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Kelso Dunes
Kelso Dunes

Kelso Dunes

The Kelso Dunes, also referred to as the Kelso Dune Field, is the largest field of sand deposits across the Mojave Desert.

The protected field covers a 45 square mile area and features some of the most fascinating dunes.

Kelso Dunes, Camping, ATV & Hike Trail Map, Mojave National Preserve

The field’s geologic history shows that the dunes are made of feldspar and quartz, two key minerals that resulted from the erosion of the San Bernardino Mountains not so far from the dunes. The field constitutes five distinct sets of dunes, with each reflecting climatic changes over the years. The different types of dunes include the vegetation-stabilized dunes, sand ramps, migrating dunes, as well as sand sheets.

The dunes are renowned for the singing sand, which is a phenomenon that occurs when sound is emitted by the sand. Adventure seekers will often climb to the top of the dune and then walk down. This causes the sands to vibrate and produce a booming sound that can be heard, and which is attributed to the presence of silica on the sand particles and can be more pronounced when the dunes are dry. Experiencing these acoustic dunes is a remarkable adventure that every visitor must experience.

Hiking the Kelso Dunes is also a beautiful way to explore the region, with the dunes being accessible using the dirt road in the preserve. There is plenty of signage to indicate the direction of the dunes, and the hike begins three miles after the dirt road. Toilets are available at the trailhead.

The hilly terrain involves a lot of climbing and descending before reaching the main dune. It is important to mention that there is not a marked path, but a general route to follow is the thousands of footsteps that have already taken the journey. The hike can be challenging for some as it involves loose sand, but the route towards the top of the dunes gets easier since the sand is hard and easy to walk on.

Getting to the top of the Kelso Dunes is an incredible experience. Hikers are rewarded with splendid 360-degree views of the desert, complete with picture-perfect shots at sunset as dusk sets in over the desert.

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