A couple years ago we visited Death Valley National Park. A highlight for me was hiking and photographing its amazing Mesquite Sand Dunes. Well upon leaving Death Valley NP that year south on California Highway 127 I spotted another set of towering sand dunes called the Dumont Dunes.
As we passed them by I noticed several RVs and pit toilets scattered about. It looked to me like you could camp right up beside the dunes. I made a mental note and vowed to return one day. So this spring on our way back from exploring Utah and Southern Nevada it was the perfect time take a 35-mile detour north off of Interstate 15 and check them out.
A Few Facts about the Dumont Dunes
There is a heck of a lot of sand here! An information sign stated: “The total volume of sand in Dumont Dunes is 7 billion cubic feet, or enough sand to build a road 40 feet wide by 6 inches thick almost 3 times around the earth”. Holy Crap!
The tallest of the dunes rise up nearly 500 feet. People walking the dunes look like ants. The dunes area is around 4 miles long, 1.3 miles wide and contains almost every type of sand dune shape.
The Dumont Dunes are able to sing. It’s true although we never heard it during our visit.
“Booming sand dunes are able to produce a persistent, low-frequency sound that resembles a pure note from a music instrument,” Vriend told Live Science. “The sound has a dominant audible frequency between a D and G sharp in the second octave below middle C, and several higher harmonics that may be heard from distances far away and may last for minutes.” – http://www.livescience.com/52622-burping-booming-dunes-explained.html
Camping at the Dumont Dunes
Having experienced camping at Glamis in the Imperial Dunes I was well aware that these off-roader areas can get crazy busy on weekends and holidays so we planned our visit time accordingly. We waited until the Easter and Spring break holidays were pretty well over and were rewarded. There were just a smattering of RVs camped in the gigantic area in front of the dunes.
There are actually two camp areas at Dumont. The first one you come to headed north is Little Dumont located a few hundred yards off HWY 127. It has very easy access but not very close to the main dunes. It’s used mainly as a staging area. A few more miles down the highway is the main road into the dunes and the main camping area. It’s several miles long (gravel) with some washboard.
Near the end of the entrance road, you hit a pay station area. They actually have electronic payment kiosks that accept credit cards. They seemed quite out of place way out here in the middle of the vast desert. The non-holiday dune pass goes for $30 dollars and gives you a week’s camping time. Max stay is 14 days.
After we purchased our pass we drove up a small hill. Laid out before us were the humongous Dumont Dunes and acres and acres of camping areas. My main worry was if I could drag the trailer around on the sandy looking ground? Our truck isn’t a 4×4 and the last thing I wanted was to get stuck in the sand out way out here. Looking around though I spotted some large Class A motorhomes which gave me confidence we wouldn’t sink.
Turns out the ground was very firm, it sank a little bit but not enough to be a problem, sort of like driving on an inch or so of new snow. I didn’t venture too close to the dunes though as it gets a little squishier the closer you are. We moved in just far enough to get an uncluttered view of the main dunes. Camping at the dunes is a “pack it in” and “pack it out” affair with the only service being some pit toilets.
We really enjoyed our time camped there, especially our beagle Angie who loves to romp and play in the sand. It was exciting to see the powerful sand rails zooming around the dunes. We were also treated to a passing rainstorm which yielded some fantastic photographic opportunities. And at night the stars were amazing.
We did have to cut our visit a bit short as the daytime temps started to rise above 90 degrees. It made any long hikes difficult and not advisable for folks like us not use to those extreme temperatures. A return trip will have to be in order as I heard from a fellow camper of the interesting old Salt Creek gold mine that can be found nearby. – Interesting blog post about the history of the Salt Hills area
Dumont Dunes Video
Photo Gallery – Dumont Dunes, CA
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