Imperial Sand Dunes


The Imperial Sand Dunes, or Glamis, as the locals call it, is worth a visit for any van or RV nomad looking to explore one of SoCal’s greatest natural attractions. The dunes are the largest mass of dunes in California.  The dune system extends more than 40 miles long and averages 5 miles wide and often reaches 300 feet above the desert floor. 


The Imperial Sand Dunes is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and offers van and RV nomads a great opportunity to explore the desert and enjoy off-roading around the dunes. 

The dunes are a favorite with nomads’ for their amazing scenery, opportunities for solitude, off-roading, hiking, and exploring rare plants and animals. 

The dunes were created by windblown sands an ancient called Lake Cahuilla and extend more than 40 miles. 


Off-roading is the main activity here. Most of the off-roading action occurs in the recreation area south of Highway 78 and is open to all recreational vehicles. Limited areas surround the dunes require vehicles to travel on designated routes.

Closed areas prohibit motorized vehicle use entirely. Information and maps for all of these areas are available at the ranger stations.

Map: Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area Map


There are multiple camping locations within the Imperial Sand Dunes. Each camping area is first-come-first-serve, but there is a 14-day limit. The biggest area is off Gecko Road, which offers 10 camping areas. There are pit toilet but they can be spread out. A recreational permit is required to camp.  Check the map for the exact locations of all the camping areas. 

North Algodones Dunes Wilderness

The North Algodones Dunes Wilderness offers van and RV nomads a more tranquil alternative than the main dunes fast-paced action. This wilderness encompasses more than 26,000 acres, with the largest and tallest dunes in the central area.  The wilderness is closed to all vehicles and mechanized use.

Hollywood History

The dunes have been used in famous movies like Star Wars, the Scorpion King, Lawrence of Arabia, etc. In Star Wars, the Jabba’s sail barge set location was filmed in the Buttercup Valley by the border.

Recreation Permit

A permit is required from October thru April to visit and stay at the dunes.  Permits are $35 per week in advance or $50 per week if purchased at the visitor center. Season permits are also available for $150. See the weblink below for more details.

References and Other Adventures:


Salton Sea State Recreation Area

The Salton Sea State Recreation Area (SRA) is a good place to camp or visit any nomad. The area covers 14 miles of the Salton Sea’s northeastern shore and has long been a popular site for campers, boaters, and anglers. Varner Harbor within the SRA provides easy access to the sea for boating and water skiing. The main activities at SRA are kayaking, camping, and birdwatching. The SRA is a great retreat for any van dweller looking to explore the desert.

Read More »

Holtville Hot Springs

Holtville Hot Springs Long-Term Visitor Area (LTVA) is located east of Holtville, Ca, on the US and Mexican Border. The hot springs have two small artificial tubs with a nozzle shower that flows into a beautiful palm tree-lined hot spring lagoon. Overnight camping is allowed in the BLM land directly across the hot springs, but a permit is required.

Read More »
Scroll to Top