Great Sand Dunes National Monument Travel Guide

  • great sunset over sand dunes next to Mtns
    great sunset over sand dunes next to...
    by plannersis
  • morning shadows on the sand dunes
    morning shadows on the sand dunes
    by plannersis
  • hiking fun
    hiking fun
    by plannersis

Great Sand Dunes National Monument Things to Do

  • Sand Dunes

    Best time to go is in fall or in spring - there's snow-melt in spring so you may get to frolick in a small stream in April/May. But in mid-September, the wind isn't as nasty, so hiking the dunes is more comfortable. The campsites are nice but cramped and a bit pricey ($20/nite). No hotel or lodge in the park.

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  • Medano Creek

    Medano Creek is a seasonal creek that flows along the east side of the dune field. Note the difference in the number of plants and animals in this narrow strip of land as opposed to the dune field itself.

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  • Visitor's Center

    On your way to dunes you can stop in Visitor Center. It is small and not so many exhibits there; however, it has a good and easy to understand information about dunes creation. Also you can see a movie about Great Sand Dunes. It has many beautiful shots of dunes during all seasons, about its nature, animals. For instance, for me it was interesting...

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  • Great Hiking & Sight-seeing

    Best time to go is in fall or in spring - there's snow-melt in spring so you may get to frolick in a small stream in April/May. But in mid-September, the wind isn't as nasty, so hiking the dunes is more comfortable. The campsites are nice but cramped and a bit pricey ($20/nite). No hotel or lodge in the park.

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  • Hiking the Sand Dunes

    We had a beautiful long weekend of cool nights and the days were warm enough for shorts but not so hot that the sand was unbearable. We hiked to the top of High Dune and had brought sandwiches and of course, lots of water to drink. It was very special, but even more so was the night hike with a Park Guide and the full moon to see by.

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  • Sangre de Cristo Mountains

    The Sangre de Cristo Mountains border the dune filed on the East and North. These mountain contain peaks over 14,000 feet in elevation. Much of the sand for the dunes came from these mountains. There are several hiking trails into the mountains.

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  • The Sand Sheet

    The area leading up to Medano Creek and the dune field is called a "Sand Sheet". This is where over half the sand in the park is located. Because this area is lower and flatter than the dune field it is not subject to the same intense winds. This gives plants a chance to set roots and grow here, allowing the sand sheet to support a wide variety of...

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  • Medano Creek

    Medano Creek is a seasonal creek that flows along the east side of the dune field. Note the difference in the number of plants and animals in this narrow strip of land as opposed to the dune field itself.

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  • Walking on the Dunes

    Feel free to walk out on the dunes and explore; but be advised the sand gets very hot so unless you have very tough feet wear appropriate footgear.

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Great Sand Dunes National Monument Restaurants

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    by Basaic Updated Jul 4, 2011

    3 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    There is no food available inside the park. There is a privately owned concession just south of the park on Colorado Highway 150 or you can drive down to US Highway 160 then west to the town of Alamosa.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • National/State Park
    • Family Travel

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Great Sand Dunes National Monument Nightlife

  • kyrzar's Profile Photo

    by kyrzar Written Dec 9, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    It seems like the dunes are best later in the day and especially in moonlight with cool sand between your toes.

    Dress Code: It is a high desert, so you might want to bring a light jacket even in the summer for the evening.

    night on the dunes

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Great Sand Dunes National Monument Transportation

  • Accessibility

    There are specially designed Sand dune wheelchairs available for loan at the visitors center so handicapped persons may enjoy the dunes area too.

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  • How to Get Here

    Great Sand Dunes National Park is off the beaten path and I do not think there is any mass transit coming here. You need to use a private or rental vehicle to get here. The nearest airport is near the town of Alamosa.

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  • Great Sand Dunes National Monument Hotels

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Great Sand Dunes National Monument Local Customs

  • frank_delargy's Profile Photo

    by frank_delargy Updated Nov 9, 2004

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    Southern Colorado has its share of cowboys. Stike up a conversation. Who didya vote fer? .. That'll be a good icebreaker :-)

    Wranglers
    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Arts and Culture
    • Horse Riding

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Great Sand Dunes National Monument Warnings and Dangers

  • Warnings

    This is a wild area, do not feed or approach the animals especially the black bears. The ecosystem here is fragile and easily damaged so please stay on the trails, except where dune access is allowed. The trails are very primitive and steep in spots and footing can be difficult. Be aware of the weather and watch for rapid changes. If a thunderstorm...

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  • Wear a hat, use sunscreen and bring lots...

    Yes, All this seems obvious, but we saw people who ran out of their cars toward the dunes unaware of just how far they were going to be walking. We saw others coming back panting and turning pink .. ouch!It is easy to end up pretty far away from where you started, just by trying to climb up the next big peak. The views are wonderful.

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  • Don't get stuck in the soft sand road

    We had an all wheel drive rental and we got to a point where it was touch and go if we would be able to get out of the soft sand on the road that follows the river.Even though there appeared to be mesh along the road under the sand, it was a bit scary when your forward momentum just stops and you need to somehow reverse out of there. Had I actually...

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Great Sand Dunes National Monument What to Pack

  • Put this on your list

    Something light so you won't be panting while climbing Shoes are mandatory, especially if it is summer. Heat can climb 140 degrees and it is not a joke to jump around on the hot sand with blisters as a consequence. Any time you can take them off. Water, water, water. Tripod, wide lens. Snow board form slading down the sand dunes.

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  • If you are a parent of small kids

    If you are a parent you have to have this equipment you see on the picture. I know it is hard for those folks to carry their children, but such a life of a parent.

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Great Sand Dunes National Monument Off The Beaten Path

  • frank_delargy's Profile Photo

    by frank_delargy Updated Oct 12, 2004

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    If you follow the road past the visitors center and you are able to drive over what might be, at times, soft sand, then you will be rewarded with your own private sand dune experience.
    If the visitors center seems too crowded and you feel like a walk or a drive, go for it.

    your own very big beach
    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • National/State Park
    • Desert

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Great Sand Dunes National Monument Sports & Outdoors

  • Montville Trailhead

    Across the road from the visitors center is the Montville Trailhead. Here you can take one or more of three trails: The Montville Nature Trail is a 1/2 mile loop trail. It is a little steep in spots but not that difficult. This is the only other trail I hiked because it started to rain before I completed it. There is also the 1 mile one way...

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  • Sand Sheet Loop Trail

    There is a short (.5 mile) interpretive loop trail near the visitors center that will introduce you to the ecology and wildlife of the area. This trail connects to a trail that leads through the salt sheet to the dunes. Sunscreen, a hat, good hiking shoes

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Great Sand Dunes National Monument Favorites

  • Great Sand Dunes National Park

    Archeologists have found evidence of habitation here as early as about 12,000 years ago in the form of Clovis Points and other items. More recently, over 400 years ago, Jicarilla Apache and Southern Ute camped and hunted near these dunes. Spanish Explorers came around 1694. During the Westward Expansion, LT Zebulon Pike explored the area with a...

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  • Mysterious lines are just wet sand

    Because the sand was wet after previous evening rain, it had those weird textures that I didn’t see before on any pictures of Great Sand Dunes. On the tip’s picture you see those wet lines on the sand.

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  • Those dunes are still alive

    Great Sand Dunes’ estimated age range from 12,000 years to more than a million years. If you think that their creation stopped, you will be mistaken, because every year, dunes reshape in new piles and new sand comes from the mountains. In such a way, dunes sometimes keep growing, or at least keep their height even now.

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Explore Deeper into Great Sand Dunes National Monument
How are the Dunes Formed?
Things to Do
The Dunes
Things to Do
Many Ecosystems
Things to Do
Have a Picnic
Things to Do
Museum Displays
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Visitors Center
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Wildlife
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Climb up the dunes - roll down
Things to Do
Fort Garland
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Creek
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Zapata Falls
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San Luis Lake
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Why to climb, just sit near Medano Creek
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Star Dune and High Dune
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Just sit and look
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Sliding on boards
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Kids' fun in Sand Dunes
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Climbing is not easy, but good excercise
Things to Do
Walking in the Dunes
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Medano Creek - kids' paradise
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Medano Creek
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Visitor's center
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How Dunes were created
Favorites
How to get there
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Forget the Stairclimber
Things to Do
Medano Creek
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Exploring the dunefields
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Take Your Shoes Off
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Getting there is half the fun?
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Camping
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Flowers
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Gold in them thar dunes???
Favorites
Geology
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Horseback riding
Things to Do
Hiking on the dunes
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Visitors center under repair
Warnings and Dangers
More sand dunes
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Sand Dunes
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Great sand dunes
Things to Do
Blanca Peak
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Map of Great Sand Dunes National Monument

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