Plan Your Visit
The United States Congress designated the Juniper Dunes Wilderness in 1984 and it now has over 7140 acres. The Juniper Dunes Wilderness preserves the northernmost growth of western juniper, some of which have been around for 150 years, along with windswept sand dunes measuring 130 feet in height and 1200 feet in width. Other than junipers, no trees grow in significant numbers here, but many bushes and flowers bloom wondrously come spring, although the mountains that separate western and eastern Washington generally wring the moisture from the air.
The landscape here takes quite a battering, in fact, with strong southwest winds to build the dunes, seven to eight inches of precipitation to moisten them, a foot or so of snow that drifts down in winter, and summer temperatures that occasionally rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Elevations range from 750 feet to 1,130 feet above sea level. But plenty of animals thrive despite the extremes: mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, badgers, skunks, weasels, porcupines, pocket gophers, kangaroo rats, several species of mice, hawks, owls, ravens, quail, partridge, pheasants, doves, numerous songbirds, and rattlesnakes.
To download YOUR copy of the Juniper Dunes Wilderness Area brochure, click here (PDF).
Wilderness visitors must pack in all drinking water and be prepared for large temperature swings. Proper sun protection such as a wide-brimmed hat is recommended, even in early spring and late fall, along with sun screen lotion. There are no sources of ground water in the Wilderness.
Be aware that road access past the first "P" symbol (for "Parking") on the map when traveling northbound on Peterson Road (where Peterson Road ends and Juniper Dunes Road begins) is typically difficult due to loose sand road conditions and potentially some large roller-coaster like "whoops" in Juniper Dunes Road. Vehicle travel past this point normally requires, at a minimum, a high clearance vehicle, preferably 4-wheel-drive.
It is recommended that visitors to the Wilderness park their vehicles no farther up Juniper Dunes Road than the upper off-highway vehicle (OHV) "Open" area parking/staging area (identified on the map with the 2nd "P" symbol and "?" symbol), which itself is loose sand, and therefore potentially a place where vehicles could get stuck.
Access to the Wilderness Gate is via the one-mile stretch of Wilderness Road where it starts ¾ mile north past the upper parking/staging area off of Juniper Dunes Road. There is a Wilderness Road sign at that intersection but it is easy to miss. Travel on Wilderness Road requires a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle to reach the Wilderness Gate in the best of conditions, i.e. in late fall/ winter/early spring or soon after significant precipitation when the loose sand road has moisture and some compaction. As stated above it is recommended that people do not attempt turning off of Juniper Dunes Road onto Wilderness Road to access the Wilderness Gate, especially when sand conditions are dry. If you get seriously stuck it will be very difficult to get towed out.
Vehicles pulling trailers should never attempt driving past the upper OHV "Open" area parking/staging area. Visitors to the Wilderness can hike or ride on horseback across the OHV "Open" area from the upper parking/staging area to the Wilderness, or via Wilderness Road to access the Wilderness Gate.
The area is approximately seven miles northeast of Pasco, Washington. From Ritzville and Spokane, Washington:
- US 395 South to Pasco. Exit onto Hwy 12 East (towards Walla Walla).
- Just under 2 miles, exit onto Kahlotus Road (ramp north towards Kahlotus).
- Continue NE on the Kahlotus Road for approx 5 miles.
- Turn left onto Peterson Road. First 2 miles is Private Road.***Note: there is a huge yellow mailbox on the opposite side of Kahlotus Road at the entrance to Peterson Rd.
- Continue straight approx 4 miles on Peterson Road. At the Juniper Road intersection, turn right.
- Park in this area or continue for approximately 2 more miles.
- There is a second large parking area with a metal information Kiosk at this point; this puts you next to the play area dunes. Be aware of sandy conditions in this parking area.
- From here use an area map to get to the Wilderness Gate +1 mile away via Wilderness Road. Please sign in at the kiosk.
Detailed area and topographic maps are available here.
Know Before You Go
Visitors can help in protecting this fragile ecosystem by adequately planning and by arriving prepared! Knowledge of the area, weather, terrain, and common sense can help to ensure you have safe, fun, and memorable trip to the wild. Trail junctions are generally unsigned, so you should carry a map and a compass. And always be sure to bring your ten essentials!
Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace refers to a set of outdoor ethics that emphasizes principles designed to promote conservation in the outdoors—it also makes good common sense. Leave No Trace is built on Seven Principles: Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife, and Be Considerate of Other Visitors.
Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
Dispose of Waste Properly
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in "catholes" dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the "cathole" when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
Leave What You Find
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.