Flats. Then we decided to drive back from Utah along Highway 50, “The loneliest road in America.”


You might ask, what took us to a small town like Huntsville. The answer is friends. We met our friends at an interesting hotel/coffee shop called The Compass Rose. Because we were all cautious about social distancing, we sat in Adirondack chairs outside, trying not to freeze. I must say that it was awesome to meet some new people and just spend a few hours interacting, in person.

Huntsville also has a beautiful lake that was completely frozen over because it is winter. That said, there were quite a few people out on the lake with tents set up. I have to assume they are for ice-fishing a pastime. I don’t really understand the appeal, but there were somewhere between 50 and 100 people out on the lake when we drove by. You can see the lake very clearly from all of the custom home sights we saw in the area. I am sure the views in the summer are spectacular.

But, that isn’t why I’m mentioning this visit. The hotel has two really interesting features. First is their own observatory. I mean a high powered telescope from Weber State University and a custom-built tower, all to view the stars. Apparently, there isn’t much light pollution in Huntsville.

The hotel also had several Teepees outside that can be rented for gatherings. Inside they have heaters, comfortable chairs, and even more comfortable looking blankets. Sometime in the future, when we can socialize again, it would be fun to do it in a teepee.

Golden Spike National Historical Park

On our days off from skiing, we like exploring the local area. Since we were staying in Ogden, we were close to the Golden Spike National Historical Park. Mike was familiar with it and really wanted to go see it. The site was the place where, in 1869, the transcontinental railway was completed. At the time, a big ceremony was held and four golden spikes were driven into a special piece of wood railroad tie joining the Union and the Central Pacific railroads. For a number of years, the two railroads agreed to transfer freight at this location called Promontory Point station.

If you visit at the right time of year, you can see a reenactment of the original golden spike ceremony. Also at certain times, you can visit the Engine House that has replicas of the original engines used for the original ceremony. Unfortunately, the Engine House was closed by the time we got there so we had to content ourselves with walking the tracks and looking at the small museum. We also saw the remains of railroad cuts and fills used on the original route. This area was only used for about 35 years until a shorter route across the Great Salt Lake was completed. In the years that followed, most of the tracks were removed and the area wasn’t recognized as a historical site until 1965.

The ride to the site is very picturesque and the history is really interesting, so if you are in the area north of Ogden Utah, I’d definitely recommend a stop.

Bonneville Salt Flats

If you have ever driven across highway 80 in Utah, you have seen the Bonneville Salt Flats. This area is known as the place where various people and vehicles have set land speed records. I only recall seeing the area in the winter when there are small ponds but mostly dry, cracked, lakebed. The area almost seems to reflect a view of the surrounding mountains as if the entire area was wet, but it isn’t. There are two view points, one in each direction and you can drive or walk out on the salt flats. We opted to walk and I touched a crystal from the area to my tongue, it is really salty. (You never really know until you try it.)

Highway 50

We left Salt Lake City on Highway 80 and continued until we reached Wendover on the border between Utah and Nevada, then we headed south to join up with Highway 50. The road really lives up to its reputation as the loneliest highway in America. There is pretty much nothing across all of northern Nevada, but the drive is a lot more interesting than Highway 80. The vistas are stunning and we crossed at least 6 passes before we came back to Highway 80 just outside of Reno. Coolest of all we saw wild horses, several different small herds of mustangs.

By now you should know how fond we are of interesting road signs and there was an abundance on Highway 50.

I’ll let the rest of the pictures do the talking. If you have the time, I would certainly recommend the drive.

Where would you like to visit the next time you are in Utah or northern Nevada?

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  1. Very neat side trips! Would be fun to try the teepees in Huntsville some time! I have seen one of the re-enactments of the golden spike ceremony (though I was around 10 years old at the time). The salt flats are interesting – have visited those several times, too. Be sure and check out the movie “The World’s Fastest Indian” if you haven’t seen it already. Have you gone over to Heber City, especially in the fall? There is a historic train ride that takes you through Provo Canyon (great way to view the fall colors), and while I am no golf expert, I hear there are also some nice courses nearby and that it is great to golf there among the mountains and fall colors. I also understand there is a limestone crater nearby, Homestead Crater, where one can do geothermal scuba diving – the only one of its kind in the continental US (also not a diver, I have no idea if this is well-known or if doing that is a “cool”, interesting thing to do or not) – one can also just soak in the thermal pools and take in the scenery. Having visited Arches National Park in 2019 – highly recommend it – we are eager to explore the other national parks there, too. Love the animal signs along highway 50 – glad you were not trying to do that trip this past week!

  2. I’ve been to Heber City many times, I have a cousin who lives there.
    The first time I went, it was a one stoplight town. Now it boasts three or four. Somehow, though, I’ve never been in the thermal springs :-(.
    I did get there for some golf just after 9/11, the fall colors with the aspen groves were very nice.

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