Imperial Sand Dunes: a larger-than-life adult sandbox
Sometimes the best adventures are those that put us in touch with our inner child. What better place to do so than a larger-than-life adult sandbox? Just two hours from the Coachella Valley, the majestic Imperial Sand Dunes are rich in history and escapades, boasting something for everyone.
Directly north of the Mexican border and roughly 25 miles west of the Colorado River, these sand dunes are the largest mass of their kind in California, encompassing an area that is more than 40 miles long and averages 5 miles in width. They are also the largest sand dunes open to off-highway vehicle use in the United States, welcoming more than 1 million OHV enthusiasts each year. Some dunes can reach heights of more than 300 feet, making them easily recognizable from any direction.
Their formation occurred due to opposing seasonal winds over sand that was placed southeast of the Salton Sea by the Colorado River. Ultimately, that sand was also modified by the ancient Lake Cahuilla. Strong winter winds pushed the dunes southeast from the old lakeshore to their current location, a process that continues every day. In fact, larger dunes are moving to the southeast at a rate of 6 to 25 centimeters per year. The ripples perfectly display the relationship between air and sand, creating views unlike anywhere else.