Panamint Sand Dunes, Lake Hill Road, Death Valley National Park, California

Panamint Sand Dunes - 8.1 miles

Lake Hill Road

The Panamint Sand Dunes

The Panamint Sand Dunes

Round-Trip Length: 8.1 miles (No Trail - Cross Country Travel Required)
Start-End Elevation: 1,618' - 2,644' (dune elevations vary)
Elevation Change: +1,026' net elevation gain (total roundtrip elevation gain varies with route)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Panamint Sand Dunes - 8.1 Miles Round-Trip

The Panamint Sand Dunes are located 4 miles from Lake Hill Road in Death Valley National Park.

The dunes lie on a bajada on the north end of Panamint Valley ringed by the Panamint, Cottonwood and Nelson mountain ranges.

4 miles of trail-less, desolate scrub separate these dunes from the nearest road, making them Death Valley's least-accessible dunes.

The dunes' true distance is difficult to gauge from the parking area on Lake Hill Road . Vast open spaces, mountain ranges and dry desert air can distort distance and depth perception.

No matter your visual interpretation, anticipate several hours of fully-exposed travel under intense heat and sun. Ample water and full sun protection are imperative. Cameras and related equipment should be carefully sealed from the sand and sun:

The desert floor dips from the parking area before trending up the bajada all the way to the dunes.

Terrain is fairly soft but will not compromise your pace, though grades increase as you near the dunes. Avoid deep washes and arroyos that braid the valley floor

Over millennium rains have washed boulders down the Panamint Mountains' steep gullies and canyons, depositing them throughout the valley.

Despite the area's profound desolation, some life exists: the creosote brush community is home to kit fox, coyote, jackrabbits, scorpions and snakes. You'll see hundreds of small burrows en route to the dunes. Blue-green hues in the surrounding mountains emerge as the sun moves over the valley.

You'll reach the dune base in 3.6 miles (2,310') with a fairly direct route. Steep climbing leads to the highest dunes, and reveals others you will only see upon reaching these points.

The dunes offer sweeping views across Panamint Valley and the surrounding mountains.

Use Lake Hill (2,687') - located on the east edge of Panamint Dry Lake Bed - for visual guidance on the return. The following GPS points offer a direct path into the dunes, and will aid navigation back to the parking area:

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N36 25.271 W117 24.718 — Trailhead on Lake Hill Road
  • N36 25.368 W117 24.858 — Point 1
  • N36 25.860 W117 25.001 — Point 2
  • N36 26.335  W117 25.563 — Point 3
  • N36 26.787 W117 26.105 — Point 4
  • N36 27.125 W117 26.526 — Edge of dunes

Worth Noting

  • Avoid travel during mid-day hours, and do not under-estimate heat and sun exposure. Sunglasses, skin protection and a broad-rim hat are imperative. ALWAYS carry extra water. Consider alternative destinations during peak summer months.

  • Miles of dune travel increase the risk of damage to electronic equipment. Be sure to properly stow gear and keep their exposure limited.

  • Telescope Peak (11,049'), Death Valley's highest point, can be seen looking southeast from the dunes in the upper reaches the Panamint Mountains .

  • Mountains immediately ringing the Panamint Dunes range from 4,000' (west side of valley) to 6,500'+ (north and east side of valley).

Directions to Trailhead

There is no 'official' trailhead for reaching the Panamint Dunes. The most sensible access point is located 5.7 miles up Lake Hill Road, a dirt road suitable for most 2WD cars (though 4WD, high clearance is always ideal).

Lake Hill Road is located off of Highway 190, 4.4 miles from Panamint Springs or 26.3 miles from Stovepipe Wells Village.

There is no designated or marked parking area, though a discernible northeast bend in the road (5.7 miles) leading into the mountains is the parking location used by most. Park slightly off-road to allow 4WD vehicles a clear passage. Lake Hill Road continues past this point, into the mountains as a 4WD-only road.

Contact Information

Death Valley National Park
P.O. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328

Visitor Information:

Commercial Permits:

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"We gave up. It is just too far. Better to go on to the dunes by stovepipe Wells they are just as nice I'm sure And you can walk to them in five minutes they're so big you don't need to worry about whether it's private or not. you'll have a great time at the stovepipe Wells dunes"
Jerry Swallow  -  Petaluma, California  -  Date Posted: December 26, 2012


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