The Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park is a tiny hidden gem in the vast, deserty wasteland of Southern Idaho. I came across it on Pinterest and, being that I’m an Idahoan now (it’s official, I even have the I.D. to prove it), I had to see it for myself.
I saw the pictures of giant sandy hills, marked with footprints along the crest, looking all whimsical and artistic and I thought to myself, “Oh, it would be so cool to slide down those dunes on my pretty, pink flamingo!”
Ah, young Kristin… there’s so much I wish I could tell you, but tragically, I can not.
I wish I could say bringing the pink flamingo was my only mistake on this quick trip to Bruneau, but it wasn’t. And while my various mistakes made for a great and sort of hilarious story to tell my family, there’s a lot I would do different next time. (Though I have to say, the pink flamingo did contrast nicely with the white sand – so it wasn’t a total waste, right?).
So after thinking and laughing a little about my epic dune fail, I figured “Why not blog about it?”. At least this way I can save you all from getting blistered and itchy and looking like a complete fool like I did.
Without further ado, here is your complete guide to the Bruneau Sand Dunes.
WHAT TO BRING.
GOOD FOOTWEAR: According to my husband who spent 7 months in Afghanistan “there ARE no ‘good shoes’ for hiking in sand”.
Sneakers continually fill up with sand until it feels like your feet must have grown 2 sizes in the span of 20 minutes.
Flip flops won’t stay on your feet.
Sandals trap the sand under your foot and give you crazy blisters.
My best recommendation is medium height or tall boots with no laces. That way no sand gets in and you can wear good socks underneath to prevent blistering.
Example: My Blundstone’s. Are they expensive? Yes. Are they worth it? Also yes. They’re like the Jeep of the shoe business. Durable and all-terrain. But if these are out of your price-range, any lace-free boot will do!
PLENTY OF WATER: You’re going to need to replenish your fluids – constantly – especially if you go in the summertime. There is little to no shade in the park and the shade that IS available (near the lakes) is riddled with mosquitos and horse flies. I only know this because my sister-in-law and I had to head down there to search for Kaytu’s (my dog-neice) missing shoe. We never found it and our efforts were rewarded with at least 30 bug bites per girl. Lucky us!
SUNSCREEN: Again, more important if you’re visiting in the summer. It’s blistering hot by mid-day!
WHEN TO VISIT.
EARLY TO MID SPRING, OR LATE FALL.
Idaho, believe it or not, is incredibly hot in the summer. We were dealing with 102 degree days 5 days out of the week and the other 2 days were in the high 90’s.
With those kinds of temperatures, you’ll get wiped out and dehydrated pretty quick. And even more frightening, the sand will burn your skin! I know from experience and I’m looking at the proof, in the form of heat blisters, right now.
Remember when I said I had to sift through clouds of mosquitos to look for a dog shoe? Well, that was because Kaytu (who had been running up and down the hill repeatedly as we walked along the crest) started yelping one time on her back way up. I noticed one of her booties was missing and figured the sand must be hot. I didn’t realize just HOW hot, however, and as I walked down the hill to look for the shoe the sand started to avalanche onto the backs of my legs. It took a second for my nerves to send proper signals to my brain but when they finally did I realized, “Crap. My skin is burning” and started sprinting down the hillside. When I got to the bottom, my skin was bright red and a couple hours later, I had the lovely blisters that I’m still sporting today. (THE FLOOR IS LAVA)
Bottom line: Don’t visit on a 100 degree day. And wear tall socks to protect those delicate ankles of yours!
WHAT TO DO.
HIKING: Hiking in the Bruneau Dunes is a lot of fun, but be prepared for complete exhaustion. As stated before, make sure you have plenty of water and good shoes! It may look easy from the bottom, but when you get going you’ll realize walking through sand is like wearing 20lb ankle weights on an uphill hike.
SANDBOARDING: You can rent these from the main building at the entrance of the park. It’s really fun and, if you have kids, it’s a great way to tire them out. Walking up those dunes over and over again really takes it out of you! Keep in mind, sand boards use a special kind of wax that gives them the ability to slide easily over the sand. Hence, why floaties, snowboards and ski’s didn’t work for us. So if you’re going to bring your own board, make sure it’s the right kind!
CAMPING: You can camp at the dunes if you plan to stay a while. Though there isn’t much shade (even at the campsites) and to be 100% honest, I consider it more of a day trip. Not a weekend or week-long excursion. There is only so much sand a person can walk on! But if you do choose to pitch a tent or park your RV, pricing is below.
WHAT IT COSTS.
ENTRANCE FEE: $5 (unless you have the Idaho State Parks pass)
SANDBOARD RENTALS: $15 a day
Standard: $12 – $21
Yes! Dogs are welcome in most areas of the Bruneau State park, but leashes are required in some areas.
A few helpful tips for dog owners:
- Bring a ton of water for your pup.
- Bring a leash.
- Check your dog for ticks afterward (especially if they’ve been down near the lake area).
- And above all, don’t bring your dog in the summertime unless you have shoes or booties. Depending on the time of year, the sand will burn their little paws! A good general rule is to put the back of your hand on the ground for 5 seconds. If it is too hot for you hand, it is too hot for your dog to walk on. (Easy to remember – Five Second Rule!)
Lots of families visit this park and by the end of the day, the kids are totally wiped out. What parent doesn’t want that?
We didn’t find that out until we were approached by a surprisingly polite park ranger. Our handy-dandy “No-Fly Zone” app told us it was A-OK to fly, but in the future we will check in with a park ranger beforehand. Probably a good policy to have!
Would we recommend this place?
While the Bruneau Sand dunes may not be as large and impressive as the Great Sand Dunes of Colorado (hence the “Great”) they are still a lot of fun and worth a visit. In fact, we’ll probably be going back in the near future and trying our hands (or feet) at some sand boarding.
Want to see the Bruneau Dunes in live action? Check out our quick video!
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