Imperial Sand Dunes

Recreational Areas - Mammoth Wash - Glamis Dunes - Buttercup Dunes

User Fees October 1 through April 15 each year

Visitor Information With Map

The Imperial Sand Dunes, sometimes called the Algodones Dunes, are the largest mass of sand dunes in California. This dune system extends for more than 40 miles along the eastern edge of the Imperial Valley agricultural region in a band averaging five miles in width. Rising to heights of over 300 feet above the surrounding desert floor, the dunes are a well-known landmark to local residents and the thousands of highway travelers who pass by them every year. While summer temperatures often rise above 110°F and annual rainfall averages less than two inches, the mild climate between October and May attracts tens of thousands of off highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts to the area.

The sand dunes provide outstanding opportunities for recreation. Off-highway vehicle activity is permitted on more than two-thirds of the sand dunes, or over 118,000 acres. The three most popular areas

Mammoth Wash at the north end of the dunes,
Glamis/Gecko just south of State Highway 78,
Buttercup Valley just south of Interstate Highway 8 near the Mexican Border.

Map of Area

Click on map for PDF of map.

Organized competitive or commercial off-highway vehicle events such as sand drags, closed-course racing and hill climbs are sometimes conducted in the dunes. Such events require a Special Recreation Use Permit from the Bureau of Land Management. Other types of activities such as commercial filming or photography, promotional events and mobile vending also require permits. Contact the Area Manager, El Centro Resource Area, for details.

Overview - Description - Star Wars Film Site - Plank Road - Where to Stay

User Fees October 1 through April 15 each year

The Bureau of Land Management's El Centro Field Office has implemented a recreation fee program at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, Dunes recreation visitors will pay $50 per week or $150.00 for a season pass. The new passes will be available in local shops and onsite. The the fee area is increase in size and encompass the entire ISDRA recreation and planning area. Visitors camping in the North Algodones Dunes Wilderness, Mammoth Wash Open Area, and the area within one mile of the ISDRA boundary will also be required to purchase a week or season pass. Park website

For more information on fees call 760 623 3257

The ordinance directs that Competition Hill be closed on holiday weekends to all recreationists one half hour before sunset until one half hour after sunrise. According to the ordinance, violations of the closure will be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $500, imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or both. A coalition of State and Federal law enforcement officers will be enforcing the ordinance as well as all other rules and regulation in the Dunes.

Precautions, Rules, Regulations

All California laws applicable to use, standards, registration, operation, and inspection of OHVs apply in the recreation area. Vehicle operated on federal and state highways, county roads and BLM's Gecko Road and Grays Well Road must be licensed for highway use

Off-highway vehicles owned by California residents must be registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles and display a valid "Green Sticker'' registration certificate. Mufflers and Forest Service approved spark arrestors are required on all OHVs. All riders of all-terrain vehicles (ATV) must wear an approved safety helmet.

In order to improve visibility in the dunes, all OHVs must be equipped with a whip mast (which extends at least 8 feet above the ground) and a red or orange flag having a minimum size of 6 inches by 12 inches. The speed limit for OHVs is 15 mph within 50 feet of any camp or group of people and within 500 feet of Highway 78, Gecko Road, Grays Well Road, and the roads within Gecko and Roadrunner Campgrounds. The basic speed law applies everywhere-Don't drive faster than is safe for conditions.

Vehicle use is permitted on approved routes of travel in the East Mesa area west of the sand dunes with the exception of the closed area around Navy Target 68, located south of Highway 78, between the Coachella and East Highline Canals. The Algodones Outstanding Natural Area north of Highway 78 is also closed to all vehicle use. Operation of vehicles in the closed areas or off approved routes of travel in the East Mesa area is punishable by fines or imprisonment. The military live bombing areas on East Mesa are closed to all public entry. Stay out of these areas.

Many sand dune vehicle accidents involve driving while under the influence of alcohol. California laws regarding drinking and driving apply to all vehicles whether on the highway or off. Enjoy riding in the dunes, but please don't do it while under the influence! Remember, you don't have to be legally drunk to have an accident. You may well save your own life or that of a loved one.

The maximum speed limit on Gecko Road is 35 mph or lower where posted. The maximum speed limit is 15 mph on roads in campgrounds.

Pack it in-pack it out! Please help keep the sand dunes clean by taking all trash and litter home with you or by placing it in the containers at one of the trash collection stations provided with your State OHV Funds. Be sure to dig out any fire pits you've used. The flat tire or cut foot caused by running over a partially hidden trash pile may be your own. For your safety, glass beverage containers are prohibited in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.

There are no sewage disposal sites in the sand dunes. Dumping of sewage is prohibited to protect the health and safety of others.

Information and regulatory signs have been installed in the sand dunes for your safety, as well as the protection of other visitors, wildlife, natural features, historic resources and private property. Whenever a sign is vandalized or removed, it costs YOU money to replace it.

Pets must be kept under control at all times in consideration of other visitors and the protection of wildlife. Each year many unleashed animals are lost or killed by moving vehicles or by wildlife such as rattlesnakes and coyotes.

Taking off or landing of aircraft, including ultra-lites, is prohibited within one mile of Gecko Road.

Watering holes in the desert provide water supplies essential for wildlife. Please do not camp, picnic, or occupy lands within 600 feet of any watering facility.

Bureau of Land Management Rangers and visitor Services Specialists patrol the sand dunes to help you have an enjoyable, safe visit and to protect the area's cultural and natural resources. Contact any Ranger or Visitor Services Specialist for information or assistance.

Recreational Facilities

Parking pads and pit toilets are provided at the BLM's Gecko and Roadrunner Campgrounds, south of State Highway 78 on Gecko Road. No fee is charged. Additional parking pads are provided along Gecko Road. Most of these camping facilities have been constructed using grants from the California OHV Fund. Vehicle camping is also permitted in all areas open to vehicle use. Reserving camping space is prohibited; sites are allocated on a first come, first served basis. When you camp, be sure your vehicle is parked completely off the paved road.

On major winter holiday weekends including Thanksgiving, New Years, Washington's Birthday, and Memorial Day, the Cahuilla Ranger Station is open from 8:00 a.m. to midnight. On all other weekends from mid-October through May, station

Hours are 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. Here you will find maps, brochures and a first-aid station. A Visitor Services Specialist on duty will provide you with information and emergency assistance. Visitor Services staff are in residence at the station during the winter season and provide emergency medical services 24 hours a day.

See a Photo Safari at the Sand Dunes - with video.

Public Telephone Locations

  • Cahuilla Ranger Station Parking Lot, Gecko Road
  • Glamis Store, Highway 78
  • Brunt's Corner Store, Highway 78
  • Agricultural Inspection Station, I-8
  • Sand Hills Rest Area, I-8


Imperial Sand Dunes Cahuilla Ranger Station
Address: Gecko Rd, Brawley, CA 92227
Phone: (760) 337-4400

Emergency Contacts

  • For all emergencies dial 911
  • BLM Rangers
  • Imperial County Sheriff
  • California Highway Patrol
  • U.S. Border Patrol (E1 Centro)
  • E1 Centro Regional Medical Center
  • Calexico Hospital
  • Pioneers Memorial Hospital, Brawley
  • Yuma Regional Medical Center
  • Palo Verde Hospital, Blythe
  • Imperial County Fire Department

Overview -
Description - Star Wars Film Site - Plank Road - Where to Stay




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