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What to expect at Imperial Sand Dunes
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What to expect at Imperial Sand Dunes

Gray’s Well Dune Area is a small section of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.  This particular section is just a part of the of the biggest set of sand dunes located in South Western United States. The Algodones Sand Dune is an area that stretches about 45 miles along the Southern California, and Northern Mexican Border.

This unique sandy Sonoran desert landscape is currently being managed by the Bureau of Land-Management of California and requires a fee for off-road entry and access for several of the areas. Free access to wilderness areas is only accessible by foot, no motor vehicles allowed.  Each year thousands of off-road enthusiasts migrate to this area for the opportunity to ride the sandy hills.  This sandy desert terrain hides several historical treasures including a portion of the “Plank Road“.  This particular road allowed vehicles such as the Ford Model A, to drive through this treacherous desert. It also paved the way for people to enjoy this scenic treasure, people have been off-roading photographing themselves here since the 1800s!


What is the fee for Gray’s Well Dune Area ?

The fee required for entry is

Season permit $150 – valid from October 1 through April 15 each year
Weekly permit $ 35 – valid for seven consecutive days.

Season permit $150 – valid from October 1 through April 15 each year
Weekly permit $ 50 – valid for seven consecutive days


When Is the best time to visit?

That is subjective to the experience you would like to have. Family outing, holiday camping, photography or film projects, para sailing, sandboarding, and star gazing are just some of the activities visitors partake when visiting this area.  Peak dune season is the busiest time. Some debate the exact date in October but by Halloween weekend you can see way more people camping out in the dunes. Holiday and holiday weekends attract so many visitors, the estimates can sometimes be over 400,000 people.  Weekdays are usually slower days, those are the best time to come if you want to have more dunes to yourself.

Off-season times are great for those who don’t want to pay the permit fees, don’t mind the heat or the 12-14 hours of sunshine. Temperatures can climb from 85F up to or exceeding 120F during off season.  During the summer months the sand dunes glow as the full moon reflects it’s light all over the sandy hills. Great time to take photographs with no tire or footprints in the sand.



How long of a time period should you plan for?

Your rental should depend on your time available plus travel time.

From our shop it takes approximately 45 minutes, one way. If you have never been to the sand dunes the least amount of time I recommend is 3-4 hours if you are not planning to camp there, and have a good general experience.  I highly recommend eating before you head out there. There are no amenities out there other than vault restrooms. There are no RV hook ups it is a dry camping spot, however you can only camp for up to 14 days at a time.

What should I wear?

The desert can be brutal on your skin and hair. Sunscreen is essential and highly recommended, please check recommendations of application and reapplication of your product to ensure maximum protection. If you know that you will not be riding the whole time during your visit, I recommend taking a hat or shade to get out of the sun since there are no trees or shade structures to shade you out there.  Sunglasses are great if you are not in a OHV or riding.

Goggles are always a must when you are riding or driving a vehicle. Sand can get inside your eye and even scrape your cornea.

Long sleeve breathable layers and pants are highly recommended.  Avoid taking flip flops, you want your toes and feet protected.  Boots or shoes that cover your ankles work best to keep sand out of your socks and shoes.

Helmets are a must when riding in the Imperial Sand Dunes


Where do I buy the permit?

Permit can be purchased online at https://isdpermits.net/  

Please check the official ISDRA for all the latest information.

If you click on the link it will also show you physical locations where you can purchase a permit.


The Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation area is a part of the Sonoran Desert (sometimes listed at Mohave Desert). This world famous landmark located in the desert attracts people from all over the world. Driving in this desert environment can be a bit overwhelming if you are not use to the sand. When arriving and parking it is best to park your vehicle parallel to the road to avoid getting stuck especially if your vehicle is not equipped to drive off road.

Sunshine will be plentiful, keep track of the time if your skin is sensitive to the sun. Expect your trip to the Imperial Sand Dunes to be full of sunshine, there are usually no clouds in the sky, and if you do come on a cloudy day chances are it will not remain cloudy.  Expect silt and lots of it. The wind in that area will vary, constantly causing the sand to move as well as lifting silt and covering everything there.


  • While there are restrooms available,  however there is no running water.
  • There are giant trash bins available at the entrance of the area. 
  • There are no shade structures available.
  • No RV hookups if you plan on staying out there to camp. Dry camping.
  • There are no stores stores available at or near the dunes. There are vendors out there on big weekends.
  • The nearest gas station is 10 miles away.
  • The closest hotel is the Q Hotel and Casino.
  • The closest hospital to the Gray’s Well Area is YRMC which is over 30 miles away.


For the latest up to date information on the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation area please visit BLM website.

All the rules and regulations regarding this off-road are on the BLM website.

There are several laws that apply to that specific area please read before arriving.




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  • quad bike
    February 14, 2023, 2:55 pm REPLY

    Nice information! Thanks for this article


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