HomeSand DunesImperial Sand Dune Recreation Area (Glamis, California)

Imperial Sand Dune Recreation Area (Glamis, California)

Overview of Glamis Sand Dunes

  • Open: Year round (but riding only recommended from October – April)
  • Latitude / Longitude: 32.97321, -115.17314
  • Managed by: BLM
  • Usage: Very Heavy
  • Fee: Permit required from October 1 – April 15
    • Purchase Online In Advance: $35
    • Purchase From a vendor: $35
    • Purchase On-Site: $50
    • Season Pass: $150
  • Camping: Free (but a dune permit is required)
  • Location: Southeast California

From Brawley California (30 minute drive)
Travel 14 miles East on Hwy 78
Turn Right on Gecko Rd
Drive 2.5 miles down Gecko Rd to the dunes

Imperial Sand Dune Recreation Area

Every ATVer should make a trip to the Imperial Sand Dunes. It’s the mecca of big sand. Over 1,000,000 visitors a year make their way to these dunes each year.

Some portions of the dunes are closed to motorized and mechanized travel. Most of the visitors to Glamis are there to off-road, but there is also hiking and horseback riding.


As with all the popular dunes, plan a visit Monday through Thursday if possible. Avoid weekends and definitely avoid all the winter three day holidays; these big holidays can see 150,000 visitors a weekend.

The Glamis Sand Dunes are the largest OHV sand dune area in the United Stands. At 40 miles long and 5 miles wide, this is 118,000 acres for OHV off-roading. The Glamis Dunes have it all: soft clean sand, wide open space, big bowls, jumps, rolling hills and big climbs.

But, this isn’t the only big sand in California. 323 miles north of the Imperial Sand Dunes are the Dumont Sand Dunes. They may not be quite as big as Glamis, but they’re just as crazy and definitely one to put on your bucket ride dune list.

Challenging Features

Glamis has 10 named designated hills/riding areas, 6 are difficult, 3 are moderate and one is easy.

Black Diamond (Most Difficult)

  • Brawley Slide Hill
  • Lizard Hill
  • China Wall Hill
  • The Wall Hill
  • The Ceiling Hill
  • Patton Valley

Blue Square (Moderately Difficult)

  • Oldsmobile Hill
  • Competition Hill
  • Buttercup Valley

Green Circle (Least Difficult)

  • Competition Hill

Vendor Row

Map of Vendor Row at Glamis Dunes

Even though this is a remote ATV sand dune pretty much in the middle of nowhere, you can still find everything you need. It can be expensive, so bring your wallet. But, the closest town, Brawley CA, is a 30 minute drive, so it’s worth the extra money.

Vendors (Vendor Row) is off of Hwy 78 in The Flats area. It’s in the NE region of the riding area. You can find: ice, water, snacks, fast food, firewood, clothes and parts.

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You can also rent an ATV/UTV on The Flats. People like being close to the amenities, so the camping spaces near The Flats fill up fast.

Fun Movie Trivia About Glamis Sand Dunes

The vast panoramic views with nothing but sand for miles makes it the perfect location for filming movies. Several big movies such as Star Wars, Stargate, Scorpion King, Resident Evil: Extinction, Road to Zanzibar, Flight of the Phoenix and Lawrence of Arabia were filmed here.

I’m dating myself here, but I used to love David Carradine in Kung Fu. So, it made me nostalgic to find out they filmed some of the opening scenes of Kung Fu here.

History Of The Region

This entire geographic region’s official name is the Algodones Dunes, named for the Yuman tribe that once lived in this region. Algodones is a poor English and Spanish translation of Yuman.

The Imperial Sand Dunes, also called Glamis Sand Dunes, are a small portion of the Algodones Dunes. There are other smaller dunes and features to the south of Glamis including Gordon’s Well, Buttercup, Ogilby, Midway, and Patton’s Valley. These areas are also part of the larger Algodones Dunes.

Map Of The Glamis Sand Dunes

BLM Map of Glamis Sand Dunes

Camping At Glamis Sand Dunes

Remote, Undeveloped Camping

10 Campgrounds with toilets
12 Camping areas with pads
Fee: Free
ADA Accessible: unknown


  • No hook-ups
  • No water
  • No shade
  • Some pads
  • Pit toilets
  • Food/supplies available at Vendor Row

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American Sand Association

Offroading is under attack. Riders keep losing access to public lands and it’s only going to continue to get worse.

We’ve already lost the Oceano Dunes. California Coastal Commission Orders End to Off-Roading at Oceano Dunes

Don’t think that it can’t happen at Glamis….? It could.

Join or donate to the American Sand Association in their fight to keep the dunes open to off roading.


The American Sand Association’s primary objective is to “UNITE, INFORM and MOBILIZE” the sand duning community to protect the right to ride on all public lands in a responsible, environmentally balanced manner.

  • Save $15 if you buy your permit in advance
  • No glass containers allowed
  • All ATV/UTV must be registered and display a red or green sticker. $52 for 2 years. If your home state does not have ATV registration then you must purchase a California nonresident permit (sticker) through selected vendors in CA, NV, AZ. The cost is $30.
  • Do not leave vehicles unattended in the day use or camping areas at the USDRA, or they will get towed. There is a 24 hour limit for unattended vehicles in day use areas and 72 hours in other areas.

Imperial Sand Dunes

Where Can I Purchase A Glamis Sand Dunes Pass?

  • Purchase online in advance for $35. If you buy a seasonal or weekly permit online, you can buy a second weekly permit for $25 ($10 off the full price)
  • Purchase from a vendor for $35
  • Purchase on-site for $50. Buy at ranger stations and from some dune area vendors
  • Season pass costs $150
  • Purchase Online: Imperial Sand Dunes Permits

Free Days At Imperial Sand Dunes

There are usually a couple free access days a year. Contact the BLM for free dates or find them here: Free Days At Glamis

BLM Office That Manages The Glamis Sand Dunes

Bureau of Land Management
El Centro Field Office
1661 S. 4th Street
El Centro CA 92243

  • Hours: Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Phone: 760-337-4400
  • Email:

BLM: Imperial Sand Dune

Where To Purchase A Nonresident OHV Permit


Glamis Sand Dunes Rules

  • STREET LEGAL REQUIREMENTS. Vehicles that operate on federal and state highways, county roads, and BLM’s Gecko Road, Gray’s Well Road, and McCain Valley must street legal.
  • OHVs MUST BE REGISTERED. OHVs owned by California residents need to register with the California DMV. OHVs that do not have a valid registration or permit from the owners home state must purchase a California nonresident permit sticker.
  • MUST HAVE A A GREEN OR RED STICKER. Must display in a visible location on the vehicle.
  • RECREATION PERMIT. All primary street legal vehicles used for transportation to the recreation site require a permit. Display the permit in the windshield with the date side facing out upon arrival to ISDRA. Permits are non-refundable.
    • All vehicles must have a whip mast and a 6×12 inch red/orange flag.
    • Flags may be of pennant, triangle, square, or rectangular shape.
    • Masts need to be securely mounted on the vehicle and extend 8 feet from the ground to the mast tip.
    • Attach safety flags within 10 inches of the tip of the whip mast with club or other flags mounted below safety flag or on another whip.
  • A 15 MPH SPEED RULE EXISTS ON THE SAND HIGHWAYS. No person shall operate an OHV in excess of 15 mph on public lands within 500 feet of Highway 78, Grays Well Road, Gecko Road and access roads within the Gecko and Roadrunner recreation sites.
  • NO SAVING SPACES. You can’t save a camping space for another person.
  • STAKING AREAS. It is prohibited to place into the ground any non-flexible object, such as, but not limited to, metal stakes, poles, or pipes, with the exception of small tent or awning stakes.
  • FIRES. Burning potentially hazardous materials is prohibited.
  • WOOD PALLETS. It is prohibited to use as firewood, or have in possession, any firewood materials containing nails, screws, or other metal hardware, including, but not limited to, wood pallets and/or construction debris.
  • QUIET HOURS. Quiet hours are from 10 pm and 6 am.
  • PUBLIC NUDITY. Public nudity is prohibited.
  • ORGANIZED GROUP ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS. You may not stage, carry out, participate in, or sponsor an organized event or activity without written authorization from BLM (e.g. customer appreciation days, competitive races, bands, videos, movies, etc.).
  • RIDING IN PICKUP BEDS AND OTHER UNSAFE ACTIVITIES. No person shall ride in the bed of a pick up truck or any part of a motor vehicle not designed for passengers on or off road.
  • AIRCRAFT. Taking off or landing of aircraft, including ultralights, is prohibited within 1 mile of Gecko Road.
  • DUMPING. Sewage dumping is not allowed.
  • CAMPING LIMITATIONS. A 14 day camping limit is in effect in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.
  • PARKING RESTRICTIONS. No parking or camping within 10 feet of pavement on Gecko Road.
  • FIREARMS/FIREWORKS. It is unlawful to discharge or use firearms, fireworks or other weapons within the recreation area.
  • LEASH LAW. On public lands, animals must be on a leash not longer than six feet and secured to a fixed object or under the control of a person, or otherwise physically restricted at all times.

California Recreational OHV/ROV Rules

  • OHV’S ON ROADWAYS. No person shall operate or drive an OHV on a roadway, except to cross at an angle of approximately 90 degrees and in a quick and safe manner.
  • HELMET USAGE. All persons, regardless of age, who operate or ride ATVs on public lands in California must wear an approved safety helmet.
  • NOISE RESTRICTIONS. Noise emissions must be less than 96 decibels (dbA) if manufactured on or after January 1, 1986, and not more than 101 dbA if manufactured prior to January 1, 1986.
  • CARRYING OF PASSENGERS. Carrying a passenger is not allowed on ATVs from 2014 and older unless designated by the manufacturer as a 2 Up ATV. OHVs from 2013 and earlier can carry a passenger if the occupant of the seat is fully contained inside the vehicle’s rollover protection structure at all times while the vehicle is being operated. Passengers must be able to grasp the handhold while properly restrained with back against the seat back.
  • SPEED LAWS. Don’t operate an OHV faster than it is safe for conditions. The speed limit within 50 feet of any campground, campsite, or concentration of people or animals is < 15 mph.
  • REQUIRED EQUIPMENT. All OHVs must have an approved muffler, brakes, and spark arrestor. Headlights and taillights are required to operate at night. Taillights must include at least one red light.
  • LIGHT PROHIBITION. A person shall not display a flashing or steady burning red or blue warning light on an off-highway motor vehicle except as permitted by Section 21055 or when an extreme hazard exists.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE. No person shall operate on OHV in a manner likely to cause environmental damage.
  • FIREARMS. It is illegal to discharge firearms within 150 yards of residences, buildings, campsites, occupied areas, recreational areas, or domestic livestock. No shooting from or across any road. No shooting from a vehicle. It is unlawful to carry a loaded weapon in a vehicle.

Rules Regarding Child Operators

  • MINORS MUST BE SUPERVISED. The operator of a ROV must be at least 16 years of age, or directly supervised in the vehicle by a parent or guardian or adult authorized by the parent or guardian.
  • PARENTAL SUPERVISION. No person <14 years old shall operate an ATV without a safety certification. They must also be under the direct supervision of a parent or guardian.
  • REQUIRED RIDER SAFETY TRAINING. Riders < 18 years old are required to take a safety course or be under the direct supervision of an adult who has the appropriate safety certification in his/her possession.

California OHV Laws

OHV Registration Requirements (explains the red/green stickers)

Nonresident OHV Use Permits

California Vehicle Code Division 16.5

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