Photographing the Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley, CA

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If you really want to be a nature or landscape photographer, especially of the southwest, you will have to photograph sand dunes.  Death Valley has several dune fields, the largest and best one being Mesquite.  There are two parking areas.  The main parking area is near Stovepipe Wells and a second parking lot is located at the end of a dirt road off of Scotty’s Castle Road.  We tried out both areas on our last trip.  Here is what you will see.

Large Dunes near Stovepipe Wells

The large dunes are the most popular, especially for hikers.  It will be very difficult to get a photo of these dunes without people or footprints.  Furthermore, distances can be very deceiving here.  The dunes are a mile or more away, so plan accordingly.  We walked away from the largest dunes to the south east.  Bring a telephoto.

Large dune south of the parking lot
Large dune south of the parking lot
Large dunes south of the parking lot
Dunes south of the parking lot

Smaller Dunes North off of the Dirt Road

It is easy to miss the dirt road that leads to the smaller dunes.  As you go north on Scotty’s Castle road, you will hit the dirt road on the left hand side in about a mile.  These dunes are smaller, but there are almost no people out here and no footprints.

Look for close-ups and abstracts
Look for close-ups and abstracts
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This large “C” shape dune (also on the cover) can be seen from the dirt parking lot.  It is well over a mile away as Mary and I hiked for a good 20 minutes just to reach it.

Take a look at our popular blog about how to photograph sand for some helpful hints.

Here is a plan for photographing all of the key Death Valley sites in a weekend.

To see more of photographs, please go to

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