|Yuma Sand Dunes from the freeway|
Though the sand dunes are located in California, about 20 miles west of Yuma, they’re still named after America’s hottest summer city. Motorists on Interstate 8 drive through miles of the dunes on their way to San Diego. There’s a rest area between the east and west bound lanes of the freeway, but there is no dunes access. The dunes, along the eastern edge of the Imperial Valley, run for more than 40 miles.
The dunes are a national recreation area managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). They’re very popular with off-road enthusiasts. More than 80,000 acres are open to off-road motorized vehicles in the dunes, mainly starting at Highway 78 and running south to the freeway. Motorized vehicles are not allowed in the North Algodones Dunes Wilderness, which is accessible only on foot or horseback. Vehicle camping is allowed in all areas open to vehicles, though some spots are available on a first-come basis.
The Yuma Sand Dunes are popular with movie-makers who shot films here as early as 1913. Films made here include Star Wars, Scorpion King and Jarhead.