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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.

Sand Mountain Recreational Area

Places to Ride: Sand Mountain Recreation Area near Fallon, NV
One big sand box to play in!

 Big and Steep Dunes to Climb
Big and Steep Dunes to Climb

Camping Area
Camping Area

Easy Riding in the Sand Flats
Easy Riding in the Sand Flats

Low Rolling Dunes for Intermediate Riders
Low Rolling Dunes for Intermediate Riders

Stay on the Trails and Keep the Area Open!
Stay on the Trails and Keep the Area Open!

Beware of Razorbacks
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 for everyone.

A map of the riding area can be found at: ... 9Mar08.pdf

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.

Getting There:

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 Mountain.

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 night.
  • 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 fees.
  • Reserving of camping spaces is prohibited; sites are allocated on a first come, first serve basis.
  • 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, or projectiles.
  • 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 metal hardware.
  • 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 all times.
  • 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
Phone: 775-885-6000
Office Hours: 7:30 am - 4:30 pm Mondays Fridays Email:

Be safe, enjoy, and I hope to see you on the trails.

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