Last Updated on April 21, 2022

Climbing on sand dunes differs from hiking for the lack of trails and the fact that you are, well, attempting to climb on a huge pile of soft sand, inevitably ending up half step back after each step forward. Dune climbing is no easy feat, but the challenge is what makes it such a fun and rewarding activity. There are a few famous dunes where climbing is attempted as a popular recreational activity,

Dune Climb - Sleeping Bear Sand Dune Michigan
View from the top of Sleeping Bear Dune after the popular Dune Climb. Photo courtesy of Acroterion.

1. Sleeping Bear Dunes – Michigan

The Dune Climb is one of the most famous activities at the Sleeping Bear Dunes. The climbing spot is located at the Dune Center, a pic-nic area with restrooms and a bookstore, and reaching the peak will reward you with a majestic view of Glen Lake.

Great Sand Dunes Colorado - Dune Climbing
Great Sand Dunes National Park – people climbing up a dune on their hands and knees. Photo courtesy of Lovemedead.

2. Great Sand Dunes – Colorado

The Star Dune is the tallest dune in North America and an ideal pick for climbing if you are in for a challenge. The whole area is surrounded by tall, climbable dunes and allows for incredible panorama views and opportunities for landscape photography.

Dune 7 - Namibia
Climbing Dune 7, Namibia.

3. Dune 7 – Namibia

Another dune amongst the tallest in the world, Dune 7 is an incredibly suggestive dune in the Namibian desert and quite a challenging climb. Make sure to avoid the scorching sun of afternoon hours and to stick to the shady areas. The sand in the Namib desert is over five million years old and has a distinctive red color, which makes for a truly unique hiking experience that is well worth the effort of climbing up this difficult dune.

Dune 45 Namibia
Dune 45 in the Namib-Naukluft Park as seen from near the parking place. Photo courtesy of Daniel Kraft.

4. Dune 45 – Namibia

Another popular climbing spot in Namibia is Dune 45, which is easily accessible from the road. This dune is not as difficult as Dune 7, but it still makes for a challenging climb and decent cardio workout. Make sure to head there just before sunset and bring plenty of water with you.

How to climb a sand dune

Climbing up sand dunes is somewhat straighforward as long a you take the right precautions beforehand:

  1. Head to the dune in the early morning or evening when it’s not too hot;
  2. Make sure to be wearing proper desert footwear, don’t go barefoot unless you are sure the sand won’t get hot;
  3. Try to stick to shady areas;
  4. Bring plenty of water and remember to stay hydrated;
  5. Apply sunscreen cream every two hours or so.

How hard is it to climb on a sand dune?

Dune climbing is harder than you think. Climbing on very steep sand dunes can be challenging and if you don’t pay attention every step you forward can turn into two steps backs. It’s very common to feel fatigue when attempting to climb on top of a challenging dune. Remember that it’s ok to take a break if you are feeling tired and that the way down is always easier.

Climbing on sand dunes
Sand dune climbing in Jordan. Photo courtesy of Verity Cridland.


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