In Juab County, Utah, about 60,000 acres of land make up Little Sahara Recreation Area, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. This massive recreation area is anything but little and is most popularly known for its topography that is made of sagebrush flats, hills covered with juniper trees, and free moving sand dunes.
Located just a few miles from Salt Lake City, Little Sahara Recreation Area is different from other surrounding wilderness regions as it is essentially a giant sand playground for both adults and kids. The abundance of sand and strong currents of wind have combined together to create one of the largest dune fields in Utah. Hence, the name, Little Sahara as the dunes look just like the ones of the massive Sahara Desert, in Africa.
About 15,000 years ago, the Sevier River used to flow here and into the age-old Lake Bonneville. Today, the only remnants of these ancient water bodies are the huge sand deposits left behind. The sand gets picked up and dropped by the wind, giving these dunes the ability to move some five to nine feet every year.
What makes Little Sahara Recreation Area really special is the desolation surrounding it. Located in the already forlorn western Utah region, at the edge of the Great Basin Desert, the sand dunes of Little Sahara rise and fall in a glorious spectacle. Despite its desolate location, Little Sahara Recreation Area is extremely popular and receives nearly 300,000 yearly visitors who enjoy camping, photography, exploring, hiking, and most of all, off-road vehicle use such as ATVs, dirt bikes, and more.
Little Sahara Recreation Area lies 34 miles west from Nephi, UT. Take Highway 132 and onto the Juab County Road 1812 to find your destination.
The entrance road to the Little Sahara Recreation Area is marked as the US 6 that lies near Jericho. This road leads to the visitor center and then the entrance station after a few miles. You have to pay your entrance fees here and continue down the same road, which will then take you to the center of the dunes. The road eventually ends in a large leveled sandy area with dunes surrounding it on all sides.
Little Sahara Recreation Area has four large RV accessible campgrounds with over 200 campsites for individual and group camping. These four campgrounds offer 40 toilets in total along with drinking water and 16 miles of paved roads. The campsites are divided between White Sands, Jericho, Oasis, and Sand Mountain. Additionally, Little Sahara Recreation Area also has an engine shop, a fire station, and a bunkhouse.
White Sands boasts 100 RV and tent campsites that are nestled within a thicket of juniper trees and are located very close to the sand dunes, providing immediate access to recreational activities. The campground has flush toilets during summers, vault toilets during winters, and potable water. The campground also boasts two of the world’s largest sandboxes that are fenced off as a kid's playing area.
While all four campgrounds are developed, Oasis is by far the most luxurious and accommodating. It offers paved pads for motorhomes and trailers and quick access to the dunes. This campground is home to 115 campsites with RV sanitation hookups, potable water, flush toilets, and vault toilets. The maximum RV length in this campground is 40-ft and it is pet-friendly.
Jericho Campground was first launched as a fenced picnic area but later added a camping area for a large group of campers. This campground facilitates with paved parking access road and ten RV campsites. It also has 40 picnic tables with ramadas for shade, amphitheater, fenced play area, potable water, flush toilets, and vault toilets.
Sand Mountain Campground offers a primitive camping area along with three paved parking spaces, potable water, flush toilets, and vault toilets. Close to Sand Mountain, it is a great camping spot for those seeking to take on more challenging dunes whether it be via vehicles or on foot.
Sand Mountain is one of the most popular attractions of the Recreation Area. This 700-ft highpoint in Little Sahara is a long, ridge-like sandy peak, steep and smooth and devoid of any form of vegetation. It’s a challenging way up for OHV riders, as well as for hikers.
As tough as the climb is, it is just as fun failing to climb it, as you go sliding down the smooth sand before you get your grounding and can work your way back up. The view from up top of the expansive desert is breathtaking. Skiing, sandboarding, and fat biking are also enjoyed on the Sand Mountain, making it a popular spot in this vast wilderness.
Off-road vehicle use on the sand dunes attracts thousands of visitors every year and keeps the Recreation Area quite crowded during the summer months. As soon as you enter the area, the sound of off-road vehicle engines will greet you.
Despite the rush, the recreation area is so large that everyone gets a chance to lose themselves as they enjoy their ride whether it be on buggies, ATVs, dirt bikes, or any other type of off-road vehicle. Little Sahara OHV Trail, Lovers Point OHV Trail, and Cherry Creek OHV Trail are some of the most popular ATV trails in the region.
If you visit Little Sahara Recreation Area, you can’t miss out on the Rockwell Outstanding Natural Area. This natural area is made up of over 9,000 acres of what constitutes as a vehicle-free zone that allows for a quieter version of the Little Sahara Recreational Area experience.
Devoid of the droning noises made by hundreds of motorized vehicles, quieter activities such as hiking, birdwatching, meditating and picnicking can be enjoyed here.
Picnicking while surrounded by sand dunes has its own kind of charm. Jericho Day-use area at Little Sahara Recreation Area is one of the best spots for picnicking as it is equipped with 40 picnic tables, ramadas, parking loops, and various other facilities.
You can also experience picnic-hopping by moving to White Sands, and then to the Rockwell Outstanding Natural Area afterward for a complete experience of this amazing wilderness region.
Winblown sand dunes, junipers, and flats of sagebrush offer homes to an extremely diverse habitat of wildlife. Settle down quietly and watch out for mule deer, antelope, Desert whipsnake and eight other kinds of reptiles amongst the sand and sparse vegetation.
Soaring high above the sand dunes one can spot great horned owls and fifteen other species of birds including various birds of prey.
Sand dunes climbing is a beloved activity here and experienced visitors challenge themselves to climb the network of dirt around Black Mountain, the vast White Sand Dune Bowls, and the 700-foot Sand Mountain. Beginners tend to lean towards the low-lying dunes. Kids and adults both love this recreational activity as it can be a great bonding exercise, as well as a test of your physical and mental resolve.