By: Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson and wife Cheri enjoy exploring
the Western United States in a RV. Their
interests include off-roading, hiking,
prospecting, ghost town hunting, and exploring
other out-of-the-way and forgotten places.
Places to Ride: Sand Mountain Recreation Area
near Fallon, NV
One big sand
box to play in!
Big and Steep Dunes to Climb
Easy Riding in the Sand Flats
Low Rolling Dunes for Intermediate
Stay on the Trails and Keep the Area
Beware of Razorbacks
Its proximity to the population centers of
Carson City and Reno combined with riding
opportunities for every skill level makes Sand
Mountain one of the most popular riding areas in
the State of Nevada. Easy trails and flat play
areas exist along the southwest side of the main
dune for beginners, low rolling dunes for
intermediate riders, and hill climbs from
extreme to insane for advanced riders. All of
these areas can be accessed in just minutes from
the camp and staging area located at the base of
the 600-foot main dune. Bring your paddle tires
and plenty of fuel because you are going to need
them to mark up all the sand at Sand Mountain.
All the riding is on sand.
How did all this sand get here? Thousands of
years ago there was an immense inland lake known
as Lake Lahontan that covered much of northern
Nevada. Researchers say that this ancient lake
was once 800 feet deep in places. When you visit
Sand Mountain today you can clearly see the
ancient lakeshores on the bluffs to the east of
the dunes. As the climate grew warmer, the lake
slowly dried up. Wind then blew across the dry
lake bed picking up quartz particles, which had
eroded into the lake from the hard Sierra
granite to the west, depositing them on the
southwest flank of the Stillwater Range.
Wind-blown sand deposits over the centuries
created Sand Mountain, which now stands at a
height of almost 600 feet.
The area is very popular during the summer and
three-day weekends. Spring and fall offer the
best riding weather at Sand Mountain. Winter
months can be cold with rain and summer days can
be hot, dry, and rather windy. The area is open
the year around.
A fee is required to enter the area Thursday
through Monday. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are free
A map of the riding area can be found at:
When you tire of riding, visit the
well-preserved ruins of the Sand Springs Pony
Express station just south of the riding area.
For years the shifting sands of Sand Mountain
covered the site. However, a number of years ago
the University of Nevada along with the Bureau
of Land Management excavated the site and listed
it on the National Register of Historical
Places. Riding is prohibited among the ruins.
Friends of Sand Mountain, a volunteer
organization, is committed to keeping Sand
Mountain open to off- road use. To find out how
you can help or for a list of events, visit:
There is a designated dry camping area near the
south side of Sand Mountain. Several vault
toilets are provided. Visitors should bring
plenty of water since no water is available at
the site. Campfires are permitted, but there is
no wood available. There is no off-site camping
permitted within 3 miles of the Sand Mountain
Recreation Area boundary.
From Fallon, Nevada take Hwy 50 and travel about
25 miles east.
You will find the turn off to Sand Mountain at
39 16.481N 118 24.794W
You will find food, lodging, and fuel available
in Fallon. Come well-prepared as there are no
services in the immediate vicinity of Sand
Rules and Regulations:
- Permits are required at Sand Mountain
- One permit is needed per primary vehicle, except
on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which are free entry
days for everyone. A primary vehicle is any
street-legal vehicle used for transportation to
the recreation site. Annual permit: $90 and is
valid from October 1 to September 30; weekly
permit: $40 and is valid for seven consecutive
days upon entry. Season permits are available
through the Carson City District Office, phone:
775-885-6000, 5665 Morgan Mill Road, Carson City
NV 89701; or the Nevada State Office, Bureau of
Land Management, 1340 Financial Blvd., Reno NV
89502 or P.O. Box 12000, Reno NV 89520, phone:
775-861-6400. Season permits are also available
for purchase on-site during holiday weekends.
- Use of a fluorescent orange whip flag, extending
at least 8 feet above the ground level when the
vehicle is stopped, is MANDATORY on ALL
Off-Highway-Vehicles (OHVs) using the recreation
area. Lighted whip masts should be used at
- Limit your speed to 15 mph around the camp area
and 25 mph on all access roads. This will help
prevent accidents and lessen road damage.
- Spark arresters are required on all OHV's. The
use of spark arresters will greatly reduce the
chance of fire. Plant life is sparse in the
desert and wildlife depends on it to survive.
- You must not operate or use any audio equipment,
such as a radio, television, musical instrument,
or other noise producing device, or motorized
equipment, between the hours of 12 a.m. and 6
a.m. in a manner that makes unreasonable noise
that disturbs other visitors; or operate or use
a public address system without written
authorization from the Field Office Manager.
- You must not enter, camp, park, or stay longer
than one half hour within the Sand Mountain
Recreation Area without properly paying required
- Reserving of camping spaces is prohibited; sites
are allocated on a first come, first serve
- You may not drink an alcoholic beverage, or have
in your possession or on your person any open
container that contains an alcoholic beverage,
while operating in or on a motorized vehicle.
- You may not discharge any firearms, fireworks,
- You cannot possess or use any glass cup or
bottle, empty or not, used for carrying any
liquid for drinking purposes outside of enclosed
vehicles, or camp trailers.
- Do not bring in, dispose of, or possess any
firewood containing nails, screws, or other
- You may not dump gray or wastewater at the
Recreation Area directly from a vehicle or
trailer. You must empty water and sewage tanks
only at legal dumping stations.
- Animals must be on a leash or tied. Animals must
be kept on a leash not longer than six feet,
whether held by hand or secured to a fixed
object, or otherwise physically restricted at
- You cannot freely roll down the dunes any
object that creates a hazard to other users.
For Additional Information:
BLM Carson City District Office
5665 Morgan Mill Road
Carson City NV 89701
Office Hours: 7:30 am - 4:30 pm Mondays –
Be safe, enjoy, and I hope to see you on the