The Site & Trail Access

Located on 17-acres adjacent to Red Butte Garden, the Natural History Museum of Utah serves as the trailhead to Utah for residents and visitors alike.  The site overlooks the Salt Lake Valley and is a part of the University of Utah's Research Park.

The site was chosen:

  • to physically represent the Museum's positioning at a junction of the urban and the natural world
  • to demonstrate our role as part of the University of Utah and of the statewide community at large
  • and to fulfill our mission to interpret the natural world for broad and diverse audiences.

Building the Museum on this site enables a visitor experience that encompasses both the indoors and the outdoors. Selecting the architects and the exhibit designers at the same time facilitated an integrated building and exhibit design.  At several points throughout the galleries, visitors are able to stop and view the local landscape from unique and often new perspectives. While other natural history museums may interpret weather or the water cycle, visitors to the Rio Tinto Center are able to watch dramatic weather and storms roll through the Salt Lake Valley.  And often times enjoy amazing sunsets!

The Museum, in partnership with Salt Lake County, established a conservation easement to protect 5.27 acres of the lower portion of the site.  This Museum Preserve, which supports a Gambell Oak grove, provides a walking trail and interpretive text for visitors while protecting a wildlife migration corridor from future development.

Bonneville Shoreline Trail Access

Access to the University of Utah portion of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail is, literally, outside the Museum's front doors.

The Trail, popular with hikers and mountain bikers, serves as the Museum's main street, adding vitality and energy to all hours of our day.  Museum visitors are encouraged to come prepared to explore the trail around the building, if you choose. 

More About the Bonneville Shoreline Trail

Trail users are welcome to take a break at the Museum.  We offer two water fountains for people and dogs during warm seasons along the trail -- one at the top of the south parking lot, the other near the Museum's front door.  Visit the Museum Cafe for beverages, lunch and snacks from 7:30 a.m. through 3:30 p.m.  Restrooms are also accessible to trail users on Level 1 and 2.  Bike racks are available in front of the Museum.  The Cafe and restrooms are accessible without admission or checking in at the Ticketing Desk.

We ask trail users to take caution when passing by the Museum's driveway and entrance during operating hours for pedestrian and automobile traffic, especially when riding bikes.  Parking is available for trail users along Colorow Road, where trail access points have been provided and are maintained by the Museum.  Please do not park in the Museum's parking unless you plan on visiting the building during your stay.

More About the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Parking and Access Points