Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park
Mesquite Dunes is a great place to watch the sunset. As with any sunset, much of the colors occur after the sunset sets below the horizon. Mesquite Dunes is no different. I found the best colors happened after all the people left the dunes. Those with patience will be rewarded.
The difference between the first picture and the next four is about 20 minutes.
The Mesquite Sand Dunes are easily seen from Route 190. They are set back off the road a ways. There is a good parking area with pit toilets and interpretive signs. Visitors are free to roam around the dunes as much as they like. The dunes are below sea level. The surrounding mountains prevent the blow sand to exit the valley, thereby creating the sand dunes.
I recommend visiting the sand dunes for sunrise or for sunset. More people tend to be there during sunset and the winds can be very strong in the evening. Always check your bearings as to where the parking area is.
We made a stop at the tawny sand dunes, which were a surprise to us. The sand dunes rise almost 100 ft high and create such a beautiful scenery as one approaches them. The mid morning sunlight accented the ripples in the sand and reminded me of the sand dunes in Dubai.
We walked a little further than we wanted too because our little boy got so excited about playing in the sand. Meanwhile, I was concerned about snakes and any other dangerous sand animals that might have come out to get some sand. Luckily nothing was in view. There were quite a few other visitors that joined us while we ere there. Definitely something to see.
Another curiosity of the Dead Valley is its dunes. No matter that a desert in its sandy context is nowhere to be seen in close proximity, suddenly there is this swath of land covered by the most picturesque sand dunes ever. They are no competition for the Sossusvlei monsters and if one has recently visited Namibia this place would be an understatement. At the same time the juxtaposition with the lofty mountains in the background and the thought that yet another natural phenomenon has been packed into this tiny space in geographical terms makes Goosebumps crawl up your neck.
The website that is part of this tip has some more information about the sand dunes of Death Valley.
I also found a few websites with lovely professional photography...
Update- They have built a parking lot for this specific area. Thank goodness because way too many people parking along both sides of the road was so dangerous.
Just as you pass Stovepipe Wells Village you'll start to see the Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes, plus you'll notice because everyone parks their cars along the road, so be careful of people trying to cross the road. Be on alert when walking to the Sand Dunes, there are other critters to consider when hiking through sands, like scorpions, spiders, and yes snakes. If it is hot, wear sun protection and take some water with you please!
How Sand Dunes are created.
The visit to the Mesquite Flat Dunes is best done either early morning or at sunset, so as to avoid the heat. We went early in the morning, even before breakfast.
At this time you get the chance to enjoy the dunes in relative peace and quiet. The sand dunes are walkable from the small car park.
The dunes have been used for various film locations including Star Wars.
Although there is a lot of sand in Death Valley, it is evenly distributed throughout the valley. In a few places the terrain causes the sand to be dropped to the ground all at one time. There are a total of five areas with sand dunes in Death Valley National Park. The easiest area to access is the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. The dunes here were formed when the winds were slowed significantly by the narrowing of the valley and the height of Tucki Mountain. These weakened winds then deposit the Quartz sand scoured from the mountains all at once to form these dunes. Because the winds are never very strong, the dunes remain in the same place with just some minor resculpturing.
The Sand Dunes in Death Valley are an amazing thing to see.
They look so out of place mixed in with the forms of rock and mountainous terrains they are in.
Some are high, some are low, some are wide, some are thin. They are all different, yet all look as good as each other.
Check out the large sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells. You can't miss it heading east from the village. It is a pretty area of rolling sand dunes. Perfect for running around, falling in the sand, exploring the dunes. You feel like you're in a bit of the Sahara as you run around there, wandering from the peaks to the valleys and back again. The further out you go the fewer people are out there, which makes it more of an adventure. Be sure to bring water, as it does get warm out there, and be prepared for sand to infiltrate all parts of you.
If you go for photography, early morning is the best, as the nightly winds have usually scoured the footprints from the sand. The light is optimal as well, for the low angled sun makes for better texture on the dunes as opposed to noon, when the light is more overhead.
Located very close to Stovepipe Wells and visible from the road. There are nearly 14-square-mile field of sand dunes.
The dunes can be explored by foot (park on the side of the road near the dunes sign). There is no trail, but that is part of the fun, you can create your own trail. Hiking the dunes is best in the morning or late afternoon as it is cooler. Also at these hours, the dunes are most photogenic. The shadows are longer because the sun is lower in the sky. Make sure you bring sun screen and water. It is easy to start walking and get further then you have expected, making it difficult to return.
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The fourteen square miles of sand dunes are located near Stovepipe Wells. Clearly visible from Highway 190, people seem to just pull over and park on the shoulder adjacent to the sand dunes. It is a short walk to the edge of the dunes. You can walk around on the dunes if you like.
The Sand Dunes are probably the most visited attraction in Death Valley, and it's easy to see why. The landscape fulfills every childhood dream of what a "desert" truly looks like.
Reaching the area is simple: It's a twenty min. walk from Stovepipe Wells Village, but you'll probably drive rather than be buzzed by RV's doing 75mph while walking the road. Park anywhere you please and start hiking out.
The walk can be troublesome for the infirm, with all that deep sand; but a sunrise or sunset visit is paramount for any visitor to the national park. Stunning pics can be had from the roadside if one doesn't wish to strike out into the dunes.
Kids will love it, but watch out for rattlesnakes and fire ants(see my "danger" tip)
Coming south from Ubehebe Crater, there's quite the drive with very little change in the scenery. Once you make the turn to head toward Stovepipe Wells, you'll run into a wide shoulder parking area where you can get out and explore the sand dunes. Watch for critters (I saw a few lizards), and be aware of two things - that next dune looks a lot closer than it is, and walking on sand takes more energy. There's a tragic tale in the Park newsletter about someone who died out in the dunes due to dehydration and heat exhaustion.
It's a short hike from the parking area to the start of the dunes. I got my fill by climbing the first set and scanning the horizon, but I saw a number of people who were venturing way out into them. Just take plenty of water if you decide to explore further.
People tend to associate Death Valley with sand dunes. Well, here they are. Most of it is rocky, not sandy. But these dunes are beautiful, especially during the morning and evening hours. I visited shortly before dusk.
Near the dunes is another sight, Devil's Cornfield. The sparse vegetation is so windswept that it stands out dramatically.