Courtesy of the Outdoor Project.
Features: The Imperial Sand Dunes, otherwise known as the Glamis sand dunes, are the largest mass of sand dunes in California and have been used as the setting of many films such as “Star Wars” and “Lawrence of Arabia.” Usually this area is known for the OHV scene where in the winter thousands of dirt bikes, four-wheelers, and dune buggies are tearing through the dunes. However, the dunes are actually divided into two areas, a large section south of Highway 78 that is open to OHVs and a smaller section north of Highway 78 that is closed to OHVs known as the North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area.
Trail Directions: Once parked, camping is allowed pretty much anywhere. There is no water and no facilities. But there are miles of sand dunes in every direction where you can run and explore with wild abandon. The eastern part of the wilderness has very soft sand with smaller dunes, while the western part has coarse sand with larger dunes. This is an amazing place to run around on soft sand with your bare feet at night under a million stars.
Driving Directions: This area is best accessed via Ted Kipf Road northbound from Highway 78. The road is dirt and gravel and gets rougher the farther north you travel, and after a few miles travel is ill advised in two-wheel drive vehicles. There are several unofficial entrances off the road into the wilderness area, but as this is soft sand, be aware of the very real possibility of getting your vehicle stuck in the sand before venturing too far.
Caution: Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.