Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
480.00 ft (146.30 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
6.00 mi (9.66 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The six-mile interpretive trail, referred to as the 6 Mile Dune Trail, at Bruneau Dunes State Park traverses the country's tallest single-structured sand dune. This shifting spectacle is a result of two opposing winds consistently meeting at the same velocity at the center of this natural basin. These stable conditions give Bruneau Dunes an unusual anti-drifting property and a reasonably consistent trail to follow. 

The 6 Mile Dune Trail officially starts at the state park’s Information Center and navigates counter-clockwise. As it is a loop, hikers can begin anywhere in the park and head any direction. For those staying at the aptly-named Medicine Wheel Campground, the closest place to connect with the trail is less than a half-mile away. 

Starting at the Information Center and heading counter-clockwise, the trail begins by traversing the vast shrubland desert environment surrounding the dunes. Posts have been buried in the sandy ground to help keep track of the route. Keep an eye out for these posts to begin with, as they are vital for finding the best path through the arid landscape. 

Don’t underestimate the desert properties of the hike. Little shade is available, and because the trail traverses sand, each step is a little harder to take. Additionally, the sand heats up quickly in the sun, especially on the dune, to the point that midday hikes in the summer are ill-advised. Plenty of water and snacks should be packed along, no matter the time of year. 

The posts in the ground lead hikers close to the shore of Dune Lake, the large body of water beneath the sand dune. Areas of trail close to the water are prone to flying insects throughout the day and especially near sundown. Continue past the lake to the last wooden post indicating a direct route up the sand dune. 

Climbing up a sand dune is different than climbing up a mountain. The steps are more tiresome as your feet sink, and the exposure doesn’t feel nearly as exposed. Throughout any visit to Bruneau, expect to see at least one child tumbling down a steep sand slope laughing the entire way. 

Approaching the sand dune's western side from the Information Center brings hikers to the actual highpoint of the dune. It’s a ridgeline hike once you’ve made it to the top. The sand dune is impressively long, a fact much more appreciated as you make your way along the shifting apex. This length leaves plenty of time to figure out the best foot placement technique while traversing across. 

If the sun and daylight allows, take your time atop the sand dune and appreciate the immense views that span for hundreds of miles. It's no easy feat climbing to the top of the dune, and the ridgeline presents limited places to rest. Eventually you'll encounter the eastern end of the sand dune, after crossing the “Vortex Crater,” where it’s a bit of a winding route down. shifts in wind directions adjust this path from time to time.

The route continues through shrubland and desert on the east side of the dune. The trail then passes by access points to the Bruneau Dunes Observatory. This dark sky laboratory offers public observation on Friday and Saturday nights. 

The trail continues past the observatory and then passes by side trails leading to Medicine Wheel and Eagle Cove Campgrounds. To finish the six-mile loop, continue from the campgrounds back to the Information Center. For more fun at Bruneau, the Information Center rents out sand boards to slide down the massive dunes. 

The Ultimate
Adventure Maps

Access 650K+ miles of trail data, Offline Maps, GPS Tracking, Waypoint functionality, Outdoor Project Adventures, and more with onX Backcountry. Start your free trial today–no credit card required.

Start Free Trial

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Fall
Spring

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

State Park Fee

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Unique sand dune adventure. Campground within walking distance. Can sled down the sand dune.

Cons

Sand is incredibly hot midday in the summer.

Trailhead Elevation

2,510.00 ft (765.05 m)

Highest point

2,760.00 ft (841.25 m)

Features

Fishing
Family friendly
Big vistas
Geologically significant

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Nearby Adventures

Comments

Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.