October 2008: Little Sahara Recreation Area


Jericho Junction, Utah

Lake Bonneville was a prehistoric lake that once covered most of present-day Utah and parts of Nevada and Idaho. At more than 1,000 feet deep the lake was as large as Lake Michigan today and much deeper. About 17,000 years ago a large portion of the lake was released through the Red Rock Pass in Idaho and when the climate changed the lake began drying up, leaving the Great Salt Lake as its most identifiable remnant. A bit south of the Great Salt Lake deposits left by a Lake Bonneville feeder stream, the Sevier River, have been whipped around by prevailing winds to create Little Sahara, one of the largest dune fields in the American West. Today there are nearly 60,000 acres of towering sand dunes and sagebush flats that have become known as Utah's greatest sand play area.

The Little Sahara is a magnet for off-highway vehicles who roar in and out of dune bowls and up sand mountains as high as 700 feet. There are no designated trails out in the dunes so there is a chance you can encounter a motorized vehicle just about anywhere you hike, unless you make it across the dunes to Rockwell Natural Area which is a vehicle-free zone. But if you avoid popular holiday weekends there is a good chance to experience a solitary dune hike with your dog somewhere in the 124-square mile system of giant, free-moving sand dunes. If your dog tires of trotting through deep sand there are networks of dirt trails to be had here as well.

You will share the quiet of the Raockwell Natural Area with a unique plant species known as "Giant four-wing saltbush" that grows naturally only in the dune fields of Little Sahara and nowhere else in the world. 

Little Sahara is approximately 115 miles from Salt Lake City via the Nephi exit of I-15. The entrance road is four miles west of Jericho Junction off US 6.