I was well into my 30s when I first laid eyes on a sand dune. I feel like that sounds crazy, but it’s true. The first one I saw and was able to explore a bit was Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. I was blown away. Not just by how big and how much sand, but the fact that it seems so surreal. How does this stay like this? How does it not blow away?
Fast forward 6 years and now we feel like we are sand dune connoisseurs. Not really, but we have been to quite a few and so we love helping people figure out which sand dune should be their first and there is a definite difference to them. The big one. Can you bring an OHV or not. It definitely creates a different experience, especially if you do not have an OHV but still want to explore the dunes.
We have come across quite a few on our travels and the following will give you an idea of how unique each is.
Exploring Sand Dunes
White Sands National Park – New Mexico
These are in no particular order, but White Sands National Park is probably the most unique in that the sand is white. So white that it feels like the sun is shining from below you. It’s so white you wonder where the ocean is. Recently move from a national monument to national park, White Sands is fun for everyone except OHVers. Bring the RV, the kids and the dogs, heck bring your cats, goats and whatever else you travel with.
Christmas Valley Sand Dunes – Oregon
This sand dune is popular amongst local OHVers. With a 60′ dune and a forest to cruise around it, it’s quite fun. Camp for free and then explore this area. Surrounded by farm land it isn’t what you expect to see in south east Oregon. Definitely be careful if you are on foot during high traffic times. Bright clothes and flags are recommended.
Great Sand Dunes National Park – Colorado
Probably the most known sand dune in the United States, Great Sand Dunes National Park is a great place for anyone all year round. During the hot summer months it provides water running through and views of snow capped mountains. It does get hot and the sand hotter, so if you bring your pup, make sure you have booties for him or her. There are shops outside the park that rent sleds and boards and there are picnic areas within the park.
Pacific City Sand Dunes – Oregon
This was my first sand dune in Oregon and it is on the coast in Pacific City. One of my favorite coastal towns. If you have a high clearance 4×4 vehicle you can park right on the beach and then attempt to run up the large dune. The views from the top of the coast are like none other and it is the home of Oregon’s second haystack rock. The first being in Canon Beach, which is the one from the Goonies. No OHVs on this one so run around as much as you want.
Bruneau Sand Dunes – Idaho
Bruneau Sand Dunes is incredibly unique. It is the longest sand dune in the United States. Again, surrounded by farm land and desert, you drive over an hour east of Boise and eventually come to see the entire dune as you drive up. It is jaw dropping. On a windy day, it isn’t the best place to be. Getting sand blasted isn’t too fun, but still creates a fun time trying to get at least one picture. When it’s not windy there is a lake and the ability to walk the entire spine of the dune. This is in a state park so there are no OHVs.
Algodones Dunes and Imperial Sand Dunes – California
This is the largest land mass of dunes in the United States. It is 8 x 40 miles and reaches from California to Arizona to Mexico. You might even recognize it from many blockbuster films. Within the dunes is also one of the largest areas for OHVs which is managed by BLM (Bureau of Land Management). This is why there are two names. The entire area is Algodones and the area managed by BLM is Imperial (also known as Glamis) and it’s a recreation area so OHVers can go anywhere within the recreation area and it’s large.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area – Oregon
These dunes have areas for OHVers and foot traffic, which makes it really popular. With bluffs that run down into the ocean they make for a fun beach day on the coast. And how great is it that the Oregon coast is dog friendly!
Let us know if you have experienced any of these sand dunes and which ones we have missed that are your favorite!