Kelso Dunes

Kelso Dunes

LOCATION: The Mojave National Preserve near Baker, Ca.

 DESCRIPTION                        reported by Johnathan Behr

  Without a doubt, the Kelso Dunes are one of the most scenic locales in the entire Mojave National Preserve. In an area of 50 square miles, the dunes, the 2nd tallest in the state, reach a height of over 500ft. Far-ranging views of rugged, arid mountains and badlands can be viewed prominently from the top of this giant sandbox. To reach this highpoint, your hike will take you through an exotic desert landscape of incredible beauty. I've made the 3-hour drive from L.A. several times in the past few years and I have never been disappointed by the alluring, Kelso Dunes.

The dunes are located deep in the Mojave, half-way between Interstates' 15 & 40, south of Baker, Ca. Being somewhat remote, the dunes receive light visitor traffic and that makes for a better wilderness experience and photo opportunities. Unlike the heavily used dunes in Death Valley, the Kelso dunes are not all scarred up with footprints. Here you will see amazingly intricate patterns in the sand, especially if you walk these dunes in the late afternoon light. The constant winds of the high desert have formed this surreal landscape over a period of thousands of years. Take time to savor what has taken millennia to create and you will be rewarded with unbelievable desert scenery and solitude..

 From the trailhead parking area, just head up the faint jeep trail that aims straight for the dunes. Soon the road will disappear into the sand and you will begin the extremely fun cross-country hiking that is indicative of exploring sand dunes. With no trails to follow, except the footprints of other visitors, let freedom reign and head off into any direction your heart desires! If you plan to climb to the dunes highest point, use the gentler ridgeline approach, as opposed to heading up the dunes steepest face to the top. I tried it that way once, and it was incredibly arduous! Return the way you came.

Adventuring in the California Desert

Adventuring in the California Desert Get It!
Sierra Club Adventure Travel Guide

A very useful guide that's fun to read.
Areas covered include the White-Inyo Mountains, through Death Valley, Palm Springs, and Joshua Tree National Park, down to the Mexican border.