Silver Island Mountains

Designated as a BLM National Back Country Byway, this 54-mile loop is accessed from Interstate 80 off Exit 4, just east of Wendover.  Travel one and one-half mile north on paved road, continue north on gravel road for another mile to the junction.  Turn right and travel east to circle the solitary Silver Island Mountains.  Follow the BLM Backcountry Byway sign markers located along the road. Mileage markers are placed every 5 miles. Two and one half to three hours driving time is recommended to travel this byway. Floating Island can be reached from the eastern tip of the Silver Island Mountains for an additional 14-mile loop.

Silver Island Mountains at dusk: Aaron KaniaSilver Island Mountains: Ray Bloxom

The graveled and dirt road is maintained on an "as needed" schedule by Tooele County.  The byway may be traveled in any type of vehicle; however, a four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended and is necessary to explore any of the rocky canyons, washes or gullies of the range. All motorized vehicle travel is currently restricted to existing routes. Elevation around the loop is a mild grade between 4220 feet and 4430 feet.  The closest town is Wendover Utah / Nevada, 4 miles west, with gas, lodging, food, and medical services available.

Beginning mountain bikers can easily ride sections of the byway, with more stamina required to complete the full loop.  The 54-mile loop is shortened in half by cutting across Silver Island Pass.  Open year-round, this byway is safer and more passable in the dry months of late spring, summer, and fall. Some sections of the byway may become impassable after recent precipitation. Scout muddy sections on foot and cross with caution.

Scenery and attractions include opportunities for camping, hiking, photography, rock collecting, geologic study, and sightseeing of the rugged Silver Island Mountains and expansive Bonneville Salt Flats.  The loop also provides access to explore the historic Hastings cutoff of the California National Historic Trail (made infamous by the Donner-Reed party of 1846).  Observable wildlife include: chukar partridge, raptors, snakes, and pronghorn antelope.

The Silver Island Mountains are rugged and rocky with desert vegetation (juniper, sagebrush, ricegrass and ephedra) and no perennial streams. Shoreline benches are terraced into the hillsides and remind one of the existence of Lake Bonneville, a large freshwater lake that covered one-third of the state of Utah over 16,000 years ago.  Much of the range consists of fossiliferous limestone which has been folded and faulted.  

An adjacent attraction is the Bonneville Salt Flats.  This 30,000 acre plain of glistening salt has witnessed man's fastest race cars over the measured mile.  Often, views appear distorted, with distances running together or becoming disguised in the heat, reflection, or the curvature of the earth.  Summer events occur each July through September / October.

Beware of harsh desert conditions, distances from nearest services, and mud flats. Go prepared with extra water, food, protective clothing, and spare tires. Be prepared to spend the night out if you break down or get stuck. Nights in the desert can become cold, even in summer. Let someone know where you are going and when to expect you back.

Mountain bikers on the byway