1 - 2
FATMAP difficulty grade
While you can create a nearly endless array of loop routes in the intricate trail network known as the Arkansas Hills, the Sand Dunes Trail is one of the most interesting trails in the system. You can either run Sand Dunes as an out-and-back or loop it with other trails in the area.
The route shown here depicts a loop option beginning by climbing Sand Dunes, so if you prefer to run an out-and-back route, simply turn around at the top where the trail meets FS Road 173. The trail ascends through a narrow valley in the dry, deserty hills.
Crisscrossing a dry stream bed, the trail tread is rocky and rough almost the entire way. After passing the Backbone and Prospector Trails, Sand Dunes reaches its namesake: a small sand dune that has somehow formed in this narrow little valley in the hills.
It’s a strange and unique formation for this area—it’s not like there’s a sand dune in the corner of every valley in the Ark Hills! Take a moment to marvel at this stunning formation. As you continue climbing above the sand dune, the character of the hills you’re running through only gets more intriguing, with beautiful sandstone cliffs and rock formations all around.
The singletrack winds below gorgeous rocks, around exposed points of land, and up and over a plethora of boulders.
Truly, the Sand Dunes trail is a gem! To form an easy loop, at FS 173 descend down the road to Little Rattler and to Frontside to return back to Salida.
For a more interesting loop, consider heading up the road a bit and then down the Unkle Nazty Trail to the Mesa Trail. Whichever route you select in the Arkansas Hills, working in the Sand Dunes trail is _definitely_ the right decision!