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Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting Killpecker Sand Dunes

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Woman sitting in Killpecker Sand Dunes

You might have heard of Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado or Indiana Dunes National Park in Michigan. Both offer amazing experiences for guests as they explore this mysterious landscape.

However, in southwestern Wyoming is another area of sand dunes worth visiting: Killpecker Sand Dunes. Let’s look at what makes these dunes unique and why you should make plans to visit soon.

Where Are the Killpecker Sand Dunes? 

Years of wind erosion and river erosion from the Big and Little Sandy Rivers have created thousands of acres of playground called Killpecker Sand Dunes in southwestern Wyoming. The Bureau of Land Management manages Killpecker Sand Dunes in Rock Springs, Wyo. T

The Open Play Area is accessed from Highway 191 to County Road 4-17, about 12 miles north of Rock Springs. It’s less than an hour’s drive north from the Rock Springs exit off Interstate 80 that runs through southern Wyoming.

Traveler’s Tip: Use these tips to Visit the Red Desert in Wyoming.

Woman hiking in Killpecker Sand Dune

What Are the Killpecker Sand Dunes Known For? 

ATVing has become increasingly popular over the years at the Killpecker Sand Dunes. The Play Area is open to motor vehicle use like dune buggies, ATVs, and motorbikes. The 11,000 acres are an adventurer’s paradise.

But if you don’t have a motor vehicle to explore the dunes, you can enjoy plenty of other outdoor activities like sand-surfing, hiking, and wildlife viewing.

Off-Roading

Imagine revving an engine up 100 feet of sand. The Killpecker Sand Dunes offer thousands of acres of space for motor enthusiasts. Find big air jumps and huge berms here. Bring your 4×4 Jeep or experience the thrills in a dune buggy.

It’s important to note that non-residents must purchase a Wyoming ORV permit, and all vehicles and OHVs must have a whip mast and a 6×12 inch red or orange flag.

Wild Horses

The Red Desert is home to wild horses in Wyoming. Your best chance of catching a sighting of these beautiful creatures is at Leucite Hills, within the Killpecker Sand Dunes. The area has quite a few freshwater springs where you’ll find these wild horses resting, drinking, eating, and galloping.

Hiking

Although the Killpecker Sand Dunes Play Area encompasses 11,000 acres, the entire protected area spans 109,000 acres. It was once home to ancient volcanoes that spewed hot lava and Native American tribes that considered the land sacred.

Walk freely about, making your own trails. This “living” dune system is the largest one in the United States. It’s living because it’s constantly changing due to wind. So, where you hike during one visit may look completely different the next visit.

Killpecker Sand Dune at sunrise

Elk Herd Viewing

Nowhere else in North America can you find an elk herd that lives in this type of ecosystem, such as in the Killpecker Sand Dunes. You can spot these rare desert elk anywhere in the area, so look out as you’re hiking, surfing down the dunes, or making donuts in the sand with your ATV.

The largest antelope migration also passes through each year. Depending on the timing of your visit, you may also encounter these elegant creatures.

Boar’s Tusk

Boar’s Tusk is the core of a volcano that stands 400 feet tall. It’s a prominent feature rising tall in the middle of the desert. Although it doesn’t have set hiking trails, you can walk three miles to the spire.

Or, if you have a high-clearance vehicle, you can drive directly to it. You’ll notice the similarity in appearance between Boar’s Tusk in southwestern Wyoming and Devil’s Tower in northeastern Wyoming.

Mother and two sons sitting at the top of a Killpecker Sand Dune

What Are the Dangers of Sand Dunes?

Hot sand is always a danger, especially in the summer. If you bring your furry friends, remember their feet can also burn easily. Also, beware of sand collapsing.

Although not common, if you dig deep holes at the base of a dune, you risk getting trapped by collapsing sand. Additionally, anytime you use an off-road vehicle, use caution and safety, especially when others are nearby.

Finally, wind-blown sand can be painful and dangerous. Spring is the windy season, so plan accordingly. As long as you know the dangers, you’ll have an incredible, memorable adventure exploring Killpecker Sand Dunes.

Is There Quicksand in Sand Dunes?

In 2013 and 2014, sand holes started appearing in the sand dunes at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan. Although not quicksand, the area was closed for some time as researchers examined what was happening. 

The National Park Service hypothesizes that “The age of the materials [trees, brush or manmade structures or debris] and the wet conditions during the spring of 2013 may have forced these materials to become unstable, collapsing and creating openings to the surface.”

So does quicksand exist in sand dunes? It can, but it occurs very rarely. Quicksand can form anywhere with the right conditions, which requires saturated sand to be agitated. It will appear dry as sand rests on top of the water. But when a heavy object disrupts it, the sand and water mix causing people and animals to sink. 

Dry quicksand has been produced only in laboratory conditions but not in a natural state. Scientists believe dry quicksand may exist on the moon or Mars. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about quicksand at Killpecker Sand Dunes.

Man smiling while holding helmet in front of two ATVs in Killerpecker Sand Dune

Can You Fall Off a Sand Dune? 

You can lose your footing on a sand dune. But it’s not like a mountain peak with steep ledges where you can tumble down the mountain. This is why surfing is so popular at Killpecker Sand Dunes.

The sand compares to mountains of snow. You might fall and go rolling down the hill, but you won’t “fall off” a dune. Furthermore, many people slide down them on purpose, but climbing back up can pose a challenge.

Traveler’s Tip: After trekking through the Killpecker Sand Dunes, cool down in one of These Wyoming Lakes You Must Add to Your Bucket List.

How Do I Dress for Sand Dunes?

Even though you might want to visit Killpecker Sand Dunes in flip-flops or sandals, it’s best to wear close-toed shoes. This protects your skin from the potentially hot sand.

You’ll also want to wear sunglasses and put on sunscreen before you arrive. The light-colored sand increases your chances of sunburn, so dress accordingly. You might want to consider bringing a bandana to cover your face as wind-blown sand is painful.

Killpecker Sand Dune under a blue sky

What Lives in the Sand Dunes? 

Although the animals roaming outside the dunes are more popular, don’t forget the animals living inside the sand. Insects, snakes, and lizards can burrow in coastal dunes. However, you’ll find fewer of these animals at Killpecker Sand Dunes in Wyoming. But remember, it’s a desert area, and desert animals like small mammals and snakes live among the elk and wild horses.

Is There Water in Sand Dunes?

Leucite Hills, where you can see the wild horses, is home to a few freshwater springs. Wild horses, antelope, and elk all come here for water.

But Killpecker Sand Dunes lies in the Red Desert, so you’ll find much less water here than in coastal dunes. You don’t have to worry about getting your dune buggy stuck in the sand unless you visit during heavy rain.

Are the Killpecker Sand Dunes Worth Visiting? 

Killpecker Sand Dunes offer spectacular scenery in southwestern Wyoming. Its uniqueness draws visitors from all over the country. In fact, it’s one of the seven “singing” sand dunes in the world. When the sand slides down the sides of the hills as the wind blows or as people walk, it creates a rare singing sound.

This is a place you want to put on your must-visit list. From the elk viewing to the off-roading, Killpecker Sand Dunes has something for everyone.

Is a visit to Killpecker Sand Dunes on your bucket list?

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