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Kelso Dunes (Mojave Desert) - Log in to edit.

Category: Camping



-Socks in sand
-No fees!
-Hiking wherever you want (no trails)

Relevant Guidebooks & Maps



(Tips for camping in a desert)


About 3 hours away:

1. Get on 210 East (Go North on Indian Hill [West of campus] past Foothill. Or go North on Monte Vista [East of campus] past Foothill).

2. Stay on 210 for about 11 miles, then exit right onto I-15 N.

3. Stay on I-15 N for about 66 miles, then exit right onto 40 in Barstow (Follow signs for "Needles").

4. Stay on 40 for about 75 miles, then take exit 78 for Kelbaker Road and turn left (North).

5. You have entered the Mojave- the road is now a two lane park road. Follow it for 10 miles, and keep your eyes peeled for sand dunes on your left.

6. There is a sign indicating the Kelso Sand Dunes, that I believe tells you to turn in 1/4 mile. DON'T GO 1/4 MILE. The turn is about 100 feet from there (left).

7. Follow the dirt road* as far as it will go (about 1.5 miles) until you get to a place to park your car. You will pass bathrooms and cool info on your right, if you are interested.

*The dirt road is full of pot holes and bumps for your car. Be careful- you don't want a flat tire.


You can park your car, set up camp, then hike onto the highest dunes you can see, enjoy the view, tumble down, hike around some more, play around, then go back to camp. At night, you can do the same thing with headlamps or flashlights, which is just as fun. Watch out for snakes! You will see their holes as you walk through the dunes.

FORGET EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT SAND! Dune sand is very fine, dry, and comfortable in every way. It is comfortable to walk on, sit in, and lay down in. The sand is never the enemy. It won't get all up in your food unless you put it there. It won't get in your eyes or in your mouth more than you want it to, unless you are boarding. Maybe that's because it's so fine, or because there's no water, or because there's not much wind.

During the day, hiking barefoot is very nice. Surprisingly, though, the best foot situation can actually be just socks!! Try it! (Especially at night, for warmth).

The desert is surreal and beautiful. The sky turns purple and green over the distant mountains and sand, creating one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. The remoteness and the dryness of the air allowed for the brightest stars I've ever seen.

Chinchillas get infections if they get wet, because it gets under their fur and stays there. So, they bathe in sand and dust. I never understood that until the dunes.

Bring a guitar! You can camp as close or far from your car as you want, so bringing an instrument is not a burden.

FUN FACT: Driving in, you will notice the sand dunes are situated in what looks like a funnel of mountains. Dry air from the surrounding area sweeps over the desert, picking up fine bits of sand, then when this air reaches the mountains and goes over it actually drops the sand bits off before it reaches the mountains themselves. Over the last 25,000 years, this effect has created the Kelso sand dunes. Radddd...

OTHER FUN FACT: The Kelso sand dunes are one of only a few dunes noticed to have the "booming dunes" effect. At the top of the big dunes, pressing your foot down into the sand rubs the sand together and creates a rumble you can feel and hear. Gnarly...

-Bring your own firewood, and only use designated campfire spots.
-Bring a winter jacket if you are camping, it gets colddddd
-Be respectful of other people camping there
-Bring water

Safety Notes

-Bring water.
-Watch for snakes and other wildlife, including Elmo the jaguar that lives in the area
-It gets very cold at night (in January, about 85 during the day and freezing at night).
-Distance is hard to gauge.
-Don't get lost! A compass might be a good idea if you plan to wander off. You can always follow your footsteps, though, if you have light. And orient yourself by the distant mountains. Also, the stars and moon help a lot at night.

Edited by (in order): Zach Siegel, Will Tachau, Zach Siegel

Last updated: 02/03/2011


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