Juniper Dunes Wilderness is a popular destination in eastern Washington for OHV use and primitive outdoor recreation. It was designated as a wilderness area in 1984 and consists of over 7,000 acres. The wilderness preserves western juniper and sand dunes as high as 130 feet. The wilderness area is open year-round, with the best times to visit being the fall, winter, and spring.
Juniper Dunes Wilderness is a destination for off-roaders though no motorized or mechanical vehicles are permitted within the wilderness area. Instead, there is a 3,920-acre OHV area about a mile away from the wilderness gate. There are many trails where OHVs can climb hills, make small jumps, and whizz by the junipers. Within the wilderness area, equestrians and hikers can enjoy the landscape and scenery, leaving the noise of the OHVs behind.
Visitors can camp outside of the wilderness near the OHV area and may find an available site along the roads between each of the staging areas. RVs will want to use caution, and those with trailers are discouraged from continuing down the road past the first parking area. RVs will need to come prepared for boondocking. There are no services or amenities. If looking for modern amenities, there are other camping options within an hour of the wilderness.
Juniper Dunes Wilderness is in Franklin County, Washington, about seven miles away from Pasco. The turn off for the wilderness is about four miles down Peterson Road. At the intersection, make a right and you’ll find yourself in a large staging area. Visitors with trailers should stop here and either walk or ride the remaining two miles or risk getting stuck. There is another parking area at the end of the two-mile stretch. This second parking area is very sandy.
From the second parking area, it’s an additional mile down to the wilderness gate. Only high clearance vehicles with four-wheel-drive should attempt to navigate this sandy road. Even the most equipped vehicle still risks getting stuck in the sand. The road is easier to navigate when there is moisture in the sand and harder during dry periods when the sand is loose.
Primitive camping is permitted for both tents and RVs. Big rigs will want to use caution on the roads leading to the parking areas as they’re rough and sandy. It isn’t advisable bringing trailers beyond the first parking area.
Primitive camping is an option at Juniper Dunes Wilderness. There are several established campsites near the OHV area which are accessible to most RVs. Those with large rigs will want to use caution on the rough roads. These campsites are ideal for those who have an OHV and want to make the most of their days. It can get noisy, especially on weekends. If looking for solitude, you may want to find a different camping location. There are no amenities for overnight visitors. Camping on BLM land is limited to 14 consecutive days.
Campers will need to bring in their own supplies for their stay. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen as the area is mostly open with no shade. Some of the campsites do have fire rings, but campers should always check for burn bans before enjoying a campfire. Visitors planning to camp should come prepared for temperature variations. During the summer, temperatures can reach into the 100s but drop considerably at night. In the winter, it’s common to receive about a foot of annual snowfall.
The Pasco/Tri-Cities KOA Journey is about a 45-minute drive away in Pasco, WA. The KOA is suitable for those who are looking to enjoy amenities while they camp. In addition to Juniper Dunes Wilderness, there are many nearby attractions to the KOA, including several golf courses. The KOA is open to both RV and tent campers year-round. Reservations are encouraged.
The KOA can accommodate RVs of many sizes with a maximum length of 55 feet. They offer both pull-through and back-in campsites. Pets are welcome, and there is a fenced dog park on-site where you can let your dog run free.
Large groups may want to make use of the pavilion to enjoy a picnic with the entire group. Campers looking for entertainment can use the basketball court or horseshoe pit. Other amenities include a pool, playground, and laundry facilities.
Juniper Dunes Wilderness is known for its OHV area. This expansive OHV area is made up of 3,920-acres of open space for those with off-road vehicles to enjoy. This area is made up of mostly sand with some jumps, hills, dips, and many flat areas, making it fun for the new and experienced off-roader.
The OHV staging area is about one mile away from the wilderness gate. Motorized and mechanical vehicles aren’t allowed in the wilderness and should be used within the OHV area only.
Mountain bikes can be used in the OHV area and around the perimeter of the wilderness. Like motorized vehicles, bikes are not permitted within the wilderness area. There are many trails within the OHV area that will be a challenge to even experienced mountain bikers.
Climb sandy hills, pedal across the flats, and wind through the juniper trees. For those planning on mountain biking, the OHV staging area provides the easiest parking and access.
There are no designated trails within Juniper Dunes Wilderness. However, there are still many areas for hikers to explore. To access the wilderness, hikers will need to pass through the OHV parking lot to the wilderness gate. Once inside the wilderness, hikers can trek a few miles in any direction before reaching a wilderness boundary.
Hikers will pass by many junipers while exploring, as well as the windswept sand of the dunes themselves. Keep an eye out for the area’s wildlife, such as deer and various birds.
Equestrians are welcome at Juniper Dunes Wilderness. Equestrians will want to park in the upper area, which is also an OHV staging area. Trailers are likely to get stuck if you continue past that point. Once ready to go, ride the remainder of the way to the wilderness gate, which is the entrance to the wilderness.
Within the wilderness, you'll be riding on sandy terrain, mixed with some hard-packed dirt. Equestrians will need to bring their own feed and water for their horses. A permit is required if taking a horse into the wilderness area. Permits can be obtained at the BLM office.
Even through extreme temperature drops and changing weather conditions, wildlife thrives in the wilderness. It is common to see deer or even a coyote while hiking. Birding enthusiasts are likely to see owls, ravens, hawks, and songbirds.
While out exploring the wilderness area, take caution when climbing or overturning rocks. Rattlesnakes do live within the dunes. Other common types of wildlife at the dunes include skunks, badgers, weasels, and porcupines.
A picnic is a great way to spend an afternoon in the wilderness. Whether you’re taking a break from the many activities the wilderness area provides or simply want to spend a quiet afternoon in solitude, a picnic will provide just that.
Head off into Juniper Dunes Wilderness to find a peaceful spot away from the OHV crowds. There are no facilities or amenities within the wilderness. Remember to pack in, pack out!