Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

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.

United States Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Map

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Lists

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Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Insights