HomeSand DunesCrescent Sand Dunes (Tonopah, Nevada)

Crescent Sand Dunes (Tonopah, Nevada)

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Overview Of Crescent Sand Dunes

Open: Year Round (but summer is too hot for riding)
Latitude / Longitude: 38.22885363, -117.33422957
Managed by: BLM
Usage: Light
Fee: Free
Camping: Free Dispersed Camping (no amenities)
Location: Central Nevada
Directions:
From Tonopah
Take US 6 West/95 North
Turn right between mile marker 55 and 54 onto Pole Line Road
Travel approximately 9 miles
Dunes will be on your left
There is a 2 mile unimproved dirt road to the camping/staging area

Super soft sand. Don’t drive your trailers or motorhomes too close to the dunes as it’s easy to get stuck in the sand.



Crescent Sand Dunes

The Crescent Sand Dunes are also called the Tonopah Dunes.

The Tonopah Dunes are about 3,000 acres with the tallest dunes measuring 250 – 300 feet tall. These dunes offer a good array of terrain: steep climbs, bowls, desert trails and jumps. The sand is super soft, so making the steep climbs is a fun challenge, but you will need a powerful ride to make it to the top without getting stuck.

This is a remote desert dune complex pretty much in the middle of nowhere on the way to nowhere.

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There are no serous crowds like at some dunes, but you may get 10 – 15 motorhomes out here on major holidays like Memorial Day and Easter.

Rangers do patrol out here, especially on holidays, to make sure things don’t get out of control.

At just over 6,000 feet, it’s not as hot as the lower desert, but it still gets plenty hot, expect temperatures in the lower 90s in the summer. In late March – Early May and October, you’ll get ideal riding temperatures in the 60s.

BLM Website: Crescent Sand Dunes

For more great dune riding in Nevada check out the Amargosa Dunes, Sand Mountain in Fallon and the Winnemucca Sand Dunes. If you’re looking for something a little closer to home, the Nellis Dunes offer some great riding just outside North Las Vegas.



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Singing Sand Dune

Crescent Sand Dune is one of the worlds very few “singing” sand dunes. Also sometimes called “booming” dunes, this type of dune is very rare. Only about 41 sand dunes in the world possess the unique ability to “sing”.

The singing results from a reverberation that occurs when the sand is disturbed. The reverberation can produce a light hum that is audible to the human ear.

Any shifting of the sand can create the reverberation humming, including wind or large chunks of sand dropping off due to shearing, slippage, or “avalanches”. The singing can also happen with walking or driving on the dunes or natural events such as earth tremors.

Very dry conditions provide the best environment for producing a singing dune. The US has nine singing sand dunes, all of which are located in the dry western deserts of the US.

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Nevada has three singing sand dunes, California four and both Colorado and Wyoming have one.

The other singing sand dunes of Nevada are Big Dune, Amargosa Valley NV and Sand Mountain, Fallon, Nevada. Both of these other dunes are also OHV areas, providing excellent off roading opportunities.


  • These dunes are remote, so plan accordingly. Bring plenty of water, gas, food and whatever other supplies you need.
  • The closest motels, gas, grocery store and services are in Tonopah 30 minutes to the south.

Rules & Regulations

Nevada OHVA Laws

  • Nevada recognizes and accepts OHVs registered or certified in other states if the vehicle is in NV for less than 15 days.
  • Every owner of an OHV is required to register their OHV.
  • If your vehicle is licensed for on road travel, you do not need to purchase an OHV sticker for off road use. OHVs includes ATVs, pocket bikes, motorized scooters and snowmobiles.
  • Only two-wheeled motorcycles may be converted to on-road use.
  • OHVs can not be converted to street legal even if they have safety equipment.
  • There are no driver license or minimum age requirements for OHVs operated off-highway in Nevada.

Nevada Off-Highway Vehicle Commission


BLM OHV / Camping Rules

  • A spark arrestor is required.
  • Mufflers and noise limits are in effect.
  • Campfires are permitted, but no wood is available to purchase on site.
  • Ride only on trails and approved riding areas.
  • Camp only in designated areas.
  • Do not burn wood containing nails, screws or other metal hardware.
  • No pallet or tire fires.
  • Respect other campers.
  • Reduce speed to 15 mph in camping areas.
  • Discharge of firearms, fireworks or projectiles is not allowed.
  • The BLM forbids and/or strongly discourages the use of glass containers in heavy use areas.
  • Do not dump waste water.

Nevada’s Rules of the Road

  • Any motorized vehicle which does not have the normal safety equipment such as lights and mirrors or is not built to federal vehicle standards is an off-highway vehicle and is restricted to off-highway use only. This includes all-terrain vehicles, pocket bikes, motorized scooters and snowmobiles.
  • If a vehicle was manufactured and designated for “off-road” or “non-road” use only, it may not be driven on Nevada public streets or highways even if it has safety equipment. The designation for off-highway use is usually indicated in ownership documents, the owner’s manual or by a U.S. DOT label attached to the frame of the vehicle. Only two-wheeled motorcycles may be converted to on-road use. Other OHVs may not be converted.
  • There are no driver license or minimum age requirements for OHVs operated off-highway in Nevada. City and county governments may designate small portions of public streets for access to or from off-road areas only and some age restrictions or other requirements may apply.

Nevada Trail Etiquette

  • Motor vehicles are permitted on designated trails only.
  • Always plan ahead and prepare for uncertainty. Travel with warm clothing, first aid, food, water and appropriate tools to fix a problem.
  • Traveling in groups is always a good idea, as well as informing someone of where you will be going.
  • Make sure your vehicle is equipped with a spark arrestor
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Trail Users

Feature image by Miles Sabin | Flickr

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