Overview Of Christmas Valley Sand Dunes
- Open: Year Round
- Latitude / Longitude:43.35641, -120.371131
- Usage: Light
- Managed by: BLM
- Fee: Free
- Camping: Yes
Location: South Central Oregon
From Christmas Valley, OR
Drive east on County Road 5-14 for 8 miles.
Turn left (north) on County Road 5-14D
Drive another 8 miles.
Turn right (east) at the “T”
Drive 3 miles on County Road 5-14E to the entrance of the Sand Dunes.
Drive another 4 miles on BLM Road 6155 to reach the Lost Forest.
Christmas Valley Sand Dunes
This dune complex is 8,900 acres open to OHV use. Approach the dunes on designated trails until you reach the bare sand dunes.
These are the largest “living” inland dunes in the Pacific Northwest. Living means that they are constantly changing and moving due to the wind and shifting sands.
Best Time To Plan A Visit
At just under 4,300 feet, this entire region is high desert. Late May through late September are too hot for riding with temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s. October and November are pretty much perfect with long sunny days in the 60s and 70s.
They get no real snow out here, maybe just a light dusting that doesn’t stick around. It averages 58 degrees even in the coldest months of December and January, so riding is possible year round.
Keep in mind that 58 is the average though, it can get a lot colder! Also, the road can be very muddy in the winter and spring, so the access roads may become impassible. Check ahead.
The main road to the staging area is “minimally” maintained, it’s a washboard, so drive cautiously. The other roads surrounding the dunes are not maintained at all, so 4×4 and high clearance is recommended.
The Sand Dunes are a Wilderness Study Area, formed some 7,000 years ago when Mt. Mazama erupted. This volcano also created Crater Lake when it erupted. The dunes are made of ash and pumice carried by the wind.
This region also includes the Lost Forrest and Fossil Lake.
Lost Forrest is a Research Natural Area, it’s of interest because it shouldn’t exist here in this environment – too hot, too dry. But, the ponderosa pines that live here are thriving. This forest is the remnants of a larger forest that once existed when this region was a lot wetter and colder.
The ATV sand dunes are open to all types of off roading, but the Lost Forest allows off road travel only on existing roads and trails.
Fossil Lake Area Closed To OHV Use
Fossil Lake Area is designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Off roading is not allowed at Fossil Lake to protect the fossils found here. You can explore the area on foot, but gathering fossils is strictly forbidden. This is a special area for scientific understanding.
Paleontologists have been unearthing fossils here for over 100 years. The unearthed fossils range in age from about 10,000 – 400,000 years old. The fossils of hundreds of species have been found here including some extinct species such as the mammoth, Dire wolf, giant beaver, and a large species of eagle.
Off roading is the most popular activity in this region, but the area is open for other recreational activities including hiking, wildlife viewing, photography, horseback riding and camping.
Although this is a pretty remote dune away from any major population centers, services aren’t that far away. About 16 miles southwest of the dunes is the small town of Christmas Valley and some other small surrounding towns.
For a thinly populated region, they pretty much have you covered – a couple motels, several restaurants, gift shops, tire repair, RV park with showers, gas and grocery stores.
Christmas Valley Sand Dunes Camping
Free Dispersed Camping (no amenities)
- Fee: Free
- ADA Accessible: No
- Camping allowed in designated areas only
- There are 9 separate areas for camping spread around the dunes including: Pine Camp, East Camp, Juniper Camp (The Junipers)
- No amenities available
- No water
- No bathrooms
- Portable toilets are sometimes available in the camping areas during the riding season, but don’t count on it.
- The BLM rules state that you should “pack out toilet paper and bury human waste in a four-to six-inch-deep “cat-hole” at least 200 feet away from campsite”.
- Collecting or cutting of firewood is not allowed
Additional Camping On Dick’s Private Land
Recently, Dick, a private land owner in the Christmas Dunes area, contacted me to let me know that he allows camping on his private land.
Donations for camping are appreciated and help Dick maintain his land.
Please respect this opportunity and generous invitation to camp on his land – it only takes one person to ruin it for everybody.
Here’s the information that Dick sent me:
“I own 54 acres that abuts the dunes that is open to camping. This area is at the end of Lost Forest Lane 1/4 mile past Juniper Camp.
The fees are currently a donation (?) which we use for upkeep and upgrades to the
camping area on our property.
There are no specific camp sites, just locate a tree or suitable area for your group and set up camp. There’s numerous Juniper and Pine tress in the camp area.
Note: The road into the dunes, Lost Forest Lane, was upgraded several years ago and is now graveled up to the Lost Forest so it’s passable year around. The dunes access from Lost Forest Lane thru my property to the dunes is currently being updated and graveled so it should also be passable year around.
If I am there you can find me at the container structure on the road into our campground.
Please do not violate the designated closures. Our cooperation with the BLM will
have significant impact on our ability for continued future OHV use in the dunes.
The is a Wilderness Study Area!
We have very basic rules in our camp area:
• Please use the designated routes for access to the dunes.
• No firewood cutting allowed on the private or BLM property. Firewood is available in Christmas Valley (ask about wood availability at the Chevron/Market in town).
• The maximum allowable speed is 10 MPH in the camping areas.
• Limit your OHV use in the camping area to ingress and egress to the dunes. The
camping area is not a playground for OHV use.
• PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT. Please clean up your camp sight before leaving.
• Self-contained sanitary facilities are required, or use those which are provided
by the BLM.
• Please leave the area as you found it and it will remain open for your use!!”
Oregon has two other dunes open to ATVing: Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area in Florence Oregon and the dunes in Sand Lake Oregon.
Check out our ATV Sand Dunes page for a listing of all the dunes in the US open to off roading.
- ATV permits are required
- Services are available 16 miles away in Christmas Valley
- Oregon has strict laws applying to children and youth operators (see below)
- If your home state accepts Oregon ATV permits then Oregon will also accept your state ATV permit.
Rules Regarding The Oregon Safety Course
- All ATV and dirt bike riders are required to complete an ATV Safety Education Class.
- Only one test/one card is required if you ride both ATVs and dirt bikes.
- Dune buggy operators, sand rails, jeeps, 4×4 trucks, and sport utility vehicles (SUV) are exempt from the ATV Safety Education Class, but must possess a valid drivers license.
- There are no age exceptions. Regardless of age, you must take this class.
- Out of state riders can take an ATV Safety Course in their home state.
- You must carry proof of class completion while riding on public lands. (this applies to both OR and out of state course completion).
- Classes are free and can be done online.
- There is no minimum age for taking the test.
- You can print out a temporary card to use while you wait for your plastic. card to arrive.
How Difficult Is The Oregon Safety Course?
- The class is written at an 8th grade level, so parents may need to go through the test with their children.
- The test takes between 1 – 2 hours.
- The test consist of 50 multiple choice questions.
- You need to get at least 80% right to pass.
- If you don’t get a passing score the first time, you can take the test again. If you fail the test the second time, you will have to go through all the training material again.
- You can stop and start the process whenever you want. If you get timed out, you can sign back in and continue on where you stopped.
When Will I Get My Card?
- You will receive your ATV Safety card in the by within 30 days.
- It’s $8 to get a replacement card.
Renting Or Buying An ATV In Oregon
- If you rent a dirt bike or ATV in Oregon, they will give you a checklist to complete – this will serve as a temporary 30 day ATV Safety Education Class permit. After that, you will need to take the class.
- If you buy a dirt bike or ATV in Oregon, they will give you a checklist to complete – this will serve as a temporary 30 day ATV Safety Education Class permit. After that, you will need to take the class.
Oregon Youth ATV Operator Regulations
- There is no minimum age for riding a Class I ATV in Oregon.
- The minimum age for dirt bike riders is seven years old.
- Children must only operate appropriate “rider fit” ATVs. (No kids on adult sized machines.)
- Must complete an ATV safety course (must carry permit card)
- Adults supervising children must also compete an ATV safety course (must carry permit card)
- Children under the age of 16 must also receive hand on training.
- After passing the online ATV Safety Education Course, children receive a 6 month Certificate of Completion to practice riding, after which they are required to take a hands on training course.
- Children between the ages of 7 and 12 must have both a state issued all-terrain vehicle operator permit and be accompanied by someone 18 or older with a valid driver’s license or state issued all-terrain vehicle operator permit.
- Children under the age of 18 must wear a DOT approved helmet with the chin strap fastened on all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles.
OR State and BLM Rules Regarding OHV Use
- Operators with a suspended or revoked drivers license may not operate any class ATV
- OHVs are only allowed on designated routes or areas.
- The BLM follows Oregon State laws and regulations pertaining to off-highway vehicles.
- You must have a valid driver’s license, state-issued all-terrain vehicle operator permit, or be accompanied by someone 18 or older with a valid driver’s license or operator permit.
- Flags are required on all vehicles on the dunes (9 feet tall orange or red ﬂag).
- A State of Oregon off-highway vehicle sticker is required to operate on all lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management in Oregon.
- Use headlights and taillights between dusk and dawn.
- Mufﬂers must be maintained at 99 decibels.
- Out-of-state visitors are required to have their state off-highway vehicle sticker, or must purchase a State of Oregon sticker to ride here.
- Operate your off-highway vehicle sober, not under the inﬂuence of drugs or alcohol.
- Open liquor containers are not allowed.
- Stay on designated travel routes between camping and day-use parking areas and the open dunes.
- Respect the rights of other visitors as you enjoy your visit.
Out of State ATV Permit Laws
- To operate on public land, all ATVs / OHVs are required to have an operating permit from either Oregon or one of the accepted reciprocity states listed below.
- Residents of other states can register their OHVs in Oregon.
Oregon Currently Accepts Out Of State Permits From These States:
- South Carolina
Feature Image For Christmas Valley Sand Dunes By BLM | Flickr