Dust Hill Zone begins as a desert, decorated with cacti and assorted plants. The color palette was designed to at some point change into that of a winter-themed stage, transforming the sand into snow and the cacti into Christmas trees. The player would navigate terrain both aboveground and belowground, where there were snow/sand tunnels.
Dust Hill Zone was created by Brenda Ross, one of the final level artists added to the Sonic 2 development team. It was referred to in an early concept sketch as Sabaku Zone (literally "Desert Zone"). Although the zone was completed, time constraints kept it from being added to the final product.
Dust Hill Zone is listed in the level select screen of the beta version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, but selecting it sends the player to Mystic Cave Zone.
Brenda Ross called this level's palette swap "Winter Zone".
While time-travel was planned during early development, this zone was to be the future version of Rock Zone, another scrapped level.
From a November/December 1992 issue of Sears, Roebuck and Co. Magazine