Sunday, March 29, 2015

Great Sand Dunes National Park

After our fun overnight soak visit to the Sand Dunes Swimming Pool, we took the short drive to the Great Sand Dunes National Park with a plan to hike up to High Dune.

Karen crossing seasonal Medano Creek.
Greg pointing to our hiking goal: High Dune.


A view from High Dune.

Greg and Karen on High Dune.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is a very special place.  The time to visit is in the spring when the seasonal Medano Creek is flowing with snow melt.

The experience here is much like a visit to the ocean.  There is a lot of sand and what feels like a beach sans the seaweed.  We wore flip flops for this hike. We are still getting sand out of our clothing.

The water flows in a way that's hard to describe, as little sand dams built and bust with the water flowing differently every few minutes.

Water ripples 

Once you cross the creek, you are faced with huge mounds of sand.  It's not easy to hike on and it can get really super hot!  At certain points on the hike we were both yelling at each other that our feet were burning.

This hike is likely unbearably hot during summer months - we hope to never find out!

It is a real slog up to High Dune.

High Dune is not the highest dune in the park, but it is the highest one that is near the parking area and creek.  The view from the top feels high enough.  You have outstanding views of the impressive snow capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains as well as nearly the entire San Luis Valley.  It's really quite spectacular from up there.

We almost didn't make it all the way up to High Dune.  At one point we were both really hot and the sand was particularly hard to walk through.  That's when we discovered a ridge that was hard packed. We followed that ridge up in a roundabout path, eventually to the top.  Other people took the more direct route we had been on previously.  They couldn't understand how we beat them to the top.

The hike up rises about 700 feet but the sand makes it feels like much more. The elevation at the top of High Dune is about 8700 feet.  It's not really a far hike, only about three miles round trip, but a lot of it is two-steps-up, one-slide-back. It feels much further.

Heading back down is the most fun of all.  You can run down the dune slopes, and some people did, including us.

It's really fun to fly down a steep slope of dune.  We saw people on snowboards sliding down. If you bring cardboard up you can slide well on that.

Running down gives you that same thrill as skiing down an impossibly steep slope. It's a thrill you don't want to miss.

The park even provides a sand enabled wheel chair with bulbous tires for those who need assistance getting out onto the dunes.

We had a fantastic day hiking the dunes and we highly recommend a spring visit here.

There is a nice park campground that is closed in the winter.  It opens at the very end of March. There are no hookups and it could be a problem for larger RVs to fit.  (The website says there are a few 35 foot spots.)  There are larger RV sites nearby, outside the park, including the nice ones we stayed at the night before, at Sand Dunes Swimming Pool.

We met a lot of people who were in the area for the annual Monte Vista Crane Festival that is held nearby.

The park is also known for it's 4x4 road that snakes past the dunes and up and over a nearby mountain pass. We plan to give that road a go, in a few years, once we get another Jeep.

Back down at the van, we shook out the sand as best we could, which wasn't easy.

On the drive back to Los Alamos, we stopped in Taos at our favorite restaurant: Out Back Pizza. Unfortunately, Out Back was out of gluten free crust, so instead of great pizza, we enjoyed their fantastic salad with it's out-of-this-world pesto dressing.

Below is a photo sphere. You can use your cursor to move around the view of High Dune.

Below is a photo sphere.  You can use your cursor to move around the view of Medano Creek.

Click HERE for more information on the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado.


  1. Love the photo spheres! I agree that the hike to high dune was harder than it looks. We also almost didn't make it. Between the soft sand and the heat burning your feet, it was quite the challenge. Totally worth it all the top though. Cool to see the creek running. When we visited in the fall that part was completely dry. Looks like you had a blast!

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  3. It seems you enjoyed your trip to Sand Dunes National Park. Well I really want to plan such an exciting trip with my friends. We are thinking to find best campervan hire Australia services for our trip. Can you suggest any affordable services?


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