Kelso Dunes Trail

MODERATE 63 reviews
#1 of 11 trails in

Kelso Dunes Trail is a 2.7 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Rainbow Wells, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

2.7 miles
423 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly



nature trips

trail running



wild flowers


Extremely rigorous workout with spectacular views along the way.

1 month ago

Super hot during the summer months be careful of heat advisory’s. Dog friendly and easy access other than taking a gravel potholed road to the trail but only for about a mile to parking. Be prepared for no phone service if you are traveling.

3 months ago

This trail kicked my butt. Sure it’s only 2.7 miles with a 500 foot elevation gain, but the sand cut my speed in half, making it feel like a 1200 foot elevation gain. Views from the top were worth it. I started at 8 am and it was warming up quickly by the time I finished at 9:30, so start early!

4 months ago

I hiked Kelso Dunes 3 times already. I drove 2.5-3hrs from where I lived. But it's worth of a drive anyway. I took different people here already. and they love it. the 3rd time I went was Saturday, April 28, 2018 with my daughter and son. they are only 5 & 8 and they love the sand dunes. they made it all the way to the top of the sand dunes. i was so proud of them. and this was their first hike of a 3 miles. never did took them on my little hike before. they love it and asked for more hikes. also, this place is just amazing. never a dull of how many times i been here.. for some people who don't hike much.. this will be legs workout for sure.

5 months ago

U wont regret!

6 months ago

This place was awesome!! I didn’t hike all the way to the top because I wasn’t prepared for that grueling workout. However, I stills got some beautiful pictures.

7 months ago

This is an absolutely beautiful hike! The view from the top of the dunes is awesome, and it's incredibly quiet and peaceful. That being said, don't underestimate the sun and sand-this hike is very tiring and it's easy to dehydrate if you don't drink enough water. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife! We found some super cute geckos and saw lots of snake tracks (but no actual snakes) in the sand.

9 months ago

Climbing the highest dune was the ultimate "stair stepper" experience. For every step forward, one slips backwards six inches. Extremely rigorous workout with spectacular views along the way.

10 months ago

First do I️t in the morning and not in the summer. Soft sand the whole way and no shade. Awesome views if you can make it to the top. Suggest doing the last elevation barefoot.

11 months ago

The trail basically ends at the start of the dunes. From there, you have the option to climb up the dunes or not. Trail leading to the dunes is well established. Epic tan acheived.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Hiked around 6:30am and the weather was perfect!! Totally recommend hiking before sunrise. Also, they have restrooms in the parking area which is great too

Friday, July 28, 2017

Difficult, but worth it! Great views from the top and fun running down. With lots of water, sunscreen and a hat you should be all right. Don't underestimate the sun and sand making every step hard.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hiked May 1
Very Hot and No Shade
Strenuous due to soft sand.
Hike up the side for easier rout to the peak.

Drive and Parking is a breeze for all cars.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

If you go on this trail, know that it is soft sand the whole way from beginning to end! It is especially difficult to climb up the elevations. There is NO shade, and it is very strenuous. Bring lots and lots of water. It is beautiful to see these sand dunes....maybe I will make it another time when it is cooler.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Had a lot of fun running down the dunes. Great views

Monday, January 16, 2017

I second what others have said about these dunes being more impressive than the Mesquite Flat Dunes. Highly recommend visiting at sunset, if you can. The sunset hues and dune shadows will make the landscape (and your pics) that much more dramatic.

Monday, December 05, 2016

These dunes are more impressive than the Mesquite Flat Dunes in Death Valley. The climb to the top was brutal -- I recommend walking up the side of the tallest dune and following the ridge to the top rather than trying to walk straight up. The views at the top made the struggle worth it though, and it was really fun to run and slide down the dunes.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

This is a great little 2-3hr hike to the top of the dunes. They are close to 700ft tall, but something to really be enjoyed. The white sand, and blue desert skies make a beautiful setting for Photographers like myself.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The sand dunes are big and offer a nice view from the top. It's a good workout getting to the top since you slide back a little with each step. Make sure to run down the side like a maniac when you're ready to come down!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Beautiful, especially in the early evening. The trudge up the dunes is well worth the effort.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Great detour if you're already on the 40. The dunes are awesome. If you go in the summer try to go as early as possible and bring lots of water!

Friday, June 26, 2015

One of the more fun shorter hikes I have completed. I attempted this hike in the fall of 2011 in about 95F heat...I did not complete it at that time. It was too hot for me. This day in late May 2015 was about 65F starting at 10AM and about 75F at completion. Following the ridge and stepping in previous hikers' tracks made the walking significantly easier.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Hidden sand dune in the middle of nowhere but worth the detour! I recommend hiking sandals if you have them. Our friends who wore shoes had to stop a couple times to unload the sand out of their shoes. However we did see one group going completely bare foot! Definitely need a bandana because the winds pick up the higher you go and googles! And one thing I wish I brought was something to slide down the dune once we got to the top!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

If u have hiking sandals wear those! I wore my chacos and stayed on top of the soft sand rather than sinking in. Nice views from the top! The sand "farts" when you run down it!! Unique experience in the middle of effing nowhere. Wear a bandana over ur mouth and wraparound sunglasses, a hat that will stay on in the wind is a must. Go exploring!!

Friday, February 15, 2013

This is my favorite sand dunes. Although I have only been 2 dunes in my life I already know that this has to be 1 of the best. I randomly woke up 1 day at 4am and took a 4 hour drive to the Mojave and hike the dunes. I was basically the only person the entire time. I really enjoyed the quietness of the place and the view was spectacular.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

When I lived in L.A. in the 90s the area between I-40 and I-15 was my favorite. Kelso Dunes, Cima Dome, and the Providence Mountains are excellent escapes from the smogy, crowded sprawl. I live south Florida now - I miss the desert.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

this is an awesome hike to the top of a sand dune. took me about 2 hours start to finish.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Nice hike. Walking on the sand is harder than you think.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Hiking up to the top of the Kelso Dunes is a bit of a butt kicker in the last stretch. The view is amazing with the sand backbone. We were there on a cool day so it was perfect!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Love this hike. I have hiked it both at day and at night. I really enjoy it as it isn't that difficult unless it's super hot. The only bad thing (for me) is that when you reach the top and look down it can be really scary. Also, be careful if you wear contact lens as the sand is blowing around and can easily get in your eyes and ruin your lenses. You may also want to consider covering your mouth on those windy days to avoid getting a mouth full of sand. Beautiful place and surprised that most people I know that grew up in Southern California have no idea it's even there.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I spent three days in the Mojave for my Herpetology class in May. We went to to dunes on Saturday to look for Mojave Fringe-toed Lizards and a group of us decided to climb the dunes while we were there. Took us about an hour and a half to get to the top. Its a very hard climb up the dune and its very easy to get dehydrated so bring lots of water and take your time going up to the top. We slid/ran down the face of the dune and it sang the whole way down! I'm definately going to make this a side trip the next time I go to Vegas!

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