With such an inconspicuous sign at its entrance, it seems the locals in Farmington want to keep their hidden gem a secret. The Dunes is only 1.5 miles south of the city on Highway 371, just past a sand and gravel pit that serves as the northern border of the 800-acre ride spot. After whizzing by the subtle gate and finding a spot several miles down the road to turn around, we headed into the BLM facility. It's not a camping-trailer-friendly spot and more for the day user, so we parked our monster trailer in the big dirt "parking lot" just inside and set up camp. A good rainstorm hit that night and transformed the sandy terrain into perfect riding conditions.
Up with the sun the next day, we lazily ate our cereal, then headed out to explore this place. A long, graded clay road descends into the arroyo that runs north-south through the heart of the ride spot. The nighttime rain meant the stream was running, and we played in some good sandy mud as we traveled down the wash. The surrounding hills are filled with climbs of various difficulties, and anyone in search of a quick adrenaline fix need only point his or her nose up a hill and gas it. There was a surprising variety of trails that wove up, down and around the rolling landscape of the Dunes. With a wide range of rider skills in our motley group, we were still able to find something for everyone to be happy. Courtesy of the flash floods that strike this desert region, there was one spot littered with big boulders that only the 4x4 could traverse. Those same waters make for a scenic ride as well, carving and scooping the hillsides flanking the major arroyo artery.
We ran into a few locals out enjoying the rain-enhanced sand like us. In the process of chatting in the shade, we discovered that the ideal times to ride at the Dunes are spring and fall, as the summer is simply broiling. Made sense to us. Plus, the moisture meant no dust and great traction. Our new friends also recommended more ride spots nearby. For rock crawling, the Glades on the north side of Farmington was agreed upon with much nodding as a great locale. And another, Cherry Creek, was mentioned-not an official place but a great ATV trail that sounded as if it would take a rider all the way to Colorado. We might have to head back to this corner of the States for more exploring.
More of a gritty, oil- and gas-worker-filled town, Farmington isn't on many tourists' radars. However, that doesn't mean the place is devoid of life or noteworthy stops for the journeying family. The standard spot is Four Corners National Monument, about an hour northwest, but there's a plethora of other sights in the region that our host at Mom & Pops RV Park clued us into. And with such a quick access to the town, it was no surprise to learn that Dunes is usually packed on the weekends. Lucky us, hitting the place during the week-with a bonus of rain and nearly the whole place to ourselves.
|QUALITY OF RIDING ||8.0 |
|Sandy and rocky 800 acres—excellent when wet, but could be miserable in the summer heat |
|SCENERY ||9.5 |
|Ridge-top views, mesas and rocks |
|FOOD ||8.0 |
|Bring-your-own, chain restaurants or hit the variety |
|Farmington offers |
|LODGING ||8.5 |
|Good hotels and plenty of RV parks nearby |
|CULTURE ||8.0 |
|History and ancient culture on hand |
Overall Rating 8.4Worth the journey and near more riding, so why not pack up and head to New Mexico?
|Place visited ||Dunes OHV Area, Farmington, New Mexico |
|Riding season ||Year-round |
|Maps recommended ||Not really needed, but they’re available at the BLM Farmington Field Office at 1235 La Plata Hwy., Ste. A, Farmington, NM 87401; 505/599-8900 |
|Area information ||BLM, www.nm.blm.gov/recreation/farmington/farmington_rec_map.htm |
|Permits/licenses required ||None required, none issued |
|Critters ||Coyote, rabbits, squirrels and birds |
|While you are there ||Tons of stuff, including Four Corners National Monument, The Bolack Game Reserve and Wildlife Museum (505/325-4275; free tours by appointment only), Aztec Ruins National Monument and Museum (on Aztec Hwy.), Salmon Ruin and San Juan Archaeological Research Center (on Hwy. 64) |
|Road trip CD ||Taj Mahal's "The Essential Taj Mahal," Sirius Radio, blues and old rock |
|Best local beer ||Santa Fe Pale Ale |
|Digs ||Mom & Pops RV Park, 901 Illinois, Farmington, NM 87401, 800/748-2807; or one of the hotels in town like the Marriott |
|Local ATV club ||We don’t know of one here … yet |
|Good eats ||Sonya’s Cookin’ USA, Golden Corral, Red Lobster |
|Useful links ||www.recreation.gov |