The slogan “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” must be true because until I stumbled onto them, I had never heard of Nellis Dunes, despite my numerous RV trips to and through Las Vegas.
For a day or for an overnight RV trip, the dunes provide a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the Vegas Strip, especially for those of us who like to RV with our motorized off-road toys!
Nellis Sand Dunes consists of 15,000 acres on the edge of North Las Vegas, just 20 minutes from the strip. Actually the term sand dunes is somewhat of a misnomer, as the area is more desert than dunes, consisting of not only sand dunes, but also gravel, hard pack, hills, valleys and washed out gullies. Off-road trails run in every direction.
The area offers something for off-roaders of every skill level and preferred mode of transportation. Tight twisty trails, hill climbs, rolling sand dunes, large flat play areas, user-made tracks with nice berms and easy trails through desert scrub provide hours of fun on ATVs, buggies, motorcycles, sand rails or your 4×4 dinghy or tow vehicle!
If you aren’t traveling with your own toys, rentals and guides are available. Just Google “Nellis Dunes rentals” and you will have many companies to select from. During my visit Sunbuggy (sunbuggy.net) was set up in the dunes doing business. Rental companies will pick you up in Las Vegas or meet you in the dunes.
The actual sand dunes are in the southwest section of the official riding area. Climb to the top of one of the higher dunes to enjoy a good view of Las Vegas. The towering resorts shimmer in the desert heat during the day and light up the desert sky by night.
Another activity while sitting atop the dunes is watching the brave men and women of nearby Nellis Air Force Base roar by in their fighters as they practice maneuvers. The base is home to the largest and most demanding advanced combat air-training operation in the world. It is the “top gun” of advanced air combat aviation training. The base’s mission is delivered through a broad assortment of state-of-the-art aircraft. Some of the planes you are likely to see flying overhead include F-15 Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons.
Fans of auto racing can use the area as a base camp for their RV while attending the races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway just down the road. If you really have a need for speed, check out the Richard Petty Driving Experience (drivepetty.com/experiences/las-vegas-ride-tour) for the chance to experience the raceway from a driver’s point of view inside a real racecar on the track!
Nellis Dunes is under jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management and standard BLM rules apply: Camping stays in the same location are limited to 14 days. Primitive campsites must be at least 200 feet from roads and water sources such as springs, ponds, creeks or waters provided for wildlife or livestock. Gray water may be dumped at least 200 feet from any water source. Dumping sewage on public land is illegal. Since there are many primitive campfire pits already on the landscape, you should use existing pits. Before building a fire, check local fire restrictions as campfires may be banned during certain times of the year.
Whether you want to boondock, fly across the sand on an off-road vehicle, or watch fighter planes or fast cars, Nellis Dunes provides a great escape for a day or weekend.
Dave Helgeson and his wife, Cheri, promote RV and manufactured home shows in Western Washington. They spend their free time traveling and enjoying the RV lifestyle. Follow his blog, “Adventures in RVing,” at rvlife.com.
IF YOU GO:
Best time to visit is fall through spring as summers are hot and there is no shade or water.
Directions: Take exit 58 off Interstate 15 onto Las Vegas Boulevard North (Highway 604). Head south from the intersection—the first staging/camping area will be on the left. If you are looking to ride mainly on the sand, continue southwest a mile or so on Las Vegas Boulevard North, and you will soon see the sand dunes off to the southeast. Camping is allowed anywhere along the east side of Las Vegas Boulevard North over a span of a couple of miles. For something a little more secluded, head east into the riding area.
Rules and Regulations: ATVs operated on public lands must have a muffler, spark arrester and working headlights and taillights for nighttime use. Children under 16 operating an ATV must be supervised by an adult. (There are no driver’s license or minimum age requirements for off-road vehicles.)
A person may operate an off-highway vehicle on any public land, trail, or unpaved county road unless prohibited by the governmental entity that has jurisdiction.
For Information: The BLM currently manages Nellis Dunes, but there is a proposal to transfer the property to Clark County. The BLM website is blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo.lvfo.1.html and the phone number of the Southern Nevada District Office is (702) 515-5000. The Clark County website and phone number are accessclarkcounty.com and (702) 455-0000.