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Steve, Katherine, and Norah | profile | all galleries >> Death Valley National Park 2014 >> Eureka Dunes tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Eureka Dunes

We had a trip to Eureka Sand Dunes slated for our last full day in Death Valley. We had camped the night before at the Racetrack and returned the way we had come. To break up the drive on backroads, we made a short detour to Scotty's Castle. We did not take a tour, but did enjoy wandering around this oasis in the desert and browsing in the visitor center.

The Eureka Dunes are located in a dry lake bed at the base of the Last Chance Mountains. To reach their location in the southern Eureka Valley we drove 45 miles on backroads (from Big Pine Road near Ubehebe Crater - there is also access from Bishop). With the exception of the last ten severely washboarded miles, the roads were fine. There was even a section of paved road in the Hanging Rock Canyon near an abandoned mine.

We exited Hanging Rock Canyon and came to a junction with South Eureka Valley Road, where we turned to travel the last ten washboarded miles. As we bumped along we could see the dunes in the distance. The Eureka Dunes cover an area that is three and a half miles long and one-two miles wide. But what makes these dunes so impressive is their height; they soar to nearly 700 feet. I knew these dunes were tall, but from a distance they were dwarfed by the Last Chance Mountains behind them. When we finally arrived at the dunes and the primitive campsites (quite nice with picnic tables and fire rings), it was easier to appreciate their size. They were not merely dunes, but mountains of sand.

The same cloudy skies that gave us a spectacular sunrise at The Racetrack that morning did not clear during the day, so it was overcast and gray as we set out for a walk on the dunes. It was hard work climbing some of the steep slopes in sand, but well worth it. The dunes and views were simply beautiful. We spent awhile on the dunes then Steve and Norah returned to set up camp. I noticed a small gap between the clouds and the mountains and held out hope that the setting sun would pass through this window and illuminate the dunes for some nice pictures. I had a peaceful wait on the dunes and luckily the small window held. I had about ten minutes of dramatic side lighting and the dunes really came alive. What an impressive sight! And the show wasn't done yet. As I was gliding down the dunes to our campsite, I noticed the sky was gearing up for another awesome show. And the pink colors it produced were incredible. We enjoyed the sunset from our campsite and thought this was a pretty fine way to spend Thanksgiving. Perfect ending to our trip in Death Valley!

More information on these special dunes can be found on the National Park Service webpage
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