Kelso Dunes |

Mojave National Preserve

Hiking Kelso Dunes - Mojave National PreserveRoadside Attraction Kelso Dunes - Mojave National Preserve Hiking Kelso Dunes
Mojave National Preserve

Overview | Getting There | Route | Photos | Maps | Comments

Overview

RATING: Moderate Hike

Thu

97 | 78

Fri

96 | 79

Sat

95 | 78

Sun

94 | 77

Mon

94 | 77

View Full Weather Details
SEASON: Fall, Winter, Spring (Hot in summer)
GEAR: Standard Hiking Gear
WATER: None

Thu

97 | 78

Fri

96 | 79

Sat

95 | 78

Sun

94 | 77

Mon

94 | 77

View Full Weather Details
The sun lighting up Kelso Dunes

The sun lighting up Kelso Dunes

Kelso Dunes is likely the most visited attraction in the Mojave National Preserve. The dunes encompass a massive 45 square miles with the tallest dune reaching about 650 feet (200 meters) above the surrounding landscape. It is the largest sand dune area in the Mojave Desert. The main dune, described here, is steep, sandy, and quite beautiful! I was amazed on our mid-winter visit how many others were visiting but also making the steep loose trek to the dunes lofty summit.

Kids, families, and those that are young at heart are likely to have a delightful time climbing and playing in the sand. Kites and picnic lunches were in abundance on our visit.

Note: The dunes are lovely and highly recommended, but only at cooler times of the year. Late spring through early fall can be brutally hot. Be sure to bring water, whatever the season, as the hike is likely to take longer than you might expect.
Looking back at the "summit" ridge.

Looking back at the "summit" ridge.

Getting There

The dunes are in the middle of the Mojave National Preserve. The first step is reaching Kelso, a station in the preserve. From the center of the town of Baker California, head south into the preserve on Kelbaker Rd. It is about 35 miles of paved road to reach the first major junction and the railroad crossing. This crossing is Kelo and has restrooms and a visitor center.

From Kelso, continue south, crossing the railroad tracks. 7.8 miles south of the railroad tracks, a signed dirt road to the dunes in on the right. This dirt road, on our visit, was passable by all vehicles but quite wash boarded. All vehicles can make it to the trailhead but may need to be driven slowly. It is 2.9 miles of dirt road from the turnoff to the trailhead on the right. It is signed with lots of parking and a vault toilet.

Diane and Ruby heading for the largest dune at Kelso Dunes

Diane and Ruby heading for the largest dune at Kelso Dunes

Route

From the trailhead, a loose social trail heads to the dune. On our visit, at least, the trail becomes less a trail and more of a free-for-all to find a path up the steep slope. It is physical!

The view from the summit of the national preserve is stunning and lovely. I recommend returning via the steepest aspect of the dune and running down as fast you can for maximum fun factor!


Maps

Route / 3.19 miles / Elevation Range 2,438 - 2,979 ft.
Printable Maps:
Trailhead

11S 618858mE 3861871mN

N34° 53' 32" W115° 41' 57"

Summit

11S 617113mE 3863073mN

N34° 54' 12" W115° 43' 05"

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