The Juniper Dunes Wilderness preserves the northernmost growth of western juniper, some of which have been around for 150 years, along with windswept sand dunes measuring 130 feet in height and 1,000 feet in width. Other than junipers, no trees grow in significant numbers here, but many bushes and flowers bloom wondrously come spring, although the mountains that separate western and eastern Washington generally wring the moisture from the air. The landscape here takes quite a battering, in fact, with strong southwest winds to build the dunes, seven to eight inches of precipitation to moisten them, a foot or so of snow that drifts down in winter, and summer temperatures that occasionally rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Elevations range from 750 feet to 1,130 feet above sea level. But plenty of animals thrive despite the extremes: mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, badgers, skunks, weasels, porcupines, pocket gophers, kangaroo rats, several species of mice, hawks, owls, ravens, quail, partridge, pheasants, doves, numerous songbirds, and rattlesnakes.
Currently no legal access to Juniper Dunes exists, as the entire surrounding land is privately owned. With permission, you can travel via old jeep trails that end near the boundary. Getting all the way to the Wilderness gate can be risky business, even with a high clearance 4-wheel drive (highly recommended), and there is a significant risk of getting stuck in the loose sand of the last jeep trail, Wilderness Road, especially in warm months when there is little moisture in the sand. One option is to park at the Off-Highway Vehicle staging area on Juniper Road (also a jeep trail) and walk an additional +1 mile to the Wilderness Gate. This is absolutely necessary if you are pulling a trailer. You'll find no maintained trails and no water in the Wilderness, and backpackers and horseback riders should also be aware of the likelihood of large temperature variation for overnight stays.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Juniper Dunes Wilderness.
The area is approximately seven miles NE of Pasco, WA.
From Ritzville and Spokane:
US 395 South to Pasco - exit onto Hwy 12 East (towards Walla Walla).
Just under 2 miles, exit onto Kahlotus Road (ramp north towards Kahlotus).
Continue NE on the Kahlotus Road for approx 5 miles.
Turn left onto Peterson Road (first 2 miles is Private Road - * Note: there is a huge yellow mailbox on the opposite side of Kahlotus Road at the entrance to Peterson Rd).
Continue straight approx 4 miles on Peterson Road - at the Juniper Road intersection - turn right.
Park in this area or continue for approximately 2 more miles.
There is a second large parking area with a metal information Kiosk at this point - this puts you next to the play area dunes. Be aware of sandy conditions in this parking area.
From here use an area map to get to the Wilderness Gate +1 mile away via Wilderness Road. Please sign in at the kiosk.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
Washington State Wilderness Act of 1984 - Public law 98-339 (7/3/1984) To designate certain National Forest System lands in the State of Washington for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System, and for other purposes.