Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park
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.
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 !
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.
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.
There are 14 square miles of wind sculpted sand dunes composed of quartz granules. The dunes appear out of nowhere in the middle of the basin and within view of Route 190. There are no established trails. Visitors park their vehicles on the shoulder of the road and proceed to the dunes for a closer glimpse.
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.
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)
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.