Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley

Out of the Valley floor rises a great dune

Death Valley National Park – Mesquite Dunes are surrounded by mountains on all sides the smooth mounds of sand stand in stark contrast to the jagged purple mountains in the distance. Visitors to Mesquite Dunes are driven in child like energy over one dune to the next trying to discover untouched sand and the best views.

Mesquite dunes

Sand, wind, and entrapping mountains are the perfect combination to create a dune field.   

While sand exists throughout the park, there are very few locations where large dune fields are created. In order to create sand dunes, there must be a source of sand (in this case, the eroding mountains to the north), wind to move that sand, and a barrier to prevent the sand from being blown farther (the mountains to the south). The conditions at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are perfect for the creation of dunes, and while individual grains move, and ripples form, the dune field remains.

These dunes are named for the mesquite tree which grows in abundance in the area. The trees must twist and grow to avoid being buried, and leafless brown trunks are often exposed by the shifting sands. The arrival of spring brings forth a burst of bright green leaves and yellow flowers from the trees’ upper branches. Mesquite bean pods are a traditional food of the Timbisha Shoshone, and the flour from these pods can be purchased in specialty food stores today.  

The Mesquite Dunes are known for dramatic shadows at sunrise and sunset, as ripples and edges in the dunes stand out in greater contrast. They are also a great place to observe Death Valley’s famous dark night skies. 

These dunes are the best known and easiest to visit in the national park. Located in central Death Valley near Stovepipe Wells, access is from Hwy. 190 or from the unpaved Sand Dunes Road. Although the highest dune rises only about 100 feet, the dunes actually cover a vast area.

HIKING Mesquite Dunes


Hike to Tallest Dune
Round Trip Length: 2 miles (3.2 km) 
Round Trip Time: 1.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Elevation Gain: 185 ft (65 m)
Trail Type: No official trail 
Location: Just east of Stovepipe Wells Village off CA-190
Parking: Paved lot with pull-through spaces for buses and large RVs
Closest Restroom: Vault toilets located in parking lot. Do not leave toilet paper in the dunes.
Route: Area open for cross-country exploration; choose your own route to the tallest dune. 

Note: pets are not allowed on the dunes or on any trail in Death Valley National Park, even if carried. Do not leave your animal in your vehicle. Speak with a ranger about one of the incredible dirt roads where you may walk your pet.

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