Imperial Sand Dunes (Winterhaven, CA)

Almost caught up now… here’s what we did on Sunday:

We loaded the ATV back onto the pickup to go check out the nearby Imperial Sand Dunes that we had heard so much about.

The BLM website says this about the dunes; “Located in the southeast corner of California, the Imperial Sand Dunes are the largest mass of sand dunes in the state. Formed by windblown sands of ancient Lake Cahuilla, the dune system extends for more than 40 miles in a band averaging 5 miles wide (map). Widely known as “Glamis” and a favorite location for off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts, the dunes also offer fabulous scenery, opportunities for solitude, and a home to rare plants and animals.”

Google images has some really good photos… click here.


We took Interstate 8 for about 15 miles from our campsite near the Quechan Casino Resort and took the exit to the recreation area / ranger station.  We went into the ranger station to get more information about the area.  What we found out set the tone for the rest of the day… the fee to take the ATV or even our pickup into any of the dunes was $50 for a week.  Of course, we’re told if we had bought our permit outside the dunes, it would only be $35 for a week.  Only a few places to get the permit other than online.  Oh, and also… if the ATV doesn’t have a current state OHV permit, well – that will be an additional out-of-state permit cost 🙁  And don’t forget – if you don’t have the proper size and color fluorescent orange flag on your OHV, you will certainly get a citation and fine, said the nice ranger lady.

So, after checking our “value-meter”, we decided it wasn’t worth it for just a day of riding on dunes.  However, the ranger told us we could go down the side service road for a few miles to view the “plank road”… that didn’t require a permit.  She also told us about a viewing spot (way up north) that is also free.  We could drive up there and get a birds-eye view of the dunes from a hilltop.  These were the only non-fee areas we could go.  Ya just gotta love California, right?

Here’s a picture of the signs that surround the dunes at every access point… we saw these throughout the day.


So we left the ATV on the pickup and took the service road through the soft sand to look at the “plank road”.  Here’s the information placard.  And you can click here for more information on this “road”.



After viewing the “plank road”, we took the ranger’s advice and drove north on Blythe Ogilby Road.  This north-south road skirted the dunes on the east side, until it meets State Route 78 which cuts through the dunes east-west.  To the north of 78 is the North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area where no OHV’s are allowed.  To the south is the massive expanse of sand dunes that are designated for off-roading.  Link here for more info on the dunes from my friend Wikipedia.

We took 78 to the Glamis Beach Store.  We had traveled about 50 miles from the first ranger station we stopped at along I-8.  The over-priced Glamis Beach Store even had a note on the their entrance door explaining why they were so over-priced… citing; distance, the short season, and the high electric bills, etc.,  You even had to pay $2 there to just use the restroom.  Here’s a pic I copied from google images.


There were a few “vendor communities” set up along the highway to cater to the many off-roader’s camped at the designated BLM sites.  I forgot to check on prices for camping.


Finally, we reached the “no-permit required” hilltop parking area that the ranger lady told us about.  Here’s a couple pics.  We’ll have to come back when we can stay awhile.



We continued west on 78, and passed through the dunes until we hit 115 south to the town of Holtville.  We skipped a farmers market and  small-town fair that was going on in Holtville and continued back to Interstate 8, then home.  We had basically circled the entire dune area.

Hopefully, we can come back here with my brother and mom/stepdad sometime in the near future to spend a week.  Although, we might have to save up some money to do so 🙂

That’s all for now folks… tomorrow (Monday) we start heading north to get to the Lake Havasu Fireworks Rally we signed up for starting on the 11th.  Stay tuned…



2 thoughts on “Imperial Sand Dunes (Winterhaven, CA)”

  1. Hi,
    Looks like you guys are still having fun. We are in Havasu now and will be enjoying the fireworks shows as well. I am the person you guys rode with in Quartzsite with Tom Polk. Have fun. Don

    1. Hope you can stop by Don. We’re hoping to get an ATV ride in on Saturday or Sunday.

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