Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Clutching the sides of the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado is a land that looks more Arabia than USA. It encompasses sweeping, shifting dunes that whistle in the wind. But, instead of camel caravans and Berbers, the landscape here is speckled with adrenaline-hungry sand sliders and rumbling ATVs. You can expect some strange encounters in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, especially if you make for the hulking High Dune or the desert-top Medano Creek.

If you do just one thing at Great Sand Dunes National Park, it is this. High Dune is the most accessible dune, and while it is only a 3-mile trek to the summit, climbing up a mountain of sand is much harder than it looks. If that’s not punishing enough, you can keep walking towards the Star Dune, the highest dune in North America.

Clutching the sides of the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado is a land that looks more Arabia than USA. It encompasses sweeping, shifting dunes that whistle in the wind. But, instead of camel caravans and Berbers, the landscape here is speckled with adrenaline-hungry sand sliders and rumbling ATVs. You can expect some strange encounters in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, especially if you make for the hulking High Dune or the desert-top Medano Creek.

Colorado might be better known for its snow-capped peaks than its shifting sand hills. But that’s what you get in the strange and otherworldly landscapes of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Time your visit to match with the coming of the seasonal Medano Creek for some ad hoc tubing and paddling in the Centennial State.

Colorado might be better known for its snow-capped peaks than its shifting sand hills. But that’s what you get in the strange and otherworldly landscapes of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Time your visit to match with the coming of the seasonal Medano Creek for some ad hoc tubing and paddling in the Centennial State.

As the name suggests, Great Sand Dunes National Park has *impressive* sand dunes that reach the most impressive heights in North America. Beyond the dynamic, sandy slopes the park encompasses wetlands, forests, alpine lakes, and tundra.

Dunes! Hiking, camping

Great Sand Dunes National Park is exactly what it sounds like. “Great” in both meanings of the word, this park is awe-inducing and also really, really large. That’s what you’ll think when you’re driving out to the dunes from Alamosa and see them appear as if from out of nowhere, nestled between Southeastern Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The Great Sand Dunes are in fact North America’s tallest. The summit of the highest peak stands at 750 feet and takes between 6 and 9 hours to hike 8 (rather strenuous) miles. Any hiker looking to take on the dunes should carefully consider a number of critical climate factors, such as the direction of “storm winds,” listed on the park’s official map, as well as sand temperatures, which can reach up to 150 degrees at the height of summer.  But the beauty of the park is in the variety of activities it offers. Namely, you’ll want to stand there with your jaw dropped, but you can also camp, sandboard (yes, really!), or hike year-round into the surrounding mountain ranges where you’ll find basin lakes and abandoned 19th century settlements. Whether you have an entire weekend or just a few hours, Great Sand Dunes is a natural wonder that you won’t want to miss.

If you do just one thing at Great Sand Dunes National Park, it is this. High Dune is the most accessible dune, and while it is only a 3-mile trek to the summit, climbing up a mountain of sand is much harder than it looks. If that’s not punishing enough, you can keep walking towards the Star Dune, the highest dune in North America.

Clutching the sides of the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado is a land that looks more Arabia than USA. It encompasses sweeping, shifting dunes that whistle in the wind. But, instead of camel caravans and Berbers, the landscape here is speckled with adrenaline-hungry sand sliders and rumbling ATVs. You can expect some strange encounters in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, especially if you make for the hulking High Dune or the desert-top Medano Creek.

Clutching the sides of the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado is a land that looks more Arabia than USA. It encompasses sweeping, shifting dunes that whistle in the wind. But, instead of camel caravans and Berbers, the landscape here is speckled with adrenaline-hungry sand sliders and rumbling ATVs. You can expect some strange encounters in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, especially if you make for the hulking High Dune or the desert-top Medano Creek.

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Map of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Lists

  • National Parks in the US

    The US boasts an impressive 63 national parks, each with its own distinct character, awe inspiring views and countless ways to connect with nature. The parks are managed by the National Park Service which offers an annual pass for access to all 63 parks throughout the year for one flat price. Let's explore.
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    Whether it's getting lost in our shimmering galaxy or witnessing the beauty of bioluminescence, these parks offer some incredible nighttime experiences that will have you packing up your camping bag for an adventure. Who said the fun had to stop when the sun sets? This summer consider these parks for a mesmerizing nighttime experience cloaked in the night sky, beneath sparkling stars, and munching on a toasty marshmallow or two.
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  • The NeverEnding Bucket List

    I love making sure things are firmly written down to put them in action! I want to do all these and More! Have you done any of these? I’ll continuously add when I complete something! Let’s go!
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  • Colorado bucket list

    Rocky mountain National Park, mesa Verde National Park, Great sand dunes, Aspen, crested butte , Glenwood springs, Ouray, steamboat springs

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Images

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Articles

  • List of All National Parks in the US By State | 2022

    From swivel chairs to space rockets, the US has had some darn bright ideas over its short history. But of all the ideas that have changed the world, the national parks system is surely close to the top. It was way back in 1872 that the sulfur-belching lands of Yellowstone were designated as protected lands […]

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  • Colorado’s National Parks: Ranked

    “Nil Sine Numine” — Nothing Without Providence. It’s a fitting motto for a state that seems to be providentially blessed with beauty in every corner. Colorado is home to some of the most varied terrain in the continental United States, with its mountains, mesas, and deserts preserved in four national parks. If you’re feeling overwhelmed […]

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  • Great Sand Dunes National Park: The Complete Guide for 2023

    Imagine taking a piece of the Sahara Desert and plopping it in the middle of Colorado. Now you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this uber-unique US national park. Nestled between the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east and the expansive San Luis Valley to the west, the park’s […]

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