California is one of the trendiest sandboarding and sand duning destinations in the United States, hosting some of the most spectacular dunes of the Mojave Desert and the iconic Death Valley National Park. Before you hit a dune, you need to make sure to familiarize yourself with the area and its rules: on many dunes sand surfing and off-road driving are prohibited in order to protect the natural habitat of rare species of vegetation that only grows in this part of the world.
There are four major sandboarding locations in California:
- Death Valley National Park
- Dumont Dunes
- Kelso Dunes
- Imperial Sand Dunes (a.k.a. Algodones Dunes or Glamis Dunes)
Sandboarding in Death Valley National Park, CA
There are five major groups of sand dunes in the area, but the practice of sandboarding is only allowed on the Mesquite Flat Dunes, in order not to disturb the local wildlife and plants of the park. Off-roading is also not permitted anywhere in Death Valley National Park.
Mesquite Flat Dunes
You can sandboard in Death Valley’s best known and most accessible sand dunes. The Mesquite Flat Dunes cover a vast area but are not very tall, as the name suggests, and they come in three different shapes: crescent, linear, and star-shaped. Sand dune boarding, sledding and skiing are all allowed.
Eureka Dunes – Sandboarding not allowed
These are arguably the most famous dunes in the park and worth checking out, even if you are not going to be able to slide down any of them. They are some of the tallest and steepest dunes in North America, but what makes them stand out is a phenomenon called singing sand – when the sand is very dry avalanches may occur that cause a sound similar to a roar.
Saline Valley Dunes – Sandboarding not allowed
Low dunes surrounding a dry lake, the area is large but pretty isolated. These are “whaleback” dunes (they kinda look like the back of a whale) and can be very steep, almost vertical. Sandboarding would be a challenge even if it were allowed!
Panamint Dunes – Sandboarding not allowed
Star shaped dunes, with multiple sinuous ridges radiating out from a central peak. While sand boarding is not possible, you can enjoy some incredible sightseeing, trekking and camping at these dunes.
Ibex Dunes – Sandboarding not allowed
This is technically the closest sand dune system to the city of Los Angeles, yet it is relatively “niche” and not easy to reach. The area is small but hosts some rather tall dunes, and makes an ideal track for hiking and taking pictures of the desert and its beautiful vegetation and peculiar lizards.