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 get set up before dark.
Where were 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.).
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.
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.
The next morning, we woke up to these gorgeous heavy clouds.
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.).
We spent the day hiking around the area, including up the dunes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 if we were stuck there for several days, 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?
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.