Dry camping at Glamis Dunes

We have a week to kill until our next scheduled RV Resort stint at the Thousand Trails in Las Vegas so decided to check out an area of the Imperial Dunes Recreation Area called Glamis Dunes. We had boondocked fairly close to the dunes when getting our teeth done in Algodones and they kind of intrigued me. Looking at the dunes from a satellite image I noticed Highway 78 crossed right through the dunes so decided to take a look around there and see if there were dry camping opportunities. WOW! Was there ever! Unknowingly we had stumbled upon one of the biggest off-road enthusiasts haunts.

Glamis Flats Dry Camping

Glamis has virtually no permanent structures aside from the “Glamis Store” and “Boardmanville Trading Post”. Both offer supplies; fuel is not available, for some of the hundreds of thousands of recreational visitors each year (many of them ORV users) who pass through the Algodones Dunes and the associated Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, located in the southern portion of the dune system. The name “Glamis” or “Glamis Dunes” is often used to refer to either or both of these areas, though technically this is incorrect.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glamis,_California

At the Glamis store we inquired and got information about camping and fees. Turned out there were dozens of areas to camp, most had cement pads and some were hard sand. The fee was $40 for a week pass to the area, though if you buy it outside the dunes at many outlets you can get the same pass for $25. Not knowing the area too well and afraid of getting the trailer or truck stuck in sand I choose to stay near the Glamis store in a large hard packed sand area called Glamis Flats..


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Glamis Flats Dunes Store

We arrived on a Thursday and it wasn’t too crowded but by the following evening all the weekend warriors had arrived and the place was a jumping. This is not the type of dry camping where you worry about your generator disturbing the neighbours. If you want peace and quiet stay away. This is a celebration of the internal combustion engine! Rigs of all sizes, trucks, ATV’s. Dune Buggies, Motorcycles, home-made contraptions, etc. All zipping about madly over the huge area of sandy dunes. Everyone was having a great time and many were entire families enjoying the Off Road Vehicles. We laughed at cute little kids with mini dune machines trailing behind mom and dad across the dunes. Some of the machines were very impressive and worth a ton of dough.  We saw many called rails which where nothing more than a frame and a whopping big powerful motor and paddled type tires. They really could scoot across the dunes. Some of the dunes are hundreds of feet tall and people use these beasts to climb the steeps parts of them.

Check out my video of various Dune machines in action

The flip side of our visit to Algodones Dunes was a chance to hike into the wilderness area. North of Highway 78 is a large expanse of dune habitat that the wheeled vehicles aren’t allowed in. This area’s dunes are pristine, no tire tracks so we hit that area up a few nights for some sunset walks and photography. Such an opposite to the loud chaos on the south side was the peaceful, stillness and beauty of the north side. It’s a gorgeous place to climb a dune and watch the late evening sun cast shadows and make the dunes glow. The back drop is pretty impressive as well with the Chocolate Mountains in the distance.

Osborne Overlook, Algodones Dunes  Angie waits by HIghway 78

Algodones Dunes, California  Anne at Algodones Dunes

The duners were for the most part a very friendly lot. We met a few camped around us and were invited to a bon fire. We had plans to go for a ride in the dunes with some other campers but the weather forecast showed big winds coming so unfortunately we had to leave a little early. This is another area I would like to return to and spend some more time, maybe even rent a dune machine and take a spin!

Please enjoy the rest of the photos below

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  • Charlie Stewart

    I have been following your blog for some time and enjoy it very much. I have a question about traveling in the Southwest USA. Heat kills me, so I want to make it early in the year. But how early would you consider the right time? I am thinking of the Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Arches etc. area. Don’t mind cool weather but would like to avoid snow. Keep up the great work. Charlie

  • Beautiful! Since we will be coming back to the West, this will be on the list! Did not know about this place and boon docking at that too. So can you boondock away from the noise ?

    • There were many areas around the dunes for boondocking, I think we picked the nosiest. One really cool place was right up at Osborne Lookout was a small area with a panoramic view of the dunes. It was taken pretty much when we were there as it only can hold 5-6 rigs but worth checking. The busy time is every weekend and esp. long weekends. One guy that I met from AZ told me there are good spots along the Glamis Wash near the railroad tracks.

      • Barb

        well, we were further down the road (Gecko) and even the end of the road (Roadrunner) was packed. Absolutely packed on weekends. During the week, they would leave, and then on Thursday, here they came back again. People just pull in next to ya and turn on the generators lol

        fun area, but we couldn’t find a spot by ourselves. I figured I couldn’t expect it anyway 😀

  • William

    I used to do this in the late 60s but I had to give it up when the kids started popping out. I been there done that long time ago. I raced in the Mexican 1000 in 1968. We broke down about 400 miles out. It can be exiting! Enjoyed your video and photos,

    • That must have been a blast back then! Some of the machines are really serious. I was told there is a few areas in the dunes where the really big boys play. Going have to get back there next year and check it out.