Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area - Glamis

Brawley, California (Imperial County)

Last Updated: 12/03/2017
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Typically Open: Year Round
Permit Information: Permit Required - Click Here
Difficulty: 1-10
Length: 78.77 miles
Highest Elevation: 390 feet
Duration: About 2 days, 2 hours
Shape of Trail: Other Shapes
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Brawley
Nearest Town w/ Services: Brawley
Official Road Name:
Management Agency: BLM
District: El Centro Office


Highlight: Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area - Glamis
The original "Where's It At" for off-road enthusiast, Imperial Sand Dunes, also known as Glamis Sand Dunes, is the mecca of everything sand in the United States. Nestled in the southeastern corner of California against the Mexico border is an area with over 200 square miles of endless sand dunes, deep bowls, sand mountains, and astonishing valleys. Glamis attracts millions of people per year from all over the world to see and play in its glory. This area isn't only famous for the endless dunes, sand drags, or races. The area also hosted popular films like Star Wars, Star Gate, Knights of Arabia, and many more. If vehicles are not your thing, the area offers a tranquil alternative to the fast-paced action with activities like hiking, horse back riding, photography, and wildlife viewing. Many people would say this is a top-5 Off-Road Bucket List adventure destination.


Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
2WD Vehicle with High Clearance
This is an OHV area meaning the different areas have different ratings. The dirt roads around the OHV area are easy enough for most 2wd vehicles including RV's while as you get out into the dune the sand gets softer and the dunes get steep.

Technical Rating

Dirt and/or rocky road. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 5" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 5" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 6" inches. Good tire placement likely. Can be steep, but with good traction.
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Community Consensus

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Glamis is a wonderland of sand dunes for every type of off-road enthusiast. This area is popular for Razors, sand buggies, sand rails, Jeeps, and other OHVs. It's easy to get lost in this area; therefore, a GPS is highly recommended. Never jump or take speed over a blind dune. Always take the dunes at an angle when traversing the razorbacks and be safe. The area is full of famous hill climbs such as Competition Hill, Oldsmobile Hill, The Wall, among others. These are popular places for people to gather and watch the show. Cellphone service works great on the north end of the area. As you work your way south, the service depletes quickly. Don't forget to obtain your pass prior to arriving. You can find passes at Click Here or at the Ranger Station and store. Vehicle Requirements and Laws: -Safety Flags -Recreation Permit -Safety Helmets are required for operators and passengers of ROVs (Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle) -Seat belt and shoulder belt or safety harness are required to be worn when an ROV is in motion -Passengers in ROVs must be able to grasp the handholds with their back against the back of the seat. -If someone is within 100 feet of you, you are not allowed to pass them over 15mph -Follow Speed Laws -OHV's not allowed on asphalt roads ever -OHV's only allowed to cross dirt roads, never drive along them -ATV's may not carry passengers -Noise Restriction to 96dbA -No Person under 14 years of age shall operate an ATV unless accompanied by an adult -Any alcohol is an instant DUI -ATV and vehicles must be registered in its state or have a permit for it -No one shall ride in the back of a pickup at anytime **Laws of the Area** -Fires - Items such as pallets, or other hazardous materials including magnesium are not permitted at any time. -No Glass anywhere -Alcoholic Beverages shall not be consumed by anyone under 21 -Quiet Hours are from 10pm to 6am -Organized Group Activities and Events require a permit -Aircraft are prohibited from taking off and landing within 1 mile of Gecko Road -Camping limit is 14 days -Public Nudity is prohibited -Firearms/Fireworks are prohibited from being discharged on developed recreation sites and areas. -Parking and camping is Prohibited within 10 feet of Gecko Road -Pets on developed recreation sites and areas must be kept on a leash at all time -Dumping of Sewage is prohibited... Other Information: A permit is required to access the area. Permits are sold at the Ranger Station and the local store. Permits are $50 for a week pass when purchased at the Ranger Station. You can also get them online at Click Here Also, second vehicles / tow vehicles require a permit. Contact information for the local office is Cahuilla Ranger Station 760-344-3919 Buttercup Ranger Station 760-572-2220 El Centro Field Office 760-337-4400
The area gets really crowded on weekends and holidays. This can be dangerous with all the quads and razors cresting over blind dunes unsafely.


1. Gecko Road ( mi)
Gecko Road is one of the two popular spots to camp in Glamis. In this area, there are pads (1-4 Keyhole, Road Runner, Gecko Loop, Cement Flats) to camp at. The area can support over 1,000 RVs and trailers. Besides camping, this road also has the Ranger Station and some small vendors. On certain weekends, the Sand Drags take place in this area.
2. Ranger Station (0.2 mi)
The main Ranger Station for the area is located here. This station also has a medical center in case of emergencies.
3. Competition Hill (3.6 mi)
Competition Hill is the old gathering spot in Glamis. This giant sand hill is a relic of the past. Not many people gather here anymore. The new hot spot is Oldsmobile Hill. Rating: Easy
4. Sand Highway North End (6 mi)
This sand super highway connects the asphalt to Oldsmobile Hill. Expect lots of traffic on this road and maybe even a DUI checkpoint.
5. Vendor Row (7 mi)
Once 4 rows wide, this popular area is where the vendors gather to sell goods and services.
6. Glamis Store (7.1 mi)
This is the only convenience store in the area.
7. Wash Road (7.2 mi)
The washes along the route are a perfect area for people to pull off and camp. You can ride your OHV on more than 70 washes along this route. There is no camping between 33 and 70. Wash Road can easily support over 50,000 RVs and trailers.
8. Oldsmobile Hill (7.3 mi)
The crown jewel of Glamis, this giant sand dune is the must see spot in the area. While you are there, you are going to see a lot of 4x4's, Razors, Side by Sides, Quads, Dirt Bikes, Sand Buggies, Dragsters, Super Trucks, Jeeps, Rock Buggies, Trophy Trucks, Monster Trucks, and much more. If you are an off-road enthusiast, you must witness this spectacle at least once during a popular weekend. One of the more appealing features to Oldsmobile Hill is the fact that there is a very easy route "Sand Highway" that most vehicles and vehicles towing can get to the base of the hill with little to no effort. Rating: Moderate
9. Brawley Slide (9.4 mi)
10. Lizard Hill (10.7 mi)
One of the many mega sand hills in the area, this hill is difficult to get to and even harder to conquer. Rating: Difficult
11. China Wall (14 mi)
One of the many mega sand hills in the area, this hill is difficult to get to and even harder to conquer. Rating: Difficult
12. The Wall (15 mi)
One of the many mega sand hills in the area, this hill is difficult to get to and even harder to conquer. Rating: Double Black Diamond
13. The Ceiling (16.6 mi)
One of the many mega sand hills in the area, this hill is difficult to get to and even harder to conquer. Rating: Double Black Diamond

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Palm Springs, CA

Take the 10 Freeway east past Palm Springs. As you approach Indio, take the 86S south. Beyond the Salton Sea, the 86S joins with the 78. The 86S and 78 are the same route from here to Brawley. Stay on the 86S / 78 through Westmoreland and Brawley. The 78 will join with the 115 and are the same route.  As the highway makes its second big sweeping turn to the right, Hwy 78 turns to the left. There is a sign that says Glamis. Continue on Hwy 78 about 20 miles to the sand dunes. The first road you will cross is Gecko Road on the right. Following Gecko Road is Osbourne Overlook (no camping), then Vendor Row, and then Glamis Store. Wash Road starts immediately after the store and before the railroad tracks.


There are many popular areas for camping in Glamis. Most find themselves camping at the north end of the park, either on Wash Road or Gecko Road next to the aquifer. There is also additional camping on the south end of the park off Highway 8. All locations are suitable for camping styles from RVs to tents. For camping on Wash Road, you are allowed to camp all the way up to Wash 33. Even though the area is open to OHVs, Washes 33 to 70 is closed for camping. Click Here for a map of the area ***They will be closing Gecko Road for repaving from April 15 to Sept 30 2017. Please plan on not using this area during that time.***
Camping: Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area - Glamis

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Questions & Answers (1)

Q: Where is the best place to camp with the family if we don’t have sand vehicles but just want to play on the dunes with sleds etc?
–Gary Lochow (02/17/2022)
A: Some go down wash road, other Gecko. There are a lot of options to pick from.
–Josh Noesser (02/17/2022)

Writer Information

Josh Noesser

Mapping Crew - California

Joshua Noesser grew up in Southern California but has lived in different parts of the country during his young adult life. Josh was first turned to four wheeling when he road with one of his friends dad up Surprise Canyon in the Panamint Valley at age14. After nearly 3 different roll overs later and a half dozen intense waterfalls, Josh was hooked. At 16 he purchased his first Jeep a CJ 7 and by 17 was putting his first locker in it. Currently, Josh is the owner and CEO of Nybble, an IT Solutions Company based in Orange County, California. Nybble isn't your normal IT company where everyone stays in and plays video games. Nybble's average company trip is out on the trails since a good amount of his staff enjoy wheeling too. As Josh likes to say, he offers the only IT Company with the ability to provide services in extreme locations. "If you want a server at the top of The Hammers, we will take care of that for you." Today you can find Josh out on the trail behind the wheel in one of his three different off-road vehicles. See the vehicles below for more information. If you ever run into Josh, please say high, he is a very friendly person and is always happy to have a new person join the group.
For individual use only, not to be shared.