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Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Desert National Wildlife Refuge
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Trailhead area (view SE)

Overview

Out in the seldom visited, far northern end of Desert National Wildlife Refuge lies Desert Dry Lake, a dry lake bed that covers some 15 square miles. As a result of several millennia of prevailing winds blowing out of the west, two dune fields have developed. One is located at the northeast corner of the dry lake bed (Desert Dry Lake Dunes North), and the other is located at the southeast corner of the dry lake bed (Desert Dry Lake Dunes South).

At Desert Dry Lake Dunes North, the main dune field covers about 0.6 square miles (370 acres), with an additional sandy area covering another 0.2 square miles (130 acres). The dunes probably are not 100 feet high, but they feel high when trying to climb to the highpoint. The sand drifts, but some parts are vegetated with annual flowers and a few perennial grasses and shrubs.

Link to a map.

Desert Dry Lake Dunes North

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a pretty safe hike. Depending on road conditions, the trailhead might be accessible with a 2WD-HC vehicle, but inquire locally or use a 4WD vehicle just to be sure. Be sure to keep sand out of your camera gear.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, even though this hike is fairly short, it is remote, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials. This is a wildlife refuge, so pay extra attention to respecting the land and the wildlife out there.

Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Patterns in the wind-blown sand

Location

Desert Dry Lake Dunes North is located on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, but up towards Alamo (northeast of Las Vegas), and it is a full day trip to get there.

From town, drive north on Interstate-15 for 21 miles to Exit 64. Exit onto Highway 93 northbound. Consider topping off the gas tank at the truck stop, as this is the last gas station except for going out of the way to Alamo.

At 66.5 miles out, turn left onto Pahranagat Headquarters Entrance Road, then stay right onto Alamo Road North. Drive west and then south for 21.3 miles to Dunes North Access Road (Site 0735) on the left. This short road (0.7 miles) runs east to the edge of the dune field. Continue south on Alamo Road North for a total of 22.7 miles to Dunes South Access Road. This short road (0.5 miles) runs northeast to the edge of the dune field.

The other dune field, Desert Dry Lake Dunes South, is located another 4.5 miles south along Alamo Road North.

Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Sand blowing off the crest of the dune (view S)

The Hike

From the North Trailhead (Table 2, Wpt. 01), the old road continues a bit farther, but there is no trail, only sand, and hikers are on their own to find a fun way to the highpoint (Wpt. 02) of the dunes. Note that the dunes move; the highpoint may have moved since the waypoint was recorded. When ready to leave, wander back towards the trailhead (Wpt. 01), which can be seen from most places in the dunes.

From the South Trailhead (Wpt. 03), the old road continues a ways farther, but there is no trail, only sand, and hikers are on their own to find a fun way to the highpoint (Wpt. 02). When ready to leave, wander back towards the south trailhead (Wpt. 03), which can be seen from many places in the dunes.

Desert Dry Lake Dunes North Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Desert Dry Lake in the distance (view WSW)
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Trailhead (view NE from the dunes)
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Dune vegetation
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Dune beetle
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Transmontane Sand Verbena (Abronia turbinata)
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Transmontane Sand Verbena (Abronia turbinata) flower

Table 1. Highway Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Elevation (ft) Verified
0735 Alamo Rd at Sand Dune Rd N 659840 4098880 37.02435 115.20312 3,255 Yes
0736 Alamo Rd at Sand Dune Rd S 660491 4096942 37.00678 115.19621 3,238 Yes

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates and Distances based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking GPS waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt. Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Trailhead North 660911 4098460 3,303 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Dune Summit 661336 4098245 3,432 0.43 0.43 GPS
01 Trailhead North 660911 4098460 3,303 0.39 0.82 GPS
. . . . . . . .
03 Trailhead South 660888 4097540 3,287 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Dune Summit 661336 4098245 3,432 0.61 0.61 GPS
03 Trailhead South 660888 4097540 3,287 0.61 1.22 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 150110

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