Sand Dune Park (Manhattan Beach)


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Looking up from the bottom of the dune
Looking up from the bottom of the dune
Heading back down the stairs into the park
Heading back down the stairs into the park

Sand Dune Park (Manhattan Beach)

  • Location: 33rd St. and Bell Avenue, Manhattan Beach.  From the 405 Freeway, take the Rosecrans Avenue exit and head west for 2.5 miles.  Turn left on Bell Avenue and drive 0.2 miles to the park entrance.  From the 105 Freeway, take the Sepulveda/Highway 1 South exit.  Head south for 2.4 miles, turn right on Rosecrans, go 0.9 miles and turn left on Bell Avenue, and drive 0.2 miles to the park.   To visit Sand Dune Park, you need to make a reservation online and pay a dollar bill (coins not accepted, change from larger bills not given.)
  • Agency: City of Manhattan Beach
  • Distance: 0.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 250 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 45 minutes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo map: Venice
  • More information: here; Yelp page here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 2
0:00 - Bottom of the stairs and the sand dune (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)
0:00 – Bottom of the stairs and the sand dune (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

Hiking purists may not be impressed with it, but the giant sand dune in Manhattan Beach has to be considered one of So-Cal’s more unusual outdoor recreation spots. According to an L.A. Times article, the dune is not only popular with locals, but has also been visited by a wide range of athletes, including Kobe Bryant and Troy Palomalu. It seems as if climbing what basically amounts to an enormous sandbox should be easy–but it’s tougher than it sounds.

0:01 - Beginning the climb (times are approximate)
0:01 – Beginning the climb (times are approximate)

Rising nearly 100 feet, the dune is the dominant feature of the park. Using it requires making an online reservation (see link above). It may seem like a lot of hoops to jump through for a neighborhood hike, but I made my reservation in less than ten minutes.

0:10 - Top of the sand dune
0:10 – Top of the dune

After paying your $1 fee (dollar bills only) at a table by the base of the dune, you enter through a fence and begin your climb. If you’re not used to walking in sand–especially at a nearly 45 degree angle–expect progress to be slow. Even veterans will feel the burn in their calves by the time they reach the top.

0:20 - Walking up the stairs next to the dune
0:20 – Walking up the stairs next to the dune

At the top of the dune, you get a nice view to the east of residential Manhattan Beach. The descent is fun – while the grade would be very steep for a single-track hiking trail, the sand slows you down, so you don’t have to worry about falling. And even if you fell, it would be on…well, sand.

0:23 - Walkway at the top of the stairs, heading south toward 30th St.
0:23 – Walkway at the top of the stairs, heading south toward 30th St.

At the bottom, you can challenge yourself with multiple “reps” on the dune, or you can explore the rest of the park. A staircase runs parallel to the dune, climbing to the end of 32nd St. Turn left and follow a narrow walkway for a few blocks, re-entering the park at the end of 30th St. Head down a staircase through a pleasantly wooded hillside before meeting with another walkway. Turn left and follow the path back to the staircase, where you descend to the park. If you have time and energy, you can try the sand dune again.

0:25 - Heading back down into the park
0:25 – Heading back down into the park

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

0:30 - Following the walkway back to the stairs
0:30 – Following the walkway back to the stairs
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