A Jeep Owner’s Best Tips For Off-Road Driving On Sand Dunes

by Kathy

Beach And Sand Driving, California Jeeping, Florida Jeeping, Offroading, Oregon Jeeping, Wrangler, z1

As the proud owner of a Jeep Wrangler, I’m guessing you took the plunge on this type of vehicle because you want to do more than just go to and from work — or the grocery store.

While there are certainly a lot of fun off-road adventures to be had in your new Jeep, one of the most thrilling experiences is to drive on sand dunes!


Unlike other types of off-road terrain, however, sand dunes come with their own unique set of challenges.

As the owner of a vintage Jeep CJ-7 living near the Oregon coast, I’ve been lucky enough to regularly roll over the Oregon National Sand Dunes Recreational Area, and trust me — I know.

Here are my 4 best tips for off-roading on sand dunes:

#1 – Start with the right gear.

The Boy Scouts were right. Being prepared for any situation is key — and off-roading is no exception.

Regardless of the size of dunes you’re planning to cover, it’s a good idea to have the following equipment in the back of your Jeep:

If you don’t know what these things are, you soon will. Just remember, it’s better to be over prepared than under prepared!

I made the mistake of forgetting a shovel one time on an early dune ride and it was not pretty. Not only was I embarrassingly — and potentially dangerously — stuck in the way of other divers, I had to flag someone down to help bail me out.

#2 – The right tire pressure is key.

One of the most important factors for traversing sand dunes effectively is your tire pressure.

Unless you’re driving on wet sand, you’ll want to lower the pressure in your tires until you’re able to gain enough traction to move your Jeep forward.

Lowering your tire pressure more evenly disperses the weight over a larger area of your tires, enabling them to better grip the malleable surface.

For my CJ-7, I found the optimal tire pressure to be 12 psi, even though typical tire pressure levels on sand are between 16 and 18 psi.

You’ll want to play around with the tire pressure on your own Jeep to see what works best for you.


#3 – Keep your momentum going.

As with most any activity, proper technique is paramount to effective execution.

When it comes to getting up and over sand dunes, maintaining your momentum is the most crucial factor to keep in mind.

That means making sure you find the right balance between traction and acceleration.

  • For my manual CJ-7, it means maintaining slightly higher revs and regularly stirring the gearbox.
  • For automatic Jeep Wranglers, it might simply be a matter of maintaining steady pressure on the gas.

Another important rule to remember on sand dunes is to travel in a straight-line motion — either up or down — and never turn on a dune or cross a side slope.

I learned the hard way by nearly rolling my CJ-7 one time by jerking to the right too quickly on an uphill acceleration.


#4 – Safety first, followed by fun.

There’s nothing fun about close calls when you’re off-roading, particularly on sand dunes — because these free-range areas are prone to be more densely packed with drivers versus wilderness areas.

The old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure certainly applies to this sport. For example:

Things like that just make good common sense. Those are 2 things that I do on every sand-dune-driving adventure.

And now, just for fun, here’s some adventurous sand crawling in a Jeep Wrangler at Pismo Beach:

Whether your off-roading adventures on sand dunes in your Jeep Wrangler take you to the coast or the desert, keeping these 4 tips in mind will accelerate your fun!

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