This unique half-day desert hike leads to the second tallest, but most extensive field of sand dunes in the California desert. To many persons, sand dunes represent the essential desert landscape, but dune systems are few and widely scattered in California’s deserts. Most of these are administered by the National Park Service in Death Valley National Park and Mojave National Preserve. Surprisingly, the vast, sandy expanse of the Kelso Dunes hosts vegetation, including many species growing solely in sandy environments. Colorful spring wildflowers and far-ranging vistas are major attractions of a hike in the Kelso Dunes, but the dunes’ most interesting attribute is the booming or rumbling sound the sand makes as hikers create miniature sand avalanches while walking along the narrow crest of the dunes.
"The Kelso Dunes, “A Golden Desert Treasure Chest,” were created by 10,000 to 20,000 years of unrelenting winds, sending the sand of the Mojave River delta into these ever-changing formations. This landform (created by wind) is actively moving, but only back and forth due to the contrary wind pattern. The mountain ranges nearby represent violent volcanic activity. The dunes contrast sharply with the surrounding topography with their softly rounded shapes and their rosy glow. The fine sand consists of rose quartz, feldspar, and magnetite. The quartz gives it the rosy color. The magnetite produces a black stripe effect on the windswept ridges of the dunes. Not an arid wasteland, the dunes are home to more than 100 species of plants, and many animals. The tracks of the latter—kangaroo rats, kit foxes, scorpions, among others—are visible along your hike. The dunes are also home to the Kelso Dune Jerusalem cricket, which exists nowhere else." Read more
"The Kelso Dunes are the third highest sand dunes in the United States, and are the highlight of many visits to Mojave National Preserve. Winds pick up the fine sands from the Mojave River Sink and carry them across the Devil’s Playground. Eddies formed by the Granite and Providence Mountains cause the winds to drop their loads, creating the ever-shifting Kelso Dunes. Although this trip to the top of the highest dune is relatively short, the climb up loose sand can be exhausting. It is easy for groups to split up before the final climb because the route is in view all the way and because there are plenty of smaller hills to enjoy along the way." Read more
"Kelso Dunes are a testament to how wet this area was 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. Silver and Soda lakes filled the valley bottoms to the west, and the climate was cooler and wetter. Now those lakes have dried (except for right after big storms), and their sediments have blown and settled here over thousands of years to create these dunes. Tiny rose quartz grains contribute to the dunes, giving them a soft, rosy glow. When the sand is dry and the humidity low, climb to the top and take a nice leap onto a steep face, then listen. The millions of grains of sand rubbing together produce a low hum, making Kelso Dunes one of the many singing sand dunes in the world. Vehicle: Passenger car." Read more
"The views from the crest and summit of the dunes are both noteworthy and spectacular. The Providence and Granite mountains stretch off into the distance, as does the Devils Playground, where sand seems to spin off into the edges of eternity. Evening to sunset and sunrise to early morning are the best times for photography. Chances of animal sightings are greater during those hours as well." Read more