Ever-changing Sand Mountain offers many thrills to fun seekers
Sand Mountain, a golden bump in a sea of chocolate-brown hills about 25 miles east of Fallon, remains a work in progress. Even today, it changes shape depending on the winds, which can send plumes of sand across its ridges.
According to the Bureau of Land Management, which manages the Sand Mountain Recreation Area, the origins of the mountain go back about 10,000 years.
At that time, the Sierra Nevada and its surrounding valleys were filled with glaciers. As the glaciers slowly melted, the ensuing drainage created a large inland lake that covered most of what now is Western Nevada.
Once the climate grew warmer and the glaciers retreated, the lake slowly dried up. Remnants of this prehistoric lake include Walker and Pyramid lakes, as well as dry lake beds such as the Black Rock Desert outside Gerlach.
When the massive lake began drying up, quartz particles, which the glaciers stripped away from the Sierra Nevada’s granite, washed down into the surrounding watersheds.
Over time, wind blew across this area, and sand was tossed into the air and deposited where Sand Mountain now rests.
Enveloped by higher mountain ridges, Sand Mountain continues to collect sand, resulting in a 600-foot-high dune sprouting above the Nevada desert.
Recreational enthusiasts, though, couldn’t be more happy about the process.
With temperatures rising and snow melting in the Sierra Nevada, signs of spring are everywhere. But that doesn’t mean when the ski resorts shut down that it’s time to put away the skis and snowboards. Sand Mountain long has attracted sandboarders and skiers seeking a different way to slide down a mountain.
It takes about 45 minutes to hike from the base to the summit. If you’re lucky enough to befriend someone with an offroad vehicle, it takes less than a minute.
When nobody else is around, it’s a surreal environment. The faint white outline of the Sierra can be seen in the distance, and a salt flat displaying various colors is contrasted against a brown expanse.
The incessant wind often causes a humming sound, which is the reason why Sand Mountain has earned the nickname “Singing Mountain.”
If you’re surrounded by offroad vehicles and the party-type atmosphere that is prevalent during fall and spring, there is only the buzz of four-wheelers, motorcycles and dune buggies.
On holiday weekends, several thousand people visit the area. Tents, trailers and campers dot the landscape, and serenity isn’t a theme. But during the week, there might be only be a handful of people.
Michael Decker, owner of the Dent Doctor auto-body shop in Reno, has invested more than $100,000 into his high-performance, offroad vehicle that’s designed to tear it up on Sand Mountain.
“The throttle therapy is amazing when you are out here driving, because you’re pretty focused,” Decker said. “It’s like a powder day on a snowboard. Not much else is entering your mind. That’s what throttle therapy is all about – enjoying life.”
By the numbers
10,000 – Years ago that Sand Mountain began forming
50,000 – Annual visitors
600 – Elevation of Sand Mountain, in feet, from base to summit
How to get there
Sand Mountain is 25 miles east of Fallon on Highway 50 East.