Juniper Dunes Wilderness
BLM Wilderness of especial interest for four-wheel drive vehicle owners, and hikers. The road in requires either a 7 mile hike or a four wheel drive to take the sandy/hilly road. A very different kind of wilderness. Desert sand with rare Juniper trees and other low vegetation. 19,860 acres with 3,920 open, 8,620 limited to designated roads and trails (area of critical environmental concern), and 7,140 acres permanently closed. The topography is characterized by flat or rolling relief caused by wind deposited sands and silts. Vegetation in the area is comprised of a mosaic of habitat type ranging from those dominated by sagebrush and rabbit brush to open grassland with scattered Juniper trees. Land use includes hiking, camping, hunting, & horseback riding. Don't even think of Mountain biking as there is a ranger posted there. Summer temperatures can reach well over 100 degrees F and can plummet to near zero degrees or below in winter. One thing I like about this site is that one can go there in winter. I especially enjoyed driving my four wheel drive vehicle in the sandy trails. Wildlife include hawks, pheasants, coyotes. This is a very different feeling place. Don't let the motocross motorcycles bother you as they are not allow even near the important dune area. Call the BLM office in Spokane before going out to be sure you can get access: 509-536-1200. This practice is becoming more and more used by us as tree blockage and other access blockages have kept us from getting to our public lands. This is the largest concentration of this species this far north in the world. Some of the trees are hundreds of years old. We only saw one other couple while hiking all day and the closest we ever got to them was about a mile away. This area gives one a spiritual feeling of cleanliness and light-green peace and white sand beauty. The smell of the giant sagebrush plants is exhilarating and can be strenghthened by rubbing and squeezing the light grey-green leaves between ones fingers.
Here are the directions and GPS readings. Parking area where you would leave your car to hike or drive on with 4WD. There should be some motorcyclists parked there on weekends.
N 46° 25.708' W 118° 49.523'
Once you get to this parking lot you have it made. Here's how. Going south from Spokane on 395 or North from Pasco on 395 take the highway 12 turnoff east. Take 12 about 1 1/2 miles to the Pasco/Kahlotus highway even though the sign will mention only Kahlotus at first. Drive 5.6 miles to Peterson Road. You will see Martindale road before Peterson. At this Peterson junction there is giant yellow mail box pictured above. Take Peterson left and north. Go north about 4 miles until you see a large sandy parking area on your right. Be careful entering this parking lot and look for very deep tracks on the main road as I saw at least 2 vehicles stuck here (these were both non-fourwheel drives vehicles that had to be pulled out by SUVs) This is the parking area where we took the GPS reading above. You must not go left or straight ahead here as it will become too rough. You must take a right turn here whether you are hiking in or taking your 4WD. Do not take a normal car any further as the sand is deep and hilly. Take this road to the right and stay on the main part of the road as it does have a few minor off-chutes which probably reconnect anyway, but you want the best road. This road was a 30 minute roller coaster ride in my Toyota Forerunner and I really enjoyed it. If I wanted a wilder ride I just sped up a bit. After you see a buffer gate (z-shaped gate that only humans can go through) at about 6.2 miles, you can start looking for the next buffer gate which is the closest gate to the dunes and the Juniper trees valley. You can use deer trails or strike out direct for the dunes. I don't feel you could get lost here too easy if you just keep looking back at your gate you can keep your orientation. Of course a GPS will work flawlessly here.
I would get a copy of the Delorme Washington State Atlas and Gazeteer if you don't have one as it makes this trip easier. There is no water, no facilities, no nothing so bring what you need.
Water, Camera, Binoculars