Visiting the Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park


Eureka Dunes

When we were driving the last stretch of dirt road towards Eureka Dunes, we spotted the dunes ahead with mountains towering above, which were in turn were dwarfed by snow capped peaks. Did I take a picture? No. Why? I don’t know. The evening light was a gorgeous purplish pink, perfect for a shot, but I guess we were anxious to snag a campsite and set up before dark.

Eureka Dunes

Where are we? Way up in the northwest corner of Death Valley National Park, tucked away in Eureka Valley, you’ll find Eureka Dunes, the tallest sand dunes in California. The valley is about 3,000 feet in elevation. The dunes are 3 miles long and 1 mile wide and rise 680 feet above the dry lakebed, which is located on the western side of the dunes. The Last Chance Mountains, the stripy looking ones, are 4,000+ feet above the valley floor (or 7,000+ feet above sea level). As for the snow capped peaks, I’m pretty sure that is the Panamint Range (You’ll just have to imagine what they look like.).

Last Chance Mountains

The drive from Carson City to the dunes was at least 4 hours. We lost track of time because our intention was to camp in Fish Lake Valley in Dyer, Nevada first, but it was pouring rain, so we decided to continue on to the dunes. We took CA State Route 168 to Eureka Valley Road to Eureka Dunes Road. This was pretty scenic and we stopped a few times to check things out (Which is why we arrived at dusk.). I also should mention, that “we” includes Matt and I and our friends Brian and Thea.

Eureka Valley Road
Eureka Valley Road. We loved this! There was definitely a dang washout ahead, and it was much bigger than we expected.

There are several campsites scattered at the base of the dunes, each designated by a fire pit and picnic table. There’s not exactly a lot of privacy here, but it’s certainly not busy like the popular spots in Death Valley which are in a completely different part of the park. To give you an idea of the overall size, Death Valley National Park is 3.4 million acres with almost 1,000 miles of paved and dirt roads. It’s big.

In the waning light, we drove around to take a look at all the available sites, which there were none, aside from the cluster of sites you see immediately when you drive up the main road.

Eureka Dunes

The next morning, we woke up to these gorgeous heavy clouds.

Our campsite at Eureka Dunes

They broke up after breakfast and it turned into a gloriously sunny, warm day. The clouds never fully went away during our visit (I loved it! Great for dramatic photos.).

Eureka Dunes

We spent the day hiking around the area, including up the dunes.

We heard there was petroglyphs back here, but we couldn’t find them.
Somehow we spotted a tiny horny toad. Actually, we saw two!
The view from halfway up Eureka Dunes.
Eureka Dunes
Eureka Dunes
One of the 5 species of beetles that live on Eureka Dunes.
Last Chance Mountains

In the evening, we went for a desert walk. It had rained the night before and there were still a few spots that were wet, we avoided those.

Eureka Dunes
This desert playa is on the west side of Eureka Dunes.
Eureka Dunes
Eureka Dunes
Eureka Dunes
Eureka Dunes

The next morning, the wind was intense. We had planned to stay longer, but camping next to a sand dune isn’t fun anymore when it’s windy. After Brian brushed his teeth (see below), we packed up the car and headed out.

Eureka Dunes

We drove east on Big Pine Road through Hanging Rock Canyon (not quite to Crankshaft Junction) to an old mining site. Based on the rusty bed springs, ovens, and many, many rusty beer cans with the pull tabs, there had been a handful of small residences above the mine.

This was not one of those residences.
A mine near Crankshaft Junction.
This was likely one of the residences.
A mine near Crankshaft Junction.
A mine near Crankshaft Junction.
A mine near Crankshaft Junction.
A mine near Crankshaft Junction.

If we had continued east on Big Pine Road, we would’ve ended up by Ubehebe Crater and Racetrack Road. Instead we took Big Pine Road west, to see if we could make it to the Warm Springs campground.

Saline Valley Road

We drove about 15 miles down Saline Valley Road. Eventually, the road was deep with slush and mud. Since no one knew we were out there, and we had a limited supply of food and water, we decided to turn around and save the hot springs for a future trip. But on the way back, we did stop at another small mining site with a pretty sweet homestead. Does anyone know any history about this place?

When I say it’s a pretty sweet homestead, I don’t mean now, I mean when it was intact.
Maybe the wood paneling and shag carpet can give us an idea of when this was built.
There is (was) also a full kitchen and bathroom.
And a hot tub?!
A garage?
And a car.
This building had a bar inside!
Someone sat here next to an open pit. Yikes!
The main entrance to “the bar.”
Near the intersection of Big Pine Road and Saline Valley Road. This is where we stopped to make lunch and discussed our options for camping that night.

That is all I have for the Eureka Dunes and the surrounding areas (If you’re curious, we headed back to Fish Lake Valley in Nevada to camp.). There is no cell service or any service stations close by, so when exploring these areas, you have to bring the right supplies, including all your water, extra gas, a full size spare tire, etc.

Do you have anything to add about this area? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

If you want to know more about Fish Lake Valley, I write a little bit about it in this post. If you enjoy looking at old mines, check out these photos taken at old mining sites in the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan.

3 thoughts

  1. Great blog, as usual! So nice to see your adventures. Were there a lot of beetles out because of the rain? I don’t think I’d get much sleep on that campsite you showed. I’d be up all night thinking about beetles!


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