Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Cadiz Dunes Wilderness contains 19 935 acres of desert wilderness that became part of the 109 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System in 1994. The wilderness area is located entirely within the State of California and is part of the larger Mojave Trails National Monument. The dunes cover a sprawling area situated between the Sheephold Mountains to the southwest, Ship Mountains to the north, Old Woman Mountains to the northeast, and Iron Mountains to the southeast.
The terrain in Cadiz Dunes Wilderness consists of small dunes that have been preserved in pristine condition, as little OHV activity took place in the area prior to the region becoming a protected wilderness area. The dunes are formed by north winds that push sands off of the Cadiz dry lake bed. The region preserves unique desert plants and wildlife such as the fringe-toed lizard, a local favorite with wildlife photographers, and the rare flowering desert herb, Borrego milkvetch, a colorful purple annual, native to the area.
Overnight primitive camping is allowed in the BLMs Cadiz Dunes Wilderness. However, no motorized vehicles, including RVs, are permitted in the wilderness area, so camping is accessed on foot and for backpackers only. Temperatures in the dunes wilderness are extreme, with very hot summers, where the temperature routinely shoots up to 115 degrees or more. Most activities in this region take place in the spring or fall, when temperatures are more moderate.
Nearby Joshua Tree National Park and Lake Havasu State Park provide alternate destinations in the region for visitors with more amenities. Looking to explore the area by RV? Check out Joshua Tree, California RV Rentals.
The Cadiz Dunes Wilderness is part of the Mojave Trails National Monument, located in California, about 40 miles east of Twentynine palms, and situated between Highway 62 and Route 66. Detailed maps of the area are available at the Bureau of Land Management Field Office in Needles, California.
Traveling from Interstate 40, take the Old Highway 66 to Chambless, and head southeast to Cadiz Road. Proceed for another 10 miles to the turnoff to the wilderness area. From Highway 62, the turnoff is 63 miles east of Twentynine Palms airport. Turn northwest on Cadiz Road and continue 35.6 miles to the turnoff.
The access road is naturally sand surfaced, and you should not slow down or stop until you reach the harder surfaced parking area. The final 2.4 miles of the access road has extremely rough terrain with potholes, washout sections, and deep ruts, and is accessible only by high clearance, 4 x 4 vehicles, and not appropriate for RVs and trailers.
Summer temperatures in the area reach 115 degrees or higher, ensure your vehicle has an extra supply of water and emergency supplies, and that fluid levels are topped up before venturing out.
Overnight camping is available at the Afton Campground in the Mojave Trails National monument or at the Joshua Tree National Forest, just over a two hours drive away from the “Dunes” that is more appropriate for RVs and tow trailers.
Multiple campgrounds that accommodate RVs, tents, and tow trailers can be found at Joshua Tree National Park, just a few hours southeast of the Cadiz Dunes Wilderness.
Black Rock Canyon is situated on the edge of the park and is accessible for RVs. The campground has fire rings, picnic areas, and an RV dump station.
Indian Cove has 91 unserviced camping sites and lacks road access to the rest of the park. Jumbo Rocks has 124 campsites with BBQ pits and picnic tables. Campfires are restricted to existing fire rings, and there are vault toilets and an amphitheater.
Cottonwood Campground has 62 individual campsites and three group sites with a drinking water supply as well as a visitor center. It can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet in length.
Ryan Campgrounds has four reservable equestrian campsites, and 31 parking sites with adult toilets. Sheep Pass Campground has six group sites. Belle Campground has 18 spots and is remotely located, making it ideal for nighttime stargazing and enjoying the natural surroundings. White Tank Campground has huge granite boulders and 15 RV sites that are restricted to units 25 feet and smaller.
Hidden Valley Campground is also nestled between giant boulders and Joshua trees and provides 45 RV sites for units up to 25 feet in length. Joshua Tree Campgrounds are first come first serve in the peak season, with some campgrounds offering reservations in the wintertime. Group and equestrian sites are reservable.
The Afton Canyon Campground is also a few hours drive from Cadiz Dunes Wilderness located in the Mojave Trails National Monument. The campground is situated along a river with 300 foot high cliffs. The river is one of only a few places in the area where water flows most of the year. The reliable water source creates a green habitat in the Sonoran Desert and is a popular campground with vegetation and wildlife.
There are no hookups here, but plenty of natural beauty. The campsite has 22 sites, one of which is suitable for group camping. There are picnic tables, shelters, and pit toilets. A water source is located on-site, however, water supply is not always available, and campers should bring an adequate supply for their camping needs with them. Sites have picnic tables and fire grills and can accommodate RVs up to 30 feet in length. Bring your own wood, as none is available on site, and you are not permitted to gather deadfall in the wilderness area.
Cadiz Dunes Wilderness is public land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which permits overnight camping in the area. Camping is limited to 14 nights at one site, after which campers must move to another site, at least 25 miles away. Campers are required to adhere to the “Leave No Trace” rules and regulations applicable to all BLM lands.
Campsites should be situated at previously used spots where possible, and 200 yards from wildlife water sources and trails. You will also need to pack out your trash. Overnight campers in the Cadiz Dunes Wilderness will experience a harsh desert landscape and should be prepared for extreme temperatures, and no amenities.
The continually moving low dunes are formed by northerly winds and create a barren yet starkly beautiful landscape that is ideal for those seeking a wilderness experience and solitude. Excellent dark-night sky viewing can be enjoyed while overnight camping in the area, with little light noise in this remote location!
The Cadiz Dunes Wilderness consists of sandy low dunes and desert shrub lowlands, which are in a preserved, natural state, and very remote from civilization. In the spring, rare endangered dune plants flower and put on a beautiful display.
You can discover a variety of wildlife in the area that has adapted to this harsh environment. Animal species in the region include coyote, jackrabbits, kangaroo rats, quail, rattlesnakes, lizards, and roadrunners. Grab a camera and prepare some spectacular scenery and wildlife photography in this protected wilderness.
Rock Climbing at nearby Joshua Tree National Park’s, Jumbo Rocks area is a fun-filled activity you can participate in while visiting the area. Described as an “adult playground,” the area has accessible rock formations and boulders such as Face Rock and Skull Rock that you can clamor over for a better view of the surrounding wilderness areas.
Exercise caution, have sturdy footwear with good grip, head protection, and use harnesses and rigging where appropriate.
The Mojave Trails National Monument, the larger area containing the Cadiz Dunes Wilderness, has many interesting geological features to explore. The Afton Canyon is described as the “Grand Canyon of the Mojave”.
This canyon is very picturesque and colorful with vegetation from the river and eroded rocks. The Amboy Crater is also situated here and provides the opportunity for visitors to hike through an extinct, 6000-year-old volcano crater. The crater is known for its symmetry, and the pinnacle provides breathtaking views of the surrounding terrain, including the Bristol Dry Lake and the Marble Mountains.
The Cadiz Dunes Wilderness is a challenging but rewarding spot for hikers. The area does not have many designated trails, due to the ever-changing landscaped as the sand dunes are continuously formed from the prevailing north winds.
You can venture out for a hike through the wilderness area but should be prepared with appropriate footwear to protect from hot sand, desert vegetation, and rattlesnakes. This activity is more popular in the spring and fall, as mid-summer temperatures soar to extreme levels, and make strenuous activity dangerous.
Even in the earlier and later parts of the year, you will need to ensure you have plenty of water along for the trip, take safety precautions, and have an accurate map of the area.
While snow may not be the first thing you think of in the Mojave Desert area of California, there are winter resorts just over a three-hour drive north and east of the Cadiz Dunes Wilderness region. Enjoy downhill tubing, skiing, and snowboarding at these nearby mountain resorts.
There are accommodations and equipment rentals at the resorts, or you can camp in the desert regions nearby where camping is still available during the winter season, and drive up to the hill for a little snow instead of sand!
Overnight camping is permitted in the BLM Cadiz Dunes Wilderness, but this harsh environment may be best for experienced backcountry campers, who are familiar with a desert environment. Backpacking and primitive camping in the area is usually done in the spring, fall, and winter months, when temperatures are less severe.
Be sure to follow the “Leave No Trace” principles and practices, which include packing out garbage, using previously used sites, and burying human waste. You will need to pack in lots of water, and it is advised you inform someone off-site of your plans before venturing out in the dunes wilderness.