With dunes up to 750 feet high that stretch for miles, Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park feels like an ocean of hills of sand. The geology and biology of the park also make it a fascinating destination. Visitors will have access to a great diversity of habitats, including sand dunes, pine and aspen trees, and even fir forests and tundras.
Originally designated the Great Sand Dunes National Monument, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve was created by an act of the United States Congress on September 13, 2004. The park now contains 107,000 acres.
When to visit
The park is available year-round, but spring and fall can be the ideal time to plan a trip due to the moderate temperatures. Sand dunes can be extremely hot in the summer, and summer tends to be the busiest time to visit.
If you are driving into the area, here are some options:
For a more scenic drive from Denver with the Same mileage, take US 285 south, then State Highway 17 south, then County Lane 6 east of Mosca.
From Albuquerque: Drive north on I-25 to Santa Fe, then north on US 285 to Alamosa. From Alamosa, take US Highway 160 East and State Highway 150 North, or State Highway 17 north and East County Lane 6 from Mosca.
From Westcliffe / Wet Mountain Valley – Travel southeast from West cliffs on Highway 69 toward Gardner, approximately 30 miles. Turn west (right) on 550 RD, just before Gardner; drive 6 miles, then turn south (left) onto 570 RD (becomes 572, then 29 RD), and look for a small sign for ‘Pass Creek Pass.: Drive 12 miles until you turn right (west) on US Highway 160. Take a right (north) on State Highway 150.
Commercial Limo service in Denver is available, CO. Colorado Springs, Denver, and Albuquerque are served by many commercial airlines and rental cars are available at all airports. If you are looking to save some money, visit the limo lux rental Company, which has some services for the park. Call them at 720-400-0002.
If you plan to visit the park often throughout the year, consider purchasing the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Annual Pass for $ 30. The pass admits the pass holder and all family members in the vehicle in the park for one year from the date of purchase.
Outback camping, including backpacking and driving along the Medano Pass 4WD highway, requires a free backpacking permit, which is available at the Visitor Center during business hours.
Things to do
The wilderness in the area allows numerous activities suitable for all ages. Visitors can choose from hiking, backpacking, camping, horseback riding, sand boarding/skiing/sledding, ranger-led programs, and more. Children have the opportunity to participate in the Junior Ranger program, visit Junior Ranger Day, and explore interactive exhibits.
Medano Creek: Kids will enjoy splashing along this creek that winds along the base of the rope dunes.
Medano Pass Primitive Road – The path leads into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and offers ample opportunities to explore different habitats along the way.
High Dune: Rising 650 feet above the San Luis Valley floor, this is a must-see.
Stellar dune: called a “star” because it has three or more arms, instead of one like most dunes.
Montville Nature Trail – An easy half-mile hike showing mule deer, chipmunks, desert cottontail, and if you’re lucky, a coyote.
Lake Medano Trail – Climb 1,900 feet in four miles and pass through aspen forests, flowery meadows, and it’s your best chance to see a moose.
Pets are allowed in the most used areas of the park and throughout the reserve. They must be on a leash at all times (except for seasonally licensed hunters in the national reserve only), and owners must clean up after them. Pets are not allowed in the Dune field outside of the main day-use area, in designated backpacker spots in the park, or in undeveloped parts of the park outside of the day-use areas and highway corridors.