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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
Alamo Rd at Desert Dry Lake Dunes North parking (view S)

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.

This hike is about 2 miles round trip with minimal elevation gain.

Link to a map.

Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Alamo Rd at Desert Dry Lake Dunes North parking (view S)

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
Alamo Road at Desert Dry Lake Dunes North parking (view E)

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, the quickest way to get there is to 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. Drive west and then south for 21.3 miles to Dunes North Trailhead (Site 0735) on the left. Drivers may also continue south on Alamo Road for another 1.4 miles to Dunes South Trailhead (Site 0736), on the left.

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

Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North trailhead parking (view E)

The Hike

From the North Trailhead (Site 0735), the new trail runs out 0.7 miles to the old trailhead (Table 2, Wpt. 01) on the edge of the dunefield. The trail continues, but there is 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 I recorded the waypoint. When ready to leave, wander back towards the old trailhead (Wpt. 01), which can be seen from most places in the dunes, and then follow the old back to Alamo Road.

From the South Trailhead (Site 0736), the old-road trail continues 0.5 miles to the old trailhead (Wpt. 03), and from there, again, there is 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, and then follow the old-road trail back to Alamo Road.

Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North trailhead area (view E)
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
End of the old road (view SE)
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North (view S)
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Sand blowing off the crest of the dune (view S)
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Film crew in the dunes
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Film crew in the dunes
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Film crew in the dunes
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Film crew in the dunes
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Patterns in the wind-blown sand
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Patterns in the wind-blown sand
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 NorthUp in the dunes (view NW) Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Old trailhead at the end of the 0.7 miles old-road trail (view NW)
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
Old trailhead at the end of the 0.7 miles old-road trail (view NW)
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
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Dune spider
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Dune spider (zoom)
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Tracks in the sand
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Tracks in the sand
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Tracks in the sand
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Tracks in the sand
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Tracks in the sand
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Tracks in the sand
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Dune swale with mud deposit
Desert Dry Lake Dunes North
Dune swale with Desert Kangaroo Rat burrow under mud deposit

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)
0735 Alamo Rd at Sand Dune N Trail 659840 4098880 37.02435 115.20312 3,255
0736 Alamo Rd at Sand Dune S Trail 660491 4096942 37.00678 115.19621 3,238

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)
01 North Dunes North Trailhead 659846 4098880 3,221 0.00 0.00
02 End of Old North Road 660911 4098460 3,303 0.73 0.73
03 Dune Summit 661336 4098245 3,432 0.43 1.16
02 End of Old North Road 660911 4098460 3,303 0.37 1.53
01 North Dunes North Trailhead 659846 4098880 3,221 0.73 2.26
. . . . . . .
05 North Dunes South Trailhead 660494 4096945 3,217 0.00 0.00
04 End of Old South Road 660888 4097540 3,287 0.48 0.48
03 Dune Summit 661336 4098245 3,432 0.61 1.09
04 End of Old South Road 660888 4097540 3,287 0.62 1.71
05 North Dunes South Trailhead 660494 4096945 3,217 0.48 2.19

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 171221

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