by Johnathan Behr
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,
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
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.