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My first time seeing a sand dune was in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. I know lots of people have also seen them in Dubai. However, if you’re an American like me you don’t have to leave the country to see sand dunes and have the same experiences others have abroad. There are 9 places to see sand dunes in the United States. Here is where you can go!
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
By far the most popular sand dunes in the United States are the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. They are also the tallest ones in North America. The dunes are located 4 hours from Denver but you can fly into the smaller airport Alamosa which United Airlines flies to.
It costs $25 per vehicle to enter the park which grants you access for seven consecutive days. If you visit National Parks often it makes more sense to get the America the Beautiful annual pass for $80 which grants you access to every National Park. The park is open 365 but fees are only charged when the entrance station is open in the spring, summer and fall or when the visitors center is open in the winter.
You’re able to hike, sand board and sled the dunes here! The National Park itself does not rent sand sleds or sand boards so be sure to pick these up before coming into the park. The nearest location at 4 miles from the Visitor’s Center is the Oasis Store but it’s only open March 1st -October 31st. Additional options are Spin Drift Sand Board Rentals (March-October), Sand Dunes Swimming Pool and Recreation (year round), Kristi Mountain Sports (year round) and Spanish Peaks Outfitters (year round). Also since it’s a National Park kids can earn a Jr. Ranger badge.
Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area
Sometimes called the Algodones Dunes, these California sand dunes are located two and a half hours East of San Diego. If you’re in the San Diego area and interested in other local attractions, click here to save up to 40% on some of San Diego’s most popular destinations. Some scenes from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Hedi were actually filmed here. Permits are required to visit these sand dunes from October 1-April 15th and cost $35 in advance but the price increases to $50 if you buy it on site. They are also valid for 7 days.
Sand boarding, sledding, horseback riding, hiking, camping and ATVing and Dirt Biking can all be done here. You can rent sand boards from Gilmore Off Road or Sweet Maries. There are also a few places that offer ATV tours like Glamis Dunes Rentals.
White Sands National Park
Previously White Sands National Monument, these sand dunes became a National Park in 2019. Located in the Northern Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico these sand dunes are made from gypsum rather than quartz which gives them their crisp white color. It’s a 3 hours and 20 minute drive from Albuquerque and a 3 hour and 44 minute drive from Santa Fe. The entrance fee to this national park is also $25 including reentry for seven consecutive days.
As with all sand dunes you can sandboard and sled these too. The gift shop in the park doesn’t rent them but you can buy them with an option to sell it back. They cost $10-$15 and you’ll recoup $3-$5 if you return it. An alternative is to pick one up from the nearby Walmart or Big 5.
One unique thing about these sand dunes in the United States is besides walking up them or sand boarding/sledding down there is actually a scenic drive. It’s 8 miles and typically takes about 45 minutes to complete. Unfortunately if you’re looking for more thrills than this it won’t be at this park, ATVs are also not allowed here.
Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park
If you’re visiting Idaho, just one hour south of Boise is Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park. These dunes are up to 470 feet tall! The park costs $7 to enter per vehicle and sand boards are available to rent in the Visitors Center Nature Store for $15/day.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park
Located in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Jockey’s Ridge State Park has the tallest dunes on the East Coast. The park is open year round with the exception of Christmas Day and unlike other parks it does have opening and closing hours so be sure to check those but it is free to enjoy!
Besides sandboarding which is obviously one of the most popular things to do on sand dunes you can go hang gliding here and even take lessons at Kitty Hawk Kites! Talk about an amazing sand dune experience and yes kids can take lessons here too and they’ve taught kids as young as 4! They also rent sandboards for $25 for 1-4 hour use of $40 for the entire day.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
The Coral Pink Sand Dunes are located in Kanab, Utah, just one hour from Zion National Park and 90 minutes from Bryce Canyon National Park so I highly recommend adding it to trips to either place. Kanab, Utah the city it’s in also offers tons of activities and you can easily spend an entire week here.
The entrance fee into these sand dunes in the United States is $10 per vehicle per day. If you want to camp here that will cost you $25-$35 dollars per night depending on if you need hookups or not.
You can hike, sand board, sled or ATV the dunes here. Sand board and sand sled rentals are available at the visitor’s center for $25 for the day. There is only one company, Coral Pink ATV Tours, that is allowed to offer ATV tours inside the park. Others have it listed on their site but they take you to nearby dunes that are grassy.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation area is located in Reedsport, Oregon, three and a half miles Southwest of Portland. The closest airport is Southwest Oregon Regional Airport, 33 miles away.
Open year round, these are one of the most diverse sand dunes in the United States. Here you have open dunes and beaches and you can have a variety of OHV riding experiences, hiking, paddling by the dunes, sand boarding, birding and camping. If you want to sand board the dunes the best place to do so is at Sand Master Park. The entrance fee into these dunes is only $5.
Just 40 minutes outside of Baker, California are the Dumont Dunes, an area of the Mojave Desert. Here you can go off-roading, hiking, camping and even rock climbing. Weekly passes to the dunes are $30 during non-holidays and $40 if the week includes a holiday and they consider holidays Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Years, MLK and Presidents Day.
Everyone says you have to visit the “North Pole” when in Dumont Dunes. The Dumont Dunes are known as being one the most steep sand dunes in the United States and some feel they aren’t great for kids. With that in mind Little Dumont is a great area for families with smaller dunes.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Just two hours outside of Las Vegas is Death Valley National Park. Within the park you’ll find a few sand dunes but the most popular because it’s the most accessible is Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. These dunes along with the Saline Valley Dunes are the only dunes in the park you can go sand boarding on. There are no places to rent sand boards or sand sleds in the park so plan ahead and bring your own. The entrance fee into Death Valley to see these dunes is $30 per vehicle for seven consecutive days of entry.
Little Sahara State Park in Oklahoma
Little Sahara State Park, with a name play on the Sahara Desert has 1,600+ acres of rideable 25′-75′ sand dunes. Locates in Waynoka, OK, roughly 2 hours from Oklahoma City this park has it all from RV sites to tent sites to picnic areas to showers. You can dune buggy and ATV these dunes by bringing your own or renting one from an off-site vendor. To join in on the fun it’s only $10 per person. The park is open daily 24/hrs a day but the park office is only open from 8:00 am- 4:00 pm.
Kelso Dunes in Mojave National Preserve
The Kelso Dunes are located in the Mojave Desert which is near Baker, California. open to the public 24 hours a day and there is no entrance fee. The best time to visit is October-May as summer temperatures reach 120 degrees and the sand is extremely hot. There is also a hiking trail of the dunes here that is 3 miles but unshaded so best to hike in the spring and fall. Camping is allowed at the established campsites and all sites are first come, first serve. Off-roading is not allowed at these Dunes but you can go sandboarding! These dunes are over 600 feet tall so they are really beautiful dunes.
Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan
Sand dunes in the United State on the beach? If you visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore this is exactly what you’ll find as the dunes are right on Lake Michigan. The entrance fee to the park is $25 per vehicle. Since it’s on the water in addition to climbing the dunes you can also bike, hike, kayak or canoe here. For a 6 hour tour of Sleeping Bear Dunes, click here.
While international travel is amazing you can see lots of impressive sand dunes in the United States. Tell us in the comments how many of these sand dunes you’ve been to! If you found this article helpful please share it!
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