2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – June 2009

Top 3 Dune Hikes

Trek through a trio of wilderness playgrounds on shape-shifting mountains of sand.

by: Kelly Bastone

Oregon Dunes, OR (Charles Gurche)
Oregon Dunes, OR (Charles Gurche)
Sleeping Bear Dunes, MI (Chuck Haney)
Sleeping Bear Dunes, MI (Chuck Haney)
Eureka Dunes, CA (Lee Cohen)
Eureka Dunes, CA (Lee Cohen)

Listen to singing sands.

Skip the iPod on a hike in Death Valley's Eureka Dunes–you'll want to listen to the sand. Known as "singing" dunes, they produce a low-pitched booming sound when the sand is extremely dry (bury your hand wrist-deep to test). They're also the tallest in California, shooting to heights of 680 feet above the plain. No official trail explores the sand pile, measuring three miles long and a mile wide, but the open slopes make it easy to choose your own cross-country track. Start at the parking area at the dune's north end and hike a ridge about a mile to the apex of the highest dune. Hear the strange song along the steepest pitch. $20/vehicle;; (760) 786-3200

Cruise into Carroll's Market (760-938-2718) in Big Pine for $2 barbecue-beef sandwiches.

The way
From Big Pine, drive 39 miles east to the signed turnoff for Eureka Dunes. Hang a right and go 10 more miles.

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: -


Jul 30, 2009

Sleeping Bear Dunes also includes S. and N. Manitou Islands. Fewer people, and it's possible to circumnavigate S. Manitou on foot as a day hike.

Gabe Knowles
Jul 30, 2009

I've been to a lot of places, but nothing beats Lake Michigan in the summer. The lake's crystal clear freshwater and pristine sandy beaches are some of the best in the country. An added bonus are the sand dunes, which are a lot of fun to climb, then run down into the waves of Lake Michigan.

K. Wassner
Jul 28, 2009

My son and I rolled into the dunes around 10:30 a.m. on July 24 and hiked for about an hour and a half. It was absolutely spectacular! Hiking on the beautiful white sand hills with the black hills in the background. The view from high on the dunes is stangely beautiful as you look at the desert floor. As expected, it started getting really hot around noon. When we left, it was near 100 degrees and there was a slight breeze at the top of the dunes. A very dry heat of course. Quite bearable and actually somewhat pleasant especially with an air conditiioned SUV and a cooler of cold drinks waiting in the parking area. We entered Death Valley from Big Pines and the road was very good (paved with many sharp curves)except for about the last 11 miles or so. We had a Honda Pilot SUV with 4 wheel drive capabailities. We never needed the 4WD but that last 11 miles of road was a road of jagged rocks the size of golf balls, baseballs and even softballs. We began by inching down the road at about 10 mph but couldn't take that pace. I hit the gas and zoomed over the rocks at 40 - 45 mph with no problems. It was quite a ride and we stirred up a lot of dust. My SUV was filthy but didn't have a scratch. There was not another car in sight so it was no problem. We went out the same way at the same speed and never saw another vehicle. When driving that road, watch for washed out areas caused by flash floods. We actually hit a few holes with some water in them. Fortunately, the few areas that had been washed out had already been repaired.
My suggestion would be to never take a regular car on that road. The rocks would tear it up and perhaps even punture the gas tank.
Take a jeep, an SUV or a big truck. Also, good, heavy duty tires are a must and they must be at the pro[er inflation. Over-inflated tires can be punctured by sharp rocks. Obviously, your vehicle needs to be dependable with a good cooling system. Bring plenty of drinks, some food and other provisions. There is no ranger station in that area. A few lizards were the only living creatures we saw on the entire trip for several hours. No cell phone signal in that area either.
Eureka Dunes is a great place to visit. Be smart and be safe. There's a reason why it's called Death Valley.


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

What sleeping pad are you using?
Posted On: Aug 22, 2014
Submitted By: Blazer
Trailhead Register
Elephant Coffee, Anyone?
Posted On: Aug 22, 2014
Submitted By: big_load
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions