Tucked deep within the majestic rocky mountains is the most unexplainable of natural landmarks. Housing the largest dunes in North America, Great Sand Dunes National Park is the hidden gem among a diverse landscape of forests, grasslands, and the tallest mountains in Colorado. Perfect for both hikers and observers, everyone will marvel at this unique landscape.
Stop at the breathtaking scenic overlook
Prior to entering Great Sand Dunes National Park, in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, you should stop at the entrance of the park and enjoy the first of many scenic overlooks in the area.
You may find a few other tourists have also stopped to snap a few photos with the park’s adorable sign or capture shots of the dunes from a great distance. This overlook is excellent for seeing the contrast in landscapes as the sand dunes appear clearly silhouetted against the rugged Rockies behind them.
Take a day trip or spend an entire weekend hiking the dunes
The majority of The Great Sand Dunes are part of the National Preserve and are designated wilderness sites. Visitors have the option of taking a day trip hike across the dunes or taking an overnight trip and camping within the park. Entrance to park is 15 USD per vehicle per day, but travelers also have the option of parking RV’s or campers within the park.
The entire 30 mile dunefield is open to the public for exploration. Although there are no designated trails in the sand, the hike to the top of the tallest dune, named Star Dune, which is nearly 750 feet tall, generally takes the average person about 5 hours to hike.
The park will also provide a dune-accessible wheelchair for free of charge at their visitor’s center. While some camper’s stop by only for the day, it is recommended to spend at least 2 to 3 days exploring the park to get the full experience of its different climates and ecosystems.
Visit in the summer and splash around in Medano Creek
In the summer months, it is advised to plan your hikes for early in the morning or late evening to avoid the scorching heat. The temperature of the sand can reach a staggering 150 degrees fahrenheit at the peak of the summers. A benefit of visiting the park in the summer is that you will find Medano Creek, a small creek at the base of the dunes, filled with fresh, cool flowing water. The creek creates waves similar to ocean waves and the public is free to swim and wade in it’s waters. Because of it’s ever changing climate, the creek is usually only flowing in the summer months and tends to dry out come fall and winter.
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Be prepared for extreme conditions but don’t forget to have fun!
Since Great Sand Dunes lies within the highly elevated rocky mountains, their altitude can range anywhere from 7515 ft to 13,604 ft. These conditions are known for quickly and suddenly brewing thunderstorms any time of year.
Be sure to prepare for a wide variety of weather conditions during your visit. In addition to cold rains, temperatures can rise to about 80 degrees fahrenheit and drop to about 40 degrees fahrenheit in the summer. The fall is the most ideal time to visit the dunes in terms of excellent weather, however, it is likely that Medano Creek will be dry during the fall and winter months. Whether you stay for a few hours or a few days, Great Sand Dunes National Park will surely be an experience you won’t soon forget.
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