I couldn’t decide if I wanted this post to be a what-to-expect guide for visiting the sand dunes in California or just a recap of our trip. So when I can’t choose – I choose both! Scroll to the bottom to see a little guide on what to expect, what to wear, and how to have fun in the land of the sand.
Recap of Our Trip:
We go to the dunes because Bran loves it. He has ridden dirtbikes his whole life and riding in the sand dunes is the ultimate riding experience…or so I’ve heard. LOL I tag along because it’s a lot of fun for me too, Bran loves to have me there with him, and it is the perfect opportunity for us to spend time together without Luke (important for any relationship)! We don’t take our little man (3 years old) for a few reasons: we don’t have anything for him to ride, people are crazy at the dunes with drinking and driving so we don’t risk it, and we don’t have anyone to watch him at camp. So he stayed back and had a great time with his grandparents.
After a 3-4 hour drive, we met up with some friends who had already made camp there, unloaded the trailer, and went out first thing. Bran and I don’t have a buggy or ATV so I usually bum a ride with friends who have an empty seat. If you’ve never been, riding over giant mountains of sand is like riding a roller coaster that doesn’t go upside down. You still get that feeling in your stomach when you go down a steep side or you get pushed into your seat when you go around the bowls. Depending on how fast you go, it can be a healthy dose of adrenaline! For me, it is a practice in letting go. I’m not in control of anything so I’ve learned to let go and enjoy the ride. So philosophical!
Anyways, we camped for 3 1/2 days. If you don’t like sand – you probably won’t enjoy a trip to the dunes. You get sand EVERYWHERE, your hair can get matted (I brushed mine with a fork because I couldn’t find my brush), you’re covered in a thin layer of dust, and your clothes are dirty from the moment you arrive. It’s like Mad Max! But to me it’s really cool because it’s unlike anything you see or experience in your day-to-day. We made breakfast, lunch, and dinner with food we brought in a rented toy-hauler, sat around a campfire at night, and drank a little too much when the sun went down.
Anyways, it was a fun trip! And I always say it was a successful one because everyone came home safe and sound. The same can’t be said for the vehicles though – something always breaks at the dunes!
Cali Sand Dunes Guide:
What to expect, what to wear, and how to have fun in the land of the sand!
What to expect:
- Sand is all around you – as far as you can see. Imagine being out in the middle of the ocean, all you’re going to see is blue. In the dunes, all you see is tan…and maybe a bush or small tree every now and then…and lots of blue sky. I think it’s beautiful!
- Sand gets in everything. But when you’re surrounded by it, it doesn’t bother you. Sand will get in your living space, your bed if you’re not careful, your shoes, pants, bra, hair… Just accept this and go with it! lol Your hair won’t get greasy as fast because the sand/dust acts as a natural dry shampoo. #winning But makeup doesn’t stay on your face all that well.
- Sand turns to dust pretty easily. When there are a lot of riders in a small area it will get superrrr dusty. If you don’t like breathing in a lot dust, wear a bandana around your neck that you can pull up over your nose and mouth. The dust gets uncomfortable to me sometimes so I cover my mouth. This usually happens towards sunset because there are a lot of people at the drags kicking up dust or driving into camp.
- Unless you have a nice trailer and a lot of water, you will probably be “roughing it” for a few days. It’s a lot like camping. If you do have a nice trailer – then take all the showers you can! This is something I expect so it doesn’t bother me.
- Braids, messy buns, and low ponytails are your best hairstyles. You’ll be taking a helmet on and off throughout the day and your hair will easily get matted if it’s flying around without being brushed every time. I do a low side braid, a low messy bun, or low ponytail most days. The first day I usually show up with curled hair so it will get me through day 2 as well. Bring a beanie or hat and your curls will look cute when your roots don’t.
- People drink a lot. It’s like any other sporting or extreme sports event that is dominated by men. If you expect this and be cautious of your surroundings then you’ll be fine! There are police that patrol the higher volume areas so if you drink and drive, you can still get in trouble.
What to wear:
- Riding goggles + face mask. I’ll link some options. These SAVE you when you’re riding!! Goggles are to keep the sand from your eyes – you need goggles, don’t settle for sunglasses. A face mask is to help you not breathe in the sand or dust that is kicked up when you ride around or are following people. You can also use a bandana!
- Leggings + pants are the most popular because they protect against the sand and help if it gets chilly. I wear shorts if it’s warm.
- Ugg boots! Everyone wears them at the dunes – even the guys – because they block sand from getting in your shoes and they’re comfy. Tennis shoes get full of sand and sandals sink in. I still bring a pair of both of these though because when you’re at camp it’s easier to wear sandals. I’ve also worn rain boots because they’re tall and the sand doesn’t stick to the rubber.
- You can wear any top you like. Most girls wear black tank tops and flannels. I like to wear Bran’s riding gear shirts because they’re thin, long sleeved, and look profesh. It’s the desert so just keep it in mind that it will be hot in the day and cold at night.
- Bring a jacket! The nights get cold. We usually go either Halloween, Thanksgiving, or New Years weekends and the weather during the day is perfect.
- Hats + beanies. These not only save your hair but also help keep you warm or block the sun from your eyes.
How to have fun:
- Go with people who are familiar. They will take you to “the hill” and “the drags” – two places where people take their buggies up a giant sand dune as fast as they can (and jump down it), or a flat stretch of sand where they race or just go fast. People who are regulars at the dunes also know the etiquette and how to drive safely. You have to follow certain paths and be very alert of other vehicles around you. Most people cruise the dunes in envoys so you have to be on the lookout that you’re not going to crash.
- Be flexible. The sand toys will break down, you’ll be waiting for parts on the side of a dune, or you will have to tow someone back to camp. I’ve gone 5ish times and each time something broke down. It’s inevitable.
- Bring a small backpack or camelback. If you or someone that’s with you is riding a dirtbike, they can put snacks or sunglasses in the camelback, or if you’re in a RZR you can put the backpack under your seat. Bring water, sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, phone, snacks on a long ride.
- Enjoy the ride! If it’s your first time it will probably be a little scary – unless you like extreme sports. But you pretty much just have to decide that you’re going to trust the person driving you around because they’re going to go fast. (Unless you don’t trust them at all then get out of the car. LOL)
- Stay hydrated. Especially if you’re going to be drinking – make sure you have enough water and drink enough water. The sun will dehydrate you and there is no moisture in the air.
That’s it! After reading this do you want to go?? This made it sound like it’s hard or uncomfortable but it is actually a lot of fun! I think with it being a different landscape, it’s good to know what to expect or how to prepare!