Romance, adventure, and stunning photos: what could be better than a Glamis Sand Dunes Engagement Session? These epic dunes in Imperial County, California provide a unique backdrop to capture a special moment between two people, with their vibrant colors, towering formations, and open desert landscape. Whether you love the thrill of an ATV ride, or the quiet moment of a sunrise silhouette, Glamis will provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
In this article, we’ll explore the beautiful, unforgettable possibilities of a Glamis Sand Dunes engagement session. From scouting out the perfect spot to safety and photo tips, you’ll leave feeling inspired to plan a session at this breathtaking location.
The Couple: G + J
G + J met while working at Disneyland in 2015. I photographed their proposal in April 2022 on the shores of Malibu Beach Inn. J reached out to me to capture his surprise proposal and I was honored! I met G in 2015 when we both worked in a preschool and kept in touch since then, so I was excited to see this next chapter emerge.
One year later, the two are planning their wedding and want photos for the announcements and save-the-dates. I sent over a few location ideas, one of them being Glamis Sand Dunes, and they immediately knew that was the spot.
Glamis Sand Dunes
Glamis Sand Dunes (also known as Imperial Sand Dunes or North Algodones Sand Dunes) is a vast expanse of sand dunes located in the southeastern part of California. It is part of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area and covers around 40 miles in length and 5 miles in width. The sand dunes are known for their unique and otherworldly beauty, with towering sand mountains and shifting dunes that can reach heights of up to 300 feet.
Glamis Sand Dunes is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, particularly those who enjoy off-road activities such as dune buggies, dirt bikes, and ATVs. The dunes also attract hikers, birdwatchers, and photographers who come to appreciate the stunning desert landscapes and wildlife.
In preparation for G + J’s engagement session I contacted the Bureau of Land Management that oversees the Imperial Sand Dunes. For our purposes, we were not required to obtain a permit. If planning a photography session at Glamis Sand Dunes I recommend contacting them with the specifics of your project as the requirement of a permit varies by event. They can be contacted by email at BLM_CA_Web_EC@blm.gov or by phone tel:760-337-4400.
How to Get to Glamis Sand Dunes
To get to Glamis Sand Dunes, you can follow these directions:
- Start by locating the town of Brawley, California. You can use GPS or a map to do this.
- From Brawley, take State Route 78 eastbound for about 25 miles until you reach State Route 115.
- Take State Route 115 northbound for about 13 miles until you reach Ted Kipf Road. Turn left onto Ted Kipf Road.
- Take Ted Kipf Road for about 5 miles until you reach the entrance to the Glamis North Hot Springs Resort. Turn right at the entrance.
- Follow the signs to the Glamis Sand Dunes.
Free two-hour parking is available at the Hugh T. Osborne Lookout Park.
- From Brawley, California, take State Route 78 eastbound for about 25 miles until you reach State Route 115.
- Take State Route 115 northbound for about 13 miles until you reach the entrance to the Glamis North Hot Springs Resort. Turn right at the entrance.
- Follow the signs to the Glamis Sand Dunes. Once you reach the dunes, you can park your vehicle in the designated parking areas.
- From the parking areas, you can access the Osborne Overlook by hiking or driving on the sand dunes. It’s recommended to have a 4WD vehicle and a permit to drive in the sand dunes. Alternatively, you can hike to the overlook from the parking areas.
I recommend taking advantage of the untouched (by vehicles) wilderness side across from the parking lot. The parking lot is located on the motor side which allows ATVs and other vehicles to drive on the sand dunes. For your safety and to avoid tire tracks in your photos, cross over to the wilderness side. You’ll find the desert dunes with snake and roadrunner tracks alongside wild plants.
Other Important Information
- Cell service can be limited at the sand dunes.
- There are restrooms located at the parking lot.
- The best lighting is during sunrise and sunset when the landscape is a beautiful golden hue with painted skies.
- The parking lot can get crowded during holidays so for a more secluded experience visit during off-season or away from big holidays.
- This is the desert! Avoid summer time when temperatures soar above 100. Not only will it be uncomfortable, but the sand will also be incredibly hot to walk on.
When planning an engagement shoot at the Glamis Sand Dunes in California, it’s important to keep in mind the desert environment and the outdoor activities that you may be engaging in. Here are some outfit recommendations to help you look stylish while being comfortable and practical:
- Comfortable footwear: Since you will likely be walking and hiking in the sand, it’s recommended to wear comfortable and sturdy shoes, such as hiking boots or sneakers.
- Light and breathable clothing: The desert can get hot, so it’s recommended to wear light and breathable clothing, such as cotton or linen. Avoid dark colors, which can absorb heat.
- Neutral colors: Neutral colors, such as beige, white, and light grey, work well with the sandy landscape of the dunes and can create a natural and harmonious look.
- Long sleeves and pants: Wearing long sleeves and pants can help protect your skin from the sun and the sand.
- Accessories: Consider bringing a hat or sunglasses to protect your face from the sun, and a scarf or bandana to cover your mouth and nose from the sand.
Remember to also consider your partner’s outfit and coordinate your outfits together for a cohesive look. Overall, the goal is to look stylish while being comfortable and practical in the desert environment.
Unique Activities for Glamis Sand Dunes
The Glamis Sand Dunes offers a range of outdoor recreational activities. Here are some of the most popular things to do at the dunes:
- Off-Roading: The Glamis Sand Dunes are known for their extensive network of sand trails, which offer a thrilling off-roading experience for dirt bikes, ATVs, and other off-road vehicles.
- Sandboarding: For those who enjoy snowboarding or surfing, sandboarding is a fun and unique activity that involves sliding down the dunes on a sandboard.
- Hiking: There are several hiking trails in the dunes, which allow visitors to explore the area on foot and enjoy the scenic beauty of the surrounding desert landscape.
- Camping: There are several campgrounds in and around the dunes, where visitors can set up camp and enjoy the beauty of the desert under the stars.
- Wildlife Watching: The dunes are home to various desert wildlife, including lizards, snakes, roadrunners, and birds. Visitors can observe these animals in their natural habitat while exploring the dunes.
- Photography: The unique and stunning landscapes of the Imperial Sand Dunes provide an excellent opportunity for photographers to capture amazing shots of the desert scenery and wildlife. It’s the perfect spot for your Glamis Sand Dunes Engagement Session.
Note that some activities, such as off-roading, require permits and have specific rules and regulations in place. It’s important to check with the park authorities before engaging in any activities in the Imperial Sand Dunes.
I’m Karen, a California adventure elopement photographer who empowers couples to create memories that will last a lifetime. I am dedicated to providing the tools you need to push the boundaries of tradition and create an unforgettable experience.
I help all couples worldwide by providing personalized location lists, planning resources, vendor recommendations, permits, timeline-curation, and much more to curate elopement days that will be cherished forever.
Here's to co-creating an unforgettable elopement experience.