Kelso Dunes

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Trail Distance: 1.5 miles
Time Estimate: 1 hr 50 min +
Elevation Gain: 600 feet
Leash Rule: On Leash
Difficulty: Hard
Parking: Free
Route Type: Out-and-back
Restroom: Yes
Description

"What's that eerie sound in the distance?" you wonder as you approach the Kelso Dunes in California's Mojave Preserve. You think the booming crescendo sounds like a foghorn or an oboe, perhaps a passing jet. Your dog's ears perk and their head tilts. They're confused, too, and curious. They pull on the leash and draw you closer.

As you approach, you realize it: that low frequency sound is actually the tune of the dunes. The rumble is unique to very few places on earth, occurring only when grains of sand composed of silica roll over one another under the perfect conditions. The grains have to be a certain size and the climate has to be dry. The harmonious vibration gets louder as the humidity gets lower.

Hearing the singing sands is a major draw to this unique location, but there are other reasons to visit. While this trail isn't sought after for wildlife viewing, perhaps it should be: several species of crickets live here and only here, and other rare animals that have adapted to life in the sand, like the Mojave fringe-toed lizard, also dwell in the dunes. Wildflowers bloom, too, including dune evening primrose.

These are eolian dunes, which means they were deposited by the wind, and the result is visually stunning. It looks like a truck backed up and dumped a huge mountain of sand in the middle of a valley. It's as if they were going to make the world's biggest sandbox but forgot to finish.

Even in their natural state, these dunes are just that: a playground. One of the delights of this 1.5-mile trail is that it involves climbing a mountain of sand. Do note that climbing up these 600-foot dunes will provide you and your pup with a challenging workout! Skeptical dogs might hold back from the shifting terrain, but more curious canines will want to play. The more they do, the better: the only way to hear the dunes is to get the sand moving.

There are no rules barring you from running or even sliding to get back down. Have fun! These dunes are thousands of years old, cover 45 square miles, and won't be damaged by your antics. The wind constantly combs them over and re-shapes them. For that reason, the trail is prone to disappearing just beyond the trailhead on Kelso Dunes Road off of Kelbaker Road. Just park, head toward the dunes and back. This is the perfect place for playful people and frisky pups to throw caution to the wind.

Trail Features
Desert, Loose Terrain
Wildflowers, Scenic
Cautions & Considerations
The Mojave Desert can get brutally hot in the summer and there is no shade on this trail. Be sure to bring sunblock and lots of water.
Address
Kelso Dunes Trail, Kelso Dunes Road
Baker, CA 92309
Hours
Mon Open 24 Hours
Tue Open 24 Hours
Wed Open 24 Hours
Thu Open 24 Hours
Fri Open 24 Hours
Sat Open 24 Hours
Sun Open 24 Hours
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Address
Kelso Dunes Trail, Kelso Dunes Road
Baker, CA 92309
Hours
Mon Open 24 Hours
Tue Open 24 Hours
Wed Open 24 Hours
Thu Open 24 Hours
Fri Open 24 Hours
Sat Open 24 Hours
Sun Open 24 Hours