Dunes Day!

Dunes Day!

St.Anthony DunesStory by Albert Vandervelde

I got hooked on sand dunes fun quite a few years ago, with my first trip to the Oregon sand dunes. That trip took me to Florence on the Oregon Coast and the Siltcoos Dunes. I’ve been back many times since to all the four major ATV areas along the Oregon dunes in an array of vehicles. I’ve always wanted to visit some of the other known sand dune riding areas, but many are quite far from me here in B.C. I’m sure you will have heard of Glamis, also known as the Imperial Sand Dunes, or even Pismo Beach. Past these popular spots, there are actually many more that are not as well known all over the USA.

Almost every year, we have been going to Moab for the Easter Jeep Safari. Our route takes us from B.C. though Washington, Idaho (twice), Montana then into Utah. In the bottom portion of Idaho, we typically stay the night in a small town called Idaho Falls on this trip. Not far from Idaho Falls, there is a sand rec area called St. Anthony Dunes. Despite all the times I’ve stayed so close, I’ve never had a chance to visit the dunes – this year that had to change!

Glen and I decided to split off from our travel companions and head down a day early, and then  meet them in Idaho Falls to complete our trip to Moab. The information on-line on the St. Anthony Dunes was very scarce and much of it was not very accurate. Some sites said ‘no street registered vehicles on the dunes,’ others said dunes were closed for winter animal migration from October to April.

This year, EJS and Easter itself was late and that pushed us past that April 1st date just in case the closures were correct (which it turns out were only half correct). Directions were also not very good but dune sites did say an Idaho OHV permit was required or one from another state. As I typically have an OHV sticker for going to the Oregon dunes, I was covered, however Glen was not. I had called the Sand Hills Resort, a campground that backs the dunes, and asked a few questions and the campground owner said that the dunes were open year round, only a small portion towards the tree-lined hills were closed in the winter months, and that Jeeps and in my case Toyota, street vehicles were very much welcome on the sand dunes.

St.Anthony DunesAs it was mid-afternoon when we got to the area, we drove into the town of St. Anthony and straight into a gas station to inquire about an OHV sticker. The weather was very overcast and we even ran through a snowstorm that coated our vehicles with ice on the way there. Visibility wasn’t very good, so seeing what was over 10,000 acres of sand wasn’t very easy. In town, we were met with strange stares for our OHV sticker request and no one was able to point us to the dunes. Either we hit the wrong crowd or it’s a conspiracy to keep these hidden dunes to themselves!

At the end of the main strip of the small town, a sign pointed us towards the dunes – finally a sign! While still without an OHV sticker for Glen, we were equipped with sand flags and decided to wing it when we got there. That sign was the last one we saw, however as the clouds lifted we spotted the flowing sand hills in the distance! Twists and turns on back roads brought us to a local “road no access” sign… another attempt to foil our chances at the sand dunes! We drove on past the sign and ran right into the campground that helped me on the phone and right into drifting sand dunes right to, and over, the paved road. Finally!

We dropped air pressure (while wrapping ourselves in jackets – it was April after all, and the dunes are at 5,000 ft above sea level) to the required single digits, 8 PSI in the front and 6 PSI in the back for the Tacoma TRD Pro I borrowed from Toyota Canada, and around 6 PSI at all four corners for Glen’s JK on 35s. A local police officer drove by us as we were sticking our flags on our bumpers, waved and carried on. We were good to go it seems – hammer down!

As it turns out, we took the back way into the dunes, not the main Egin Lakes entrance, which turned out to be just fine. Besides two dirt bikes, we had every inch of the dunes to ourselves and due to some recent rain, the dunes were smooth and flat and every track we laid down in every direction belongs to us. It was just like being the first person down your street or gravel road after a nice fresh snow fall and we made the best of it.

St.Anthony DunesIt was Glen’s first time on the sand dunes and it didn’t take long for him to figure out how to get up and down the bigger hills. This area has a lot of underlying lava rock and we did need to watch the bottom of the sand bowls with our low tire pressure and the odd stand of tree stumps sticking up like Greek ruins. We spent a couple of hours sliding up and down the hills challenging each other’s high marks with tight turns on the steep hills and generally driving around with stupid big grins on our faces – sand dunes tend to do that to you!

Now that we know that – Yes! Street-legal vehicles are allowed on the dunes here. Yes! We do need an OHV sticker from Idaho or another state with an OHV sticker program and will order them on-line before coming next time. Yes! Like other dunes you need a flag on your vehicle at least 9 feet in the air. No! The locals are not conspiring to keep these dunes to themselves – come and enjoy for yourself, the sand was awesome. No! the dunes are not closed in the winter but there are some areas that are, but still plenty of play area all year round – we will be back next year with more time to spare.


If you plan to go:

There are a couple of camping areas right on the dunes, seasonally closed.

As mentioned, while the Sand Hills Resort was not quite open for the season yet, the owner was very helpful on the phone when I called and answered all my stupid questions. We drove by – it has direct sand access and lots of RV and camping spots.





Egin Lake BLM campground. While we ran out of time and were not able to find this site, it’s at the main staging area for the dunes and also had close sand access. It’s first come, first serve for camping.

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