In the middle of LA & Las Vegas hides a sand dune domain where thrill seekers can take advantage of an open area off road paradise.
Dumont Dunes is just outside of Baker, California; a town composed mostly of fast food & gas stations. The town may be small but it definitely does not lack character. It offers quirky little sights to see such as The Mad Greek cafe, Alien Fresh Jerky, & the World’s Tallest Thermometer. So if you’re on the way to Vegas & you can push back your restroom break from Barstow to Baker, I would recommend it. The quirky sights in Baker are definitely worth seeing at least once.
When you get to Baker, you’re going to drive a bit into town & then pull of to Highway 127. You’ll head North on Highway 127 for 31 miles which ends up being about 40 minutes even though it feels like 2 hours because the highway is so desperately monotonous. Good news is the camping area is conveniently located right off Highway 127. So once you’ve reached Dumont Dunes Road you can rest assure that your long car ride is about 15 minutes from being over.
To get inside the camping area you’ll need to buy a pass which can be purchased at a self service machine right before you drive into the actual camping area. The machine takes card ONLY, no cash. So if you would prefer to pay with cash, there are multiple gas stations in Baker that you can buy the passes from. The passes have a 14-day limit unless you buy a seasonal one. They range in price depending if it’s a holiday or not so you can expect day passes to be $30-$40 & season passes to range from $90-$120.
[SETTING UP CAMP]
Once you’re in the camping area there is TONS of space to choose from, it’s a literal free for all. So wherever you find fit, feel free to set up camp there. We chose a spot more on the South-East side, right in front of the little bowls. It was pretty flat, no trash, & it even had a good-sized fire pit in the middle. I don’t think we could’ve found a more ideal spot.
[WHAT TO DO]
Once camp is all set up, it’s time to get to the fun part — riding. Dumont is a great place to ride dirt bikes, quads, sand rails, or any vehicle with four-wheel drive (as long as it has paddle tires). The last time I went to Dumont I was probably about 12 years old so I was excited to be out here again since it had been so long. My super talented grandpa actually builds dune buggies & I was yet to have ride in his new one which was also another exciting aspect in addition to being at Dumont again after so long.
Unfortunately, if you don’t have toys or a trailer, I wouldn’t recommend camping here. Truthfully I couldn’t imagine what you would be able to do beside make sand angels all day? However if you want the Dumont experience, there’s still a chance for you. There are multiple places you can rent toys & toy haulers such as Fun Time ATV Rentals & Kelly’s RV Rentals. I’ve heard good things about Kelly’s but I couldn’t personally direct you to a recommended ATV Rental establishment. With enough online research though you’ll be able to find a company that will fit your needs & your budget.
[WHAT TO PACK]
- BEANIE – I forgot to bring a beanie so I ended up jacking my little cousin’s cheetah beanie 😐. Truthfully I think this trip wouldn’t have been possible for me if I didn’t have that beanie. It kept my head warm, my hands warm, & it pretty much kept me from turning into a cold puddle of pity. So yes, I 100% definitely recommend bringing a beanie.
- JEANS – I also recommend a pair of jeans. I brought only yoga pants which was a poor decision on my part. Doubling up my yoga pants definitely helped but I could only imagine how warm I would’ve been if I wore yoga pants doubled up with jeans.
- LONG SLEEVES – very essential, bring plenty.
- HOODIES/SWEATERS – I recommend both a light & heavy option.
- JACKET – My puffy Prada jacket was perfect. Anything with a bit of bulkiness should do.
- THICK SOCKS – Make sure they’re long as well. They’ll help keep sand out of your toes. I hate having dirty feet so this is a very crucial pointer in my book.
- SNEAKERS/BOOTS – I packed a pair of high top chucks & also a pair of Uggs. I was kind of hesitant on packing the Uggs at first but in the end I was super thankful I brought them.
- WARM PAJAMAS – Guess what? It gets even colder at night. Make sure you have either warm pajamas or a lot of blankets.
It’s tough; you can’t overpack because you’re camping but at the same time you need to make sure that you pack options because you never know how cold you may get or what may happen. So definitely think about it & choose wisely, don’t pack last minute like I did. Then you’ll end up under-packing & freezing. Also, please note that Dumont is located just right outside of Death Valley. If you’re going more towards the end of Summer or the beginning of Fall, it will mostly likely be hot as hell out there so pack accordingly.
So this particular weekend that we had went, it was quite empty. I can’t say that I was expecting a ton of people to be there but I do remember as a kid that the park was a bit more packed. There were a lot more people, trailers, & toys. I remember all the buggies would line up at the bottom of Comp Hill & drink beer as they watched all the different toys race each other to the top. It was amazing. There would be like a hundred different people ferociously racing up & down this massive dune. It was literally like watching a bunch of hard working ants run up a sand hill. It was so exhilarating to have people cross you in every direction, there was so much going on. It’s a perfect example of organized chaos. Some sand rails have so much torque & control that they can actually do wheelies all the way up Comp Hill which towers in at 1200 feet. It’s madness.
Along with Comp Hill, Dumont offers The North Pole, South Pole, Banshee Hill, & the Superbowl. I think the bowl is my personal favorite. It feels exactly like a rollercoaster — only it’s more intense & there’s less to hold on to.
[SAND RAILS vs. SIDE-BY-SIDES vs. ATVs]
Each ride is a different experience. Sand rails & Side-by-sides are great if you’re literally here for the ride. I wouldn’t know what it’s like to drive one but as a passenger I give them a pass. Sand rails however definitely feel a whole lot safer than a side-by-side. Sand rails ride low & have an open frame compared to side-by-sides. When you ride in a rail you can feel that the vehicle has no problem keeping traction & digging through the sand. Sand rails really show you a whole new side of gravity, it trips me out. On the other hand, side-by-sides are a little bit more enclosed than a buggy & they’re built up instead of out. There is a top-heaviness to side-by-sides & when you ride in one you can definitely feel a significant pull that you don’t feel when you ride in a sand rail. It’s so much more bouncy & you feel less secure in my opinion.
As far as ATVs or dirt bikes go, riding dunes is for a more novice or advanced rider. Riding on sand dunes is a lot different than classic desert terrain. Soft sand is very grippy & ever changing which can make it a deceiving surface to ride. I’m not saying it’s completely impossible for a beginner to ride sand dunes but don’t expect it to be easy.
In the end it was a good trip & I was happy to go out to Dumont after so long. It was fun to ride again & hangout with my family. Even if camping or the desert isn’t for you, I would still recommend trying to go at least once in your life. It really is a lot of fun & seeing endless mountains of soft sand is always astonishing; it looks like a movie set. A day trip is good but an overnight stay is even better because then you can experience the scariness of riding at night. If a night ride sounds a little bit too terrifying, then feel free to sit back, look at the stars, eat snacks, & talk around the camp fire. When the engines aren’t running you’ll be surprised to see how calm & peaceful it is.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF @SUPPLAYERS.