• Activities:

    Chillin, Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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.

Pack List

  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Camera
  • Headlamp if hiking at dusk
  • LOTS of water
  • Snacks
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Community Photos

+ Add Photos

Reviews

Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

and allows for some rad photos. classic mojave desert.

9 months ago
9 months ago

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.

11 months ago
11 months ago

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Hike the Sugar Bowl Loop in Kings Canyon NP

Tulare County, California

First and foremost, to get to this trailhead you need to drive down a 2-mile, one lane dirt road that is quite steep.

8 Saves

Hike to Ehukai Pillbox

59178 Ke Nui Road, Hawaii

This hike starts directly across from Banzai Pipeline, the famous barreling wave at Ehukai Beach.

7 Saves

Winter Hike to Calypso Cascades

1046 County Highway 115, Colorado

While most people go snowshoeing near the Bear Lake or Glacier Gorge area in RMNP, Wild Basin is a much less trafficked option.

5 Saves