Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Stovepipe Wells Parking Area on Highway 190, Death Valley National Park, California
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes - 1.5 miles
Stovepipe Wells Parking Area on Highway 190
|Round-Trip Length:||1.5 miles (No Trail - Cross Country Travel Required)|
|Start-End Elevation:||-30' - 140' (dune elevations vary)|
|Elevation Change:||+170' net elevation gain (total roundtrip elevation gain varies with route)|
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes - 1.5 Miles Round-Trip
A hike into the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes can be as long or short, arduous or easy as you wish to make it. There is no official trailhead, nor do any maintained trails lead into them. Instead you may park along the shoulders of Highway 190 and improvise your own route into this remarkable 14 square mile landscape.
It'll typically take .75 miles of easy walking to reach the base of the highest dunes; en route you'll wander through relatively flat sandy areas marked by cracked mud silt, creosote and mesquite brush. This unique habitat is home to kit fox, burrowing owls, lizards, rodents and sidewinder rattlesnakes.
The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes' highest peaks rise approximately 140' above sea level, though shifting winds and gravity alter heights and shapes daily. Dunes such as these form over thousands of years as blowing sand reaches an insurmountable obstacle (such as mountains). When sand particles can go no further, wind churns the blocked sand into very fine particles and deposits them at or near the base of the obstacle. An arid climate is the foundation for such a process.
The dunes are surrounded on all sides by surreal mountain ranges that - typical of many places in Death Valley - distort distance and depth perception. Immediately to the south is the Tucki Mountain complex. Behind it to the west are the Panamint Mountains, Death Valley's highest range. To the east are the Grapevine Mountains and Funeral Mountains, which arguably provide the dunes' most photogenic backdrop.
The dunes are best lit at sunrise and sunset, though optimal times will vary with the seasons. Consult Park Officials for optimal lighting windows. Early morning is the best time to see animal tracks in the dunes, and enjoy unspoiled textures and contours reconstituted by the settling night time air. Midday temperatures can make the sand exceedingly hot, thus limiting your ability to comfortably move about for any length of time. By late afternoon the dunes have typically seen much traffic, though dusk is an inviting time for extended travel. Night time exploration is possible too, especially during full moon periods. Be mindful of sidewinder rattlesnakes hunting in brush-laden areas.
- N36 36.367 W117 08.783 — 0.0 miles: Sand Dune Access - Stovepipe Wells Parking Area
- There is an official parking lot north of Highway 190. Visitors also park just south of the dunes near Stovepipe Wells Village along the wide shoulder of Highway 190.
- For the road less traveled, consider beginning your hike near the Devil's Cornfield (along Highway 190), or from the dirt road leading to Stovepipe Wells (see map).
- The dunes are highly exposed to sun and heat. Sunglasses, hats, skin protection and extra water are a must. Summer daytime temperatures frequently exceed 110 degrees; plan travel time accordingly and avoid peak-heat hours.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Camping is not permitted in the sand dunes, but lodging and car-camping is available in nearby Stovepipe Wells.
Directions to Trailhead
Located off of Highway 190 near the Stovepipe Wells area in Death Valley National Park.
Death Valley National Park
P.O. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328