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Little Sahara sees big turnout for Easter weekend off-roading

Posted at 9:47 PM, Apr 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-20 00:12:01-04

LITTLE SAHARA RECREATION AREA, Utah — Thousands of people made their Easter weekend pilgrimage to Little Sahara, and the Bureau of Land Management says they're seeing an upward trend in numbers from the last couple of years.

More than 18,000 people set up camp, turning Little Sahara into a literal city. The BLM expected that more than 20,000 would show up by the weekend's end.

"You see these groups all together down below, and it creates this big sprawl that's quite phenomenal when you look down," said Hannah Cowan, the public affairs specialist for the BLM West Desert District.

She also said folks are showing up earlier than ever-- some making the trek to the dunes as early as the Monday or Tuesday before Easter weekend, to stake out their spot.

With the beautiful weather, she said it's the first time they can ride around in shorts and a t-shirt.

Riders in dune buggies and sand rails and on quads and dirt bikes blasted up and down Sand Mountain, one of the busiest spots in Little Sahara. As they took a spin to show off their toys, others took a break and watch from above.

"Yeah, he got air," said Mike Birdzell, who stood next to his dune buggy at the top of Sunset Ridge, watching a rider down below.
He'll tell you that there's another side to these dunes.

"Oh I love it," Birdzell said. "I don’t what it is about this area, that brings me back year after year."

Hint: It's not just the riding. Mike likes to get away from the busy front side of Sand Mountain, and ride over to the back.

"The other side you get all the drag races, who's got the biggest, fastest machine," Birdzell explained. "This side, you can come back, relax."

It's on this side at the top of Sunset Ridge, that he can take in something truly special.
"It's absolutely beautiful," Birdzell said, looking around at the view.
60,000 acres of rolling dunes sprawls across the horizon. Each dune casts a gentle shadow in the evening sun.
For Mike, this is what it's all about.

"It’s definitely beautiful back here, that’s for sure," Mike's friend Gary Ashley said.

This is the first time Gary's been to the calmer back side of Sand Mountain.

"He’s never been here," Mike said, stopping to correct himself with a smile. "Well he has. He came here and he broke his wrist."

No broken wrists for Gary this time. Just beauty.

"That is about the most beautiful view you can have up here. There’s no one there," Mike said. Then, with the hum and whine of vehicles down the hill, he added, "Kind of. Kind of."