October is on our heels, and as off-road enthusiasts and riders ourselves, we know that means sand season is here! There are several off-roading parks that come to mind when we think of sand, but the Imperial Sand Dunes in Glamis, California, is where it’s at. It’s by far the largest sand recreational area in the United States.
Technically, we consider October 1st as the opening day for sand season because that’s when Glamis starts requiring permit passes. But traditionally, the last weekend of October is the unofficial kickoff. This time of the year is the best time to ride in the southwest. It’s cool enough that you won’t be peeling your skin off your seats, and the evenings are chilly enough to have a fire while camping. It’s definitely different than the mud boggin’ backwoods ride that some of us are used to.
This is also around the same time Polaris hosts Camp RZR and what people call Glamis Halloween weekend. If you’ve never been, you’re missing out—it’s fun for the whole family. They have Polaris service stations, demo rides, a kid zone, fireworks, and so much more. If you’re interested in going, Camp RZR weekend will start Friday, October 28th.
Glamis is one big sandbox, and we want to make sure that you’re ready to play. Here are some things you need to know.
Glamis is huge. In fact, it’s 45 miles long and 6 miles wide. It’s right on the border of Arizona, California, and Mexico and located off Highway 78 between Blythe, CA, and Interstate 8 west of Yuma, AZ. Due to its remote location, poor cell service, and lack of wifi in the area, we’re going to give you two points of reference for your atlas:
For six months out of the year, you can ride free all you want at the Imperial Sand Dunes. But when sand season hits and thousands of riders flock to the sandbox, the park requires everyone to purchase passes.
You can buy your passes online or at any retail location. If you want to buy your pass at Glamis, then the ranger station is where you need to go.
And if you’re really going for the full Glamis experience and want to camp, you must have a campfire permit.
Glamis strictly enforces buying passes.
You would think that riding in the sand would be all the fun you would need. But Glamis does one better and has destinations that riders revisit yearly. Check these insanely cool destinations out.
Thousands of people line up on both sides of a 150-meter wide, quarter-mile long strip to watch motorized vehicles of all kinds. This isn’t a sanctioned event, so as long as you’re a pass holder, you can race. Things get pretty wild out here on the strip—don’t be surprised if every second or third vehicle goes wheels up and rides a wheelie halfway down the track.
Oldsmobile Hill is the most popular hill at Glamis. It’s a giant sand dune smack dab in the middle of the park. If you drive to the top, you have a perfect view to watch other riders, the sunset, and the stars at night. And sitting at the bottom of this hill at night is awesome too. Riders will turn on their LED lights and put on a light show, and ride till the sunrises the next morning.
If you’re up for a challenge, then the China wall is for you. It’s a giant sand dune nestled at the back of Glamis. It’s one of the steepest and tallest hills, which is why it attracts so many riders.
One of the best things about off-roading is playing all day and catching a beautiful sunset as the night comes to an end. If you’re looking for the perfect place to watch the sunset, head to sunset point. It’s one of the tallest peaks in Glamis and has enough room for you and your buddies to park their rigs at the top.
The Swingset at Glamis isn’t very old but has become a popular place to stop amongst riders and families. The swingset is soutwest of Oldmobile Hill.
The Flag Pole has quite a bit of history behind it and is a hot commodity every year during veterans day. It sits on top of a box the military used for target practice decades ago. Obviously, it’s not used for target practice anymore. The flag pole was added after Glamis became an OHV ride park.
There are two Tiki Huts in Glamis, and they’re only a couple of miles apart. They are one of the newest attractions for riders and have become a crowd favorite. Most riders leave behind their hat or bandana—it’s one of those things you do to show you’ve been there.
Camping at Glamis isn’t your run-of-the-mill vacation location. It’s definitely not glamorous. You’ll find that camping is primitive—there’s no running water. If you’re lucky, you may find a pit latrine that has already been dug for you.
Most people prefer to camp in RVs and Campers even though tent camping is doable.
There are multiple places to camp, but these are the top three locations:
Is the most popular campground among riders.
Preparing for a week or weekend adventure to Glamis can be so exciting that you forget about all the practical things you shouldn’t ride without or the riding laws that keep you safe. So just as a friendly reminder:
When you head out to the dunes, you will likely be miles away from camp. You will want to be prepared for the terrain and those unfortunate riding mishaps that are bound to happen. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
There are a ton of fun things to do at Glamis, but it is very important to recognize that the dunes are also dangerous. The only way to keep the atmosphere light and to keep the amusement flowing is by respecting the safety measures that have been put into place. Make sure you are up to date on dune safety protocols—here are 7 ways to stay safe as you ride the dunes.
You don’t want to take your mud boggin’ machine to the sandbox—you’ll find yourself back at camp before the fun even begins. Instead, accessorize your rig to fit the sandy terrain. Not sure where to start? No worries—we’ve done all the research for you by identifying The 6 Best UTV Accessories for Dune and Desert Riding.
Take this guide and gear up for a sandy time. With Glamis being the largest off-roading sand park in the United States, you’re bound to fling sand around, get sideways, and have a good time. We even bet you take a little Glamis home with you (check your boots).
Before you hit the dunes, make sure to check out and pack a couple extra of our sand belts.
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My son and I are looking for a single day experience in Glamis and want to rent a two person RZR or similar just for the day and then drive home in the evening. Do you suggest a vendor?
Jet Rent is where I’m renting. They were very nice!
Hey Chuck, there are a few good rental places out there. One well-established and reliable spot is Glamis Dunes Rentals located about as close to the dunes as you can get. http://glamisrent.com/
There are plenty of other options around too!