Summer winding down doesn’t have to signal the end of camping season, especially if you live in Southern California. Once the extreme heat lessens and we swing into autumn, desert season officially begins. One of my favorite desert camping destinations is Glamis, also known as the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. It’s located in the southeast corner of California and borders Mexico, and it happens to be an offroading playground with giant, smooth sand dunes that stretch for miles. Keep reading for an explanation of the different camping areas at Glamis and what you need to know before heading out there.
Camping in Glamis is primitive; there’s no running water but there are scattered pit toilets, so your best bet is RV camping, although we did tent camp for the first few years out there and it is definitely doable. We’ve camped at three different areas at Glamis: Gecko Road, the Flats and the Washes.
Tent camping in Glamis; it’s not impossible! Our campsite on Halloween weekend 2013 in the Flats.
Gecko Road is the first camping area you’ll pass when driving east approaching Glamis. Make a right hand turn and wind around the paved Gecko Road where there are pull off areas to camp, with pit toilets scattered throughout. We tent camped at Gecko Road on my first trip to Glamis, and yes, sand blew into our tent, it was windy and loud, but oh man, we had a blast.
The Flats are the second camping area you’ll pass on the right side off the main road. (And they are literally right on the side of the main road.) This is by far the busiest and loudest area to camp, and if you’re planning on the flats on a holiday weekend, get there early and bring some caution tape to rope off your area. We tent camped out at the Flats on Halloween one year, and my husband and I roped off a huge area for all our friends with RVs who were arriving one day later than us. And if we didn’t have the area taped off, I’m not sure if we would have been able to save enough space. Campers constantly stream in throughout the night, so there’s no telling who your neighbor will be in the morning. The Flats are located near the food stands and promotional weekend activities, like Camp RZR.
The Flats are near the food stands in Glamis.
The Washes are my top pick for camping spots in Glamis. Make a right on the dirt road directly before the railroad tracks, then start cruising through washes 1-20-ish. (I’m not sure how many washes there are, they are never-ending!) The Washes offer more privacy and space than Gecko Road and the Flats, and they are adjacent to a set of smaller dunes that are less intimidating for first time dune drivers. The last time I camped at the Washes, we had a group of seven RVs and a dozen sand toys, and still plenty of space. The only downside to the Washes is that they are located next to the railroad tracks, and the loud trains seem to pass by only at night.
A video I made on our 2013 fall trip when we camped at the Washes. And yes, we’re taking on dunes in our Jeep Wrangler!
Thinking about heading out to Glamis this fall? Here’s my list of things to pack that differ from standard camping gear:
// Glamis pass – this can be purchased at Chapparal in San Bernardino or at most gas stations on the way to Glamis. The pass is required to camp anywhere in Glamis and usually costs about $20.
// Water – there’s no running water in Glamis, bring your own!
// Earplugs – especially if you’re tent camping.
// Offroad toys with paddle tires – quads, dirt bikes, dune buggies, RZRs, Jeeps, anything!
// Tools – to fix the offroad toys.
// Cash – for the ice cream truck, of course.