If you live in or near San Diego, this is the perfect quick adventure for you.

San Diego Dunes

Getting there

Start by grabbing a friend or two or ten. Jump in the car and put on some good tunes. Drive from San Diego to El Centro (1 hour 45 minutes with no traffic). Time it so that you arrive in the dunes a little bit before sunset. We recommend stopping at California’s most iconic burger place, “IN-N-OUT”, fueling up and then making the rest of the drive to the sand dunes (45 minutes). Type “Hugh T. Osborne Lookout Park” into your navigation so you find yourself in the right place.  

Adventures near San Diego


Our favorite activities when we get there are camping, hiking barefoot, rolling down the steep sand hills, photography, stargazing and bocce ball. If you want to hike, sunrise is the best time as it has the coolest temperatures and also is the most beautiful.

Post Adventure

After your morning hike and when it starts to heat up head back to El Centro and go to IHOP and get some pancakes!

What you need

  • Lots of water: We recommend bringing two of our Glacier Bottles to keep you well hydrated and to save our planet by reducing single use plastic.
  • A tent or car to sleep in (You could do a day trip if you want)

Things that would be nice to bring

  • Coffee: We recommend bringing one of our Thermal Mugs so you don't have to worry about spilling while you are hiking

  • Jet boil to help make your coffee

  • A Summit Beanie just incase it is extra cool at night or in the early am

  • Bocci ball

  • Camera

  • Cards


A trip to the dunes is the perfect way to get outside over the weekend without breaking the bank or spending too much time if you need to be back to work on Monday. If you have never been, it honestly brings you back to the first time you got to play in the sand as a kid.


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  • This article captured my attention because I always think of San Diego and the Pacific Ocean. You opened my eyes to another tremendous family friendly adventure. I would also cap off this trip with visits to HOTEL Del Coronado and old Town San Diego.

    Jacqueline Jones on
  • I am a San Diego native since 1953 and I have never been to the Sand Dunes. I spent most of my time at the beach surfing, but it looks like I will have to give the desert sand a try. Thanks for the Article.

    Mike on
  • Wished I had known this when I visited SD years ago

    Tammy on
  • Hello

  • Thanks for this article. I used to race at the old airport in El Centro and never heard about the dunes or the Hugh T. Osborne Lookout Park. Looks like a fun day or weekend excursion.

    Looking forward to giving this trip a try.

    David Rynerson on
  • Bring a sandboard or yawp your way down!

    Jo Evans on
  • Had no idea that there are dunes in SD! Wow. And I’m somewhat local too

    Linda on
  • Me and my girlfriends are planning a trip to San Diego this spring, so making the sand dunes part of our itinerary will be perfect! Thanks for the update.

    Donna Taylor on

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