“The tallest dunes in North America”
Great Sand Dunes National Park has the tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. Experience this diversity through hiking, sand sledding, splashing in Medano Creek, wildlife watching, and more!
Medano Creek, flowing at the base of Great Sand Dunes, is one of the few and best places in the world to experience "surge flow", where creek water comes in rhythmic waves.
Whether you splash in Medano Creek, slide down the dunes, go birdwatching in wetlands, or ascend a 13,000' peak, you'll discover many kinds of wilderness recreation at Great Sand Dunes.
One of the most valued features of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is one that can't be seen. According to a recent Soundscape Study conducted by the National Park Service, this park is the quietest national park in the 48 contiguous United States.
Many visitors to the site try to sled down the dunes. The Park Service provides hints as to the best time to sled (when the sand is wet) and which equipment works best.
Visitors anytime other than late fall through early spring are also advised to avoid bare feet or sandals, and stick with sturdy, closed footwear. While the sand looks alluring, its chocolate color absorbs heat. The daylight sand temperature can reach 140 degrees and will burn bare feet.
Some of the first people to enter the San Luis Valley and the Great Sand Dunes area were nomadic hunters and gatherers whose connection to the area centered around the herds of mammoths and prehistoric bison that grazed nearby. They were Stone Age people who hunted with large stone spear or dart points now identified as Clovis and Folsom points. Like nearly everyone else until about 400 years ago, they walked into the San Luis Valley. They apparently spent time here when hunting and plant gathering was good, and avoided the region during times of drought and scarcity.
Gold and silver rushes occurred around the Rockies after 1853, bringing miners by the thousands into the state and stimulating mining businesses that operate to this day. Numerous small strikes occurred in the mountains around the San Luis Valley. People had frequently speculated that gold might be present in the Great Sand Dunes, and in the 1920s, local newspapers ran articles estimating its worth at anywhere from 17 cents/ton to $3/ton. Active placer mining operations sprang up along Medano Creek, and in 1932 the Volcanic Mining Company established a gold mill designed to recover gold from the sand. Although minute quantities of gold were recovered, the technique was too labor intensive, the stream too seasonal—and the pay-out too small—to support any business for long.
How is this place not awesome?
There is nothing like it and its a gem located all the way down in south of Colorado.
Drove hours after a flight from Houston and it was worth it. The view was breathtaking.
Great Sand Dunes entrance fee is only $3 per person. Always remember to check the weather and not go during storm/rainy days. Its too risky.
This place is huge and the hiking is a bit difficult. Make sure you wear appropriate clothing and shoes. I was a idiot not to. Oh and get prepared to be sandblasted! I recommend to bring a towel in case there is a wind and you would want to protect yourself from the sand in your eyes or being sand blasted all over your naked legs (If you are wearing shorts). You can even bring a ski mask or sunglasses to protect yourself. Remember to wear sunscreen too!
If you stop by Great Sand Dunes Oasis you can rent out Sandboards or Sandsleds for only $21 (includes tax) and get some breakfast.
I really wish I could of camped out here but my road trip had limited days so I was already set off to my next adventure.
One of the greatest wonders in North America. Bring a sled, a camera, and extra socks. The dunes go on forever, and you can spend hours checking the place out.
We almost deleted this stop from our trip...so glad we didn't. It turned out to be one of our family's favorite. Our young girls enjoyed splashing in Medeno Creek.
The drive to the dunes was so infuriating. I could see the dunes for over an hour, but it seemed we'd never arrive. Just wasn't used to the West, where you can see such distances. But upon arriving it was truly amazing. I'm not sure if there's another similar place on Earth. Arriving in late May or early June would be best - as this is when the snow is melting in the mountains, and a shallow, wide stream of water rushes through the dunes. The kids played, we picnicked, and they rode the sleds down the dunes. Initially I thought I'd climb the highest dune I could find. I quickly found my endurance wasn't up to the task. Be prepared if you plan to hike. No sandals and lots of water.
Definateley a cool place, reason i gave it four not five stars: two reasons. Im a photographer and the dunes are very well traveled in the spots i went to so photos without footprints are gonna require longer hikes which is ok. But the river brings alot of musquitos. Just be advised. No im not that guy who complains about everything. This is a place i would love to camp with friends and relax, not take photos at.
You won't believe how BIG they are until you are actually there looking at them. Some great little hiking trails near there where you can get a vantage point as well. Worth the trip out of the way!
Absolutely gorgeous and breathtaking. One of the my favorite places we visited on our road trip around Colorado. The dunes don't seem very big when you're driving up but then you arrive and realize their sheer scale.
The sand is pretty tiring to walk on but if you're physically fit you can hike away. I took a picture of a huge dune with these tiny black dots on top and the tiny black dots were people who'd hiked all the way to the top.
We loved this national park! Make sure to rent a sand sled at Oasis before you go in because snow sleds will NOT work. It was windy when we went and put swim goggles on our 4 and 9 yo so the sand would get in their eyes. Go, go, go!!!
This place is amazing!! When we were there it was super windy and the sand swept across the ground so yoga pants to block the sand & googles (really) could be useful. We took our dogs and they ran their hearts out. If you want to sand board or sled you can rent them on the way into the park at the oasis. I recommend this because cardboard flat sleds and saucers don't work, you will see people with them but they are just exhausting themselves trying.
Go, go, go! Seriously, what are you waiting for? Go now! This place could not be any cooler or more beautiful. 100% worth a trip. I would definitely go back!
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Great Sand Dunes National Park
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