Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park
Along Hwy-190 in the middle of Death Valley is a large area of sand dunes. From Hwy 190, the tallest 100-foot tall dunes are nearly 2 miles from the road and they make a popular hike. The area around the dunes is known as Mesquite Flat, and has many nocturnal animals including rattle snakes.
It is fun to walk on the sand dunes. They are not too big and apparently shifts due to the winds. Remember that while it is hot just walking along the sand, it will be hotter walking back to your car.
I love sand dunes, so this was another one of my favorite outings. With no trails, you can make the hike as short or as long as you wish. If you wish to walk to the highest dune in the Stove Pipe Wells area, you will have to walk about 2 miles over the rolling sand hills one way. Depending on what you choose to do in the dunes the hiking ranges from easy to moderate, to down right tiring, especially if it is a warm day! Take Water! The dunes range from small hills to 100 foot high. With no trail, you simply begin walking cross-country over the sandy hills. Watch for animal tracks in the sand, and see if you can guess what was there before you. We spent about one and a half hours walking around in the dunes, and I loved every minute of it. This would be a fun place to walk during a full moon. Watch the weather as we were unable to do this hike the first time we drove to Stove Pipe Wells, as the wind came up, lifting the sand from the tops of the dunes, making being on the dunes very unpleasant.
This is not really the Sahara, but if you pay attention of the way you shoot the photo, it can be mistaken. As always and everywhere, the sand dune look like velvet when the sun is low on the horizon. Here, it was at the end of the afternoon and the light is perfect, I was really lucky to be there at the right time !
The sand dunes are a must see. The best time to visit the dunes is early morning (Half an hour before sunrise) so that you can be there right in time for sunrise. We heard that sunset is also good from here but didnt try it out.
When you walk on the dunes please take care not to leave your footprints along the slopes. This really spoils the look of the dunes. Walk along the crest of the dunes so that your footprints/trail are not visible. I am sure serious photographers would understand what it feels to encounter mutilated dunes.
PS: In the picture on the left, the two shadows that you see are ours:); Shiv with his arms stretched out when Deepa clicked the picture.
Despite the fact that this is a desert, many people are surprised to find sand dunes here. This is especially true since these dunes are up to 120 feet high.
There are no trails here and they're not really necessary. You can just wander up, down and around the sand dunes, or find a spot of your own to settle in and watch the sights. Be careful if you venture too far as the dunes tend to shift and finding your way back may be difficult. This is one of the few places where it might be best to stick with the crowd.
You can't miss the Sand Dunes as you drive through Death Valley. They are huge, covering an area of approximately 14 square miles. Photography is best suited to early morning, or late in the day, as you will see more definition and shadows. Unfortunately, I was there mid-day, and the colours seem a little washed out.
The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are supposedly not as big as the Eureka Dunes, but they are more readily accessible, easy for kids to traverse, and still very large and extensive. They are right near Stovepipe Wells, one of the few places to stay in the valley.
The sand dunes are surreal and great fun. We let our toddler run all over them since she would'nt get seriously hurt if she fell and she absolutely loved it.
The national park has some easily accesible dunes. Like the ones close to Stovepipe Wells. From a parking lot you can start a hike into the dune field. Just don't underestimate the heat and distances. Take some water and better don't let your vehicle behind yourself out of sight. Anyway, the dunes are almost surrounded by mountains. The mountains are also the source for the dunes. At higher elevations rocks break because of erosion and the wind. On its long way down into the valley the rocks erode more and more and finally became as small as sand grains. Even a small breeze is enough to move the sand and form new dunes.
There's never enough time to explore everything to its fullest, it seems. In the precious hour we had at the dunes we tried to soak in as much as possible while parts of us were being abraded away by the sand tickling at our calves. luckily, that is as high as the sand went. I did my best to capture the grains blowing off the tops of the larger dunes.
The scenery along the roadway varies from nothingness to formations right along the way.
Notice the haze in the background. Our view was not too bad for most of the day and not nearly as bad as it could have been according to the park's headquarters. There are comparative pictures there on hazy days, some of it is natural, the worst days are effects of West Coast smog. :(
We raced to make it back to the dunes by early sunset and had about an hour to shoot.
This land has an ethereal feel to it. The lighting and blowing of the wind and sand contributed to a feeling of otherworldliness.
The wind blew almost constantly and lightly stung our calves at times. Make sure you take your shoes off and enjoy the feel of the groud as it gives a soft treatment to your feet as you walk.
I had hoped to be here at both sunrise and set, but only made the latter. The lighting was fine with overcast skies that sometimes gave way to a spot of brightness.
Make sure to leave yourself plenty of time to just stare out and enjoy. The dunes have a meditative effect on people, I think.
Tawny dunes smoothly rising nearly 100 feet. Late afternoon light accentuates the ripples and patterns while morning is a good time to view tracks of nocturnal wildlife. Moonlight on the dunes can be magical, yet night explorers should be alert for sidewinder rattlesnakes during the warm season.
In order to form, sand dunes require a steady supply of sand, wind to blow the sand, and a wind break that causes deposition of sand. Each dune field in Death Valley National Park receives most of its sand from the nearby alluvial fans and experiences plenty of wind. Furthermore, each dune field lies in an area that is slightly sheltered from prevailing winds. The dunes at Stovepipe Wells, for example, lie in the embayed mountain front just north of Tucki Mountain. The dunes in Panamint Valley lie at the far north end, well above the main part of the valley in elevation and against the mountains, the dunes near Saratoga Springs lie in a bowl-shaped area within the Ibex Hills, and the dunes in the Eureka Valley lie between the Last Chance and Saline Ranges.
Enlarge the photo to see who was there. Lots of animal traces on the dunes. Come early in the morning to find uninterrupted footprints of birds and animals I cannot name. Even if I don't see them it's good to know they are alive well in Death Valley.