Weekend at the Winnemucca Sand Dunes

Located in Humboldt County just northwest of Winnemucca are the Winnemucca Sand Dunes. They’re probably best known as an OHV destination, but due to their layout and shorter size, make a great playground for fat tire mountain bikes. The bulk of the Winnemucca Sand Dunes are in the Silver State Valley. While less than 100 feet (30 m) tall, the dunes span an area of approximately 40 miles (64 km) from east to west.

Dune riding video from the weekend:

Ever since last year’s trip to the Winnemucca Sand Dunes, we’d been waiting for a weekend like this one. Warm enough to camp comfortably, with a break in the weather after a lot of precipitation. The dunes are firmer after a good rain, making it easier for human-powered transportation.

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Navigating the dunes

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Tires aired down to float on the sand

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Where did everybody go?

Winneumucca Sand Dunes
Out of Water

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
“Sand Camp” Windmill

Although it had rained recently, high winds had followed the storm. As we learned, this dried out the surface sand pretty quickly. Even though we could see patches of wet sand, and even pooled water, most of the sand was dry and loose, adding some pedaling resistance. While the locals might not have called these conditions ideal, we were still having a blast not having much to compare it to. I think we were all just amazed that we were riding bicycles on sand dunes.

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Signs of water

Winneumucca Sand Dunes
A temporary desert lake

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Leaving tracks

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Wandering the desert

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
A good day of riding

Thanks to a tip from the bike shop in Winnemucca, we had the perfect campsite this year right on the dunes. Last year we had to ride nearly a mile before getting to the fun stuff. It was nice to be able to just hop on the bikes and go, and we got more riding in this way.

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Preparing dinner with the BioLite CampStove

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Back at Camp

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Enjoying a Winnemucca Sunset

Shortly before waking up the next morning, there was a good rainstorm. It didn’t last very long, but was enough to wet down the sand. The rain seemed to stop the moment I climbed out of the tent, and I canceled my trip to the truck to find my rain gear. What remained were low clouds, giving the dunes a foggy appearance. The sand looked perfect, so we hurried our way through breakfast.

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Morning at Camp

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
A cloudy Bloody Run Peak and Santa Rosa Range

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Where to next?

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Over the top

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Dropping in

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Making a couple S-Turns

We didn’t have too many wildlife sightings, but there is lots of evidence of life on the dunes. Burrows in the bushes were frequent, as were the coyote tracks that hunted the burrow dwellers. Most of the daytime traffic, though, was limited to the occasional dune beetle.

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Passing by a desert dwelling

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Fast riding on the wet sand

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Dune wheelies

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Another visit to Sand Camp Windmill

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Bloody Run Peak 7,923 ft elevation. A constant landmark for navigation.

We had a great morning on the dunes. The wet sand made the climbing a lot easier and the downhills faster. After a few hours, though, you could already feel the sand drying out. By that point, it was time to go anyway. BBQ back in Winnemucca was starting to sound like a really good idea.

Winnemucca Sand Dunes
Miller and Lux Windmill

If You Go:

  • Bikes and More: Need trail info? Forget something? Bust a part? Visit Chuck Austin’s full service bike shop in Winnemucca, Bikes and More (www.winnemuccabikeshop.com).
  • Driving Directions: The dunes are about a three hour drive from Carson City. Drive north on HWY 95 about 10 miles out of Winnemucca, then head west on Sand Pass Road (graded dirt) about 7 miles. 4×4 access roads (soft sand) lead south off to dunes in this area. The central dunes have the best fat biking.
  • You’ll need a fat bike for this one (4-5″ wide tires). I aired down to 6-7 psi before leaving the house, but then aired down again out on the dunes for maximum flotation on the soft sand.
  • Don’t have a fat bike? The dunes would be fun to hike too. The silence and solitude are amazing, and make a great way to clear your head.
  • The Pig BBQ & Pub makes a great stop after a weekend of riding!
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