Day Trip to the Great Sand Dunes

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On the recommendation of his co-workers, Johnathon, Austin and I recently took a day trip out to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. A not so hidden gem in southern Colorado. This park sees fewer than 400,000 visitors a year, which is a shame because so intriguing! The dunes are located on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley and nestled within the buckle of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. 

With a first glimpse of the dunes in the distance, my initial reaction was, “is that it?” Despite the tallest peak being over 700 feet, it was dwarfed by the 13,000 foot peak of Mount Herard. I was worried we were wasting our time. Any lingering feelings of disappointment quickly fled my body as we finally parked alongside the road. 

Looking up at the dunes, you’ll think it’s a figment of your imagination. “How could such a thing exist?” 

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The journey to the dunes begins with a walk through Medano Creek. A seasonal stream that recedes into itself as the year progresses. In the height of summer, you’ll see families perched along the creek. Parents sitting in camp chairs in the water as they watch their children playing merrily in the shallow water.

One of the top things to do as you step foot onto the dunes is to rent a sand board or sled. You can rent one at the Grand Sand Dunes Oasis, right outside the park. It costs $25 for a whole day. But people have also brought pieces of cardboard with them as well. You’ll see clusters of people walking up the soft sand gleefully sliding back down. 

Okay, I promise I didn’t actually wear this on while hiking. I just tossed this on for a photo.

Okay, I promise I didn’t actually wear this on while hiking. I just tossed this on for a photo.

(What I really wore)

(What I really wore)

It was difficult to grasp the magnitude of the dunes while standing among them. You feel as if you’ve been transported to the Sahara Desert and are a little ant amongst the sea of sand. We followed multiple ridgelines which eventually led us to to High Dune which is the second tallest peak.

We played in the sand, making sand castle. Sunk into the sand, making tiny sand avalanches, and at some point Johnathon fell down a steep hill and was coated in sand for the rest of the day.

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The Great Sand Dunes National park was recently initiated as an international dark park, and I’m already planning another trip for some backcountry camping and premiere star gazing.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:

  • As a National Park, entry to the park is $25 and is good for 7 days.

  • The park is open 24/7, so if you’re ever visiting Colorado, be sure to check it out!

  • Pack a pair of tennis or hiking shoes and good socks. The sand can get up to 105 degrees so be sure to protect yourself.

  • Pack more water than you think you’ll need, trust us. You’ll need it.


Have you ever been to the Great Sand Dune National Park? What did you think?

Let me know in the comments below!