Just a little over 60 miles to the south of Boise, sand dunes sprawl across almost 5,000 acres. It’s close enough to make a great day trip, but too close to really consider spending the night at the sand dunes. However, you should strongly consider spending the night. It’s a breathtaking sight to watch the sun set or rise across the sand dunes, and it allows you to fully experience the dunes. Of course, that’s not the only reason you should spend the night.
Bruneau Dunes State Park
The sand dunes in the Bruneau Dunes State Park are truly a sight to behold. The park is home to the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America. It towers above the rest of the sand dunes, and the sandy desert floor, at nearly 500 feet. While there are certainly taller sand dunes, the single-structure is an important distinction. The sand dune is called single-structured because its sand hills are connected. They aren’t spread out.
The sand dunes were created in the natural basin, as the result of constant winds gathering sand in the bowl over the course of 15,000 years. While the sands drift in the wind, the sand dunes at the Bruneau Dunes State Park are relatively stable. Unlike other dunes, they don’t drift. There are two winds that blow prevalently, one from the northwest and one from the southeast, that keep the sand dunes stable.
Bruneau Dunes Observatory
The dark night skies made the Bruneau Dunes State Park the perfect place for an observatory. This is only one of two public observatories in Idaho, and is the prime reason for spending the night at the sand dunes. If you love stargazing, you won’t want to miss this. You’ll go through a short orientation, and then you’ll be able to use the observatory’s different telescopes to explore the night sky.
Throughout the viewing season, you’ll be able to visit the observatory on Friday and Saturday nights. The viewings start at dusk, and are very popular. If you’re really interesting in visiting the observatory, you’ll want to check out the schedule. The visitor’s center at the Bruneau Dunes State Park will have more information. If you’d like to request a private viewing at the observatory, you can make a reservation for a Thursday night.
Bruneau Dunes Camping
Of course, if you’re going to be staying the night to check out the observatory, or to just enjoy the sand dunes at night, you’re going to need a place to stay. Fortunately, the Bruneau Dunes State Park has plenty of campgrounds and sites for you to use. There are standard campsites without electricity and water, and there are serviced campsites that do have electricity and water. There are two main campgrounds, plus cabins, that are open year round on a first-come, first-served basis. Although, you can make reservations.
· Broken Wheel Campground. There are standard and service sites available here. You’ll also find shower and restroom facilities in the center of the campground. If you have a group, there is also a group campsite as well. Some of the campsites offer shelters to provide relief from the sun and wind.
· Eagle Cove Campground. The campsites available at this campground are serviced. There are individual sites that are all serviced with water and electricity. Like the Broken Wheel Campground, there are shower and restroom facilities in the center. Eagle Cove doesn’t have a group campsite, but if you need to reserve multiple campsites, you are able to do so.
· Cabins. If you don’t have a tent or camping trailer, there are cabins available. Of course, you might want to simply take advantage of the air conditioning in the cabins as well. Each cabin sleeps five, and include electricity, air conditioning, heat, and lockable doors and windows. Reservations are available year round for cabins.
The fees for the different campsites are available online, as well as the ability to make reservations. Simply check out the Bruneau Dunes State Park website linked earlier to find the necessary information.
Beyond a Day Trip
The Bruneau Dunes State Park has a lot to offer. While it’s easy to make a visit to the park just a day trip, you’ll be missing out on what a night at the dunes has to offer. Check out the skies at the observatory, or simply enjoy a peaceful night at the campgrounds or cabins. With so much to do at the sand dunes, you might want to stay the night in order to spend another day anyway.