Monahans Sandhills: Extraordinary Experience in Texas

The Sandhills of Monahans are located in the Big Bend Country of Texas. This state park is unlike every other and it’s worth more than a look. The list of things to do is relatively low, with camping and sand boarding being the most popular. However, Monahans Sandhills State Park is dog friendly, and you can explore the dunes with your best friend. My girl, Abbey, was overly excited to run through the sand as her paws penetrated its surface. This was our first stop while visiting several parks in Big Bend and it did not disappoint. A young boy noticed me wearing my brown, leather hat and said, “Look Mom, a cowboy! I’m gonna tell everyone I saw a cowboy.”

Hiking at Monahans Sandhills State Park is dog friendly
Monahans Sandhills is dog friendly

How to Get to Monahans State Park

Address: Exit 86, 2500 I-20, Monahans, TX 79756

Hours of operation: 6am – 10pm daily

Fees: $4 per person without a Texas State Parks Pass

This state park is located just east of Monahans, on the north side of I-20. If you aren’t local, you will probably spend a few hours, or more, driving to the park. Odessa is only 30 minutes to the east, but major cities such as San Antonio, Austin and Dallas are nearly six hours away. You may want to make other arrangements if you only plan on spending a short amount of time in Monahans. We chose to stay in Fort Davis in order to visit several parks over a 4-day weekend. The drive from the Davis Mountains is two hours, but that’s less than six, and provides a more centralized location within Big Bend Country.

People use discs to slide down the Sandhills in Monahans
Visitors sand boarding at Monahans State Park

Things to Do Among the Sand Dunes

  • Walk your dog
  • Camping
  • Picknicking
  • Horseback riding
  • Sandboarding
  • Volleyball

You may not be able to do quite as much at this Texas State Park, but the environment provides a unique opportunity. The park road runs about two miles north of the frontage road from I-20. The back (north side) of the park is where all the excitement happens. There you will find picnic shelters, campsites, a gift shop and the unforgettable Sandhills. Monahans does not have typical hiking trails, but you can hike over and around the Sandhills in every direction.

As we began our hike, we noticed a volleyball net next to the picnic shelters, and a few visitors surfing down the sand. It’s important to mention there is no shade away from the picnic shelters, and the sand will get incredibly hot in the afternoon. Protect your skin from the sun and your feet from the sand. Arrive earlier in the day during cooler seasons to help keep your pets safe. We hiked around the outer loop of the moving Sandhills (the clearest dunes with little-to-no vegetation) in order to see the park from different heights and positions. The total distance of this loop is about three miles. If you visit Monahans Sandhills State Park, the hills may appear completely different.

The Sandhills in Monahans can reach more than 50-feet in height
Relaxing on the tallest sandhill at Monahans State Park

How Did the Sandhills Form at Monahans State Park?

The sand dunes in Texas may take up an area of roughly 800 square miles. Some claims state this sand washed in from the Pecos River, after eroding from the Rocky Mountains thousands of years ago. Others claim the sand dunes were once part of an even older beach. Feel free to add your own theories, or accept one of these. Either way, the Sandhills are a special sight when they are directly under your feet. They appear smooth and perfect from a distance because of the work nature did the night before. As you disturb the surface of the sand, it’s as if you are desecrating art.

These Sandhills are alive. They move, drink water, erase footprints, and support small patches of vegetation. From the hilltops you will see various shrubs and grasses. Although they appear dry and lifeless, they are evidence of water which is hidden beneath the surface of the sand. What else hides beneath these sands? There’s only one way to find out – exploration.

Sandy ridges twist and turn in different directions like the spine of some dinosaur. Following the ridges is both tempting and challenging, even in hiking boots. As we race across one ridge, others are sliding down their own in the distance. Oil pumps can still be seen in a few locations, one of which is near the park road. More vegetation surrounds the park and seems to close in on this perfect field of sand, which is perhaps a mile wide. The paw prints we leave today will not be here tomorrow. A new day will bring a clean slate to Monahans Sandhills, and I can only wonder how much better it will look.

Other Places to Visit from Monahans Sandhills

Our trip to this wonderful park was short and sweet. It’s a two hour trip from the Davis Mountains where we decided to camp. Balmorhea State Park is nearby, but has been undergoing some remodeling. The park was not open when we were passing through, but it has finally reopened and others are enjoying its spring-fed pool.

Take your adventure to new heights by visiting Davis Mountains State Park (to the south), or Guadalupe Mountains National Park (to the north). Each will provide hikers with eye opening challenges. Other opportunities in the Davis Mountains include Mt Livermore, Madera Canyon, Fort Davis, or the McDonald Observatory.

Continue further south beyond Marfa and Alpine to find other spectacular places like the Chinati Mountains, Big Bend Ranch and Big Bend National Park. The attractions at Big Bend National Park are some of the best you will find in Texas.

I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it.

We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site.

Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly.  I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.


David Earley


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