Hiking Kelso Dunes

Rate this Adventure Los Angeles Kelso Dunes Trail

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.

Pack List

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

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Activities:

Chillin, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Beginner

Season:

Year Round

Features:

Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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