Hike Kelso Dunes

Kelso Dunes Trail - Search Nearby - Added by Kimberly Weglin

Distance: 3 miles roundtrip. Duration: 2-3 hours depending on pace. Largest field of sand dunes in the Mojave Desert (650 feet tall, 45 square miles). 360 degree view of Providence Mountains, Granite Mountains, and Devil's Playground. One of only 30 "booming" or "singing" sand dunes in the world. No permits or fees to access the land.

There is no particular route to the top of Kelso Dunes from the trailhead – the wind is constantly moving the sands (and trail) around. Instead, follow the footsteps in the sand, avoid the vegetation, and aim for the tallest peak. It is pretty hard to get lost as you can see the parking lot from just about any high mound of sand.

You will cross many smaller sand dunes before reaching the base of Kelso, and this alone can be exhausting, given that you will be walking in loose, deep sand. It will often feel like you are taking one step forward and two steps back, but don't let this discourage you. Remember, hiking back will be much faster, when you can run or slide down the face of the dune!

Don't be alarmed if you hear a booming, rumbling, or whistling sound underneath your feet, along the way: Kelso Dunes is one of the few places on Earth where sand "sings" as it falls down dunes. Although the cause of this unique, awesome phenomenon is not yet completely understood, it is certain that dryness is essential for sound production. Rain or high humidity will completely eliminate the booming, so make sure to pick a hot, dry, summer day to experience this remarkable phenomenon.

Also try creating sand-avalanches while running or sliding down the face of the dune – hearing that booming sound and feeling the vibrations through your body makes for a truly unique outdoor experience. Alternatively, consider that the hike is especially challenging when its hot, so try hiking at sunrise or sunset, and you'll also be able to witness the rose colored glow of the dunes.

Driving Directions: The dunes are two hours to south of Las Vegas in the Mojave National Preserve. From Interstate 40, take the Kelbaker Road exit and continue for 14.7 miles. Turn right at Kelso Dunes Road, then drive 2.9 miles to the parking area.

Activities

Chillin, Photography, Hiking

Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Nearby Lodging

Needles KOA

Needles, California

Laughlin / Avi Casino KOA

Laughlin, Nevada

Barstow / Calico KOA

Yermo, California

Palm Springs / Joshua Tree KOA

Desert Hot Springs, California

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Beautiful Dunes

This hike took me two hours. It was cool to see the largest field of dunes in the Mojave Desert (650 feet tall, 45 square miles). I got a 360-degree view at the top. It was nice that there were no permits or fees required to access the land.

Andreas Slette

almost 2 years ago

pretty dope

and allows for some rad photos. classic mojave desert.

Alex Kosh

about 2 years ago

Sunbathing In The Desert

Even at the end of March closer to noon here is quite hot. Especially in the middle of the path, where the sand is trampled and soft and the wind is absent in the lowland. Don't be upset if you see plenty of parked cars and people on the summit. The wind will do its job and for the hour that you get to the top many footprints on the dune's ridge will disappear. The road is flat till the very parking. They have a restroom there but without water.

Tours

  • Starting at $995/person

    AOA Adventures

    Hike Joshua Tree National Park Over a Weekend

    Joshua Tree National Park, California - 3 days

More Tours

Nearby Adventures

Adventure

Hike the Barber Peak Loop Trail

Adventure

Explore the North Mid Hills Trail

Adventure

Explore the Mojave Lava Beds

Adventure

Explore the Mojave Desert Lava Tube

More Nearby Adventures