Colorado National Parks
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
In the San Luis Valley of Colorado - Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is located in Southern Colorado. Attracting about 300,000 visitors a year, America's tallest dunes (750') cover 30 square miles and are nestled right next to the Sangre de Cristo mountains, 35 miles northeast of Alamosa. The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The Visitor Center provides some wonderful information for your tour of the Sand Dunes where you can learn more about the park through a 15-minute video, exhibits, and a bookstore.
The Sand Dunes offer numerous activities. One of the most popular is hiking, as the area is filled with countless trails. Some of these hikes take a few minutes while others take hours. Hiking to the top of the High Dune is a popular endeavor; though it is not the tallest dune, it appears that way from the visitor center. This hike is not done on a trail; hikers zigzag up the sandy dune for a 650' gain. The view from the top of the dune is worth the effort to get there. Other hikes include the challenging Zapata Falls trail, which takes the hiker to the picturesque Zapata waterfall. For the not so adventurous soul, the Sand Ramp Trail takes you on an easy hike through the dunes. Many of the other trails can be toured with a trail guide, giving insight about the history of the dunes. These trails are beautiful and must be undertaken by foot; bikes are not permitted on the trails.
Another popular activity is sand-boarding and sand sledding. It's perfect for the skiers/snowboarders who are just itching to get up into the mountains during the summer months. But you can't use the same equipment; sandboards/sleds are specially designed for use on the sand. The best times to go are in Spring and Fall during the early morning hours to beat the heat and daily thunderstorms. Please note: the National Park does not rent boards and sleds.
Other activities include castle building, kite flying contests, summer concerts, and photography workshops sponsored by Friends of the Dunes Inc. Also, if the area has received enough moisture, you can wade in the waters of Medano Creek, which flows at the base of the dunes. Originating as snow on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Medano Creek first flows to high alpine lakes, then through dense spruce and fir forest, beaver meadows and large aspen and cottonwood groves before it reaches the dunes. The water seems to disappear in the sand - only to reappear as ponds and verdant wetlands on the west side of the dunes.
The Park bustles with wildlife; common sightings include mule deer, elk, coyotes, golden and bald eagles, ravens, magpies, and just outside park boundaries bison. Other interesting creatures include insects that have adapted to the sand and are unique to the area.
View an area map of the Great Sand Dunes
(Map provided by the U.S. National Park Service)
From I-25 in Colorado Springs, take exit 146 and head west on Garden of the Gods Road. Follow to its end ("T" intersection) at 30th Street; turn left (south) and go about 1.5 miles. The visitor center will be on the left and the park entrance on the right.
From south: reached by US Highway 160 and Colorado Highway 15.
From west: reached by Highway 17 and County Six Mile Lane.
Places to Stay & Fun Things to Do
Stay with us at the entrance of our National Park -- Alamosa, 32 miles. Serenity at the Great Sand Dunes. Lodge rooms: Queen or King beds. Heated indoor pool. WiFi. At the foot of Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Striking oasis view of Dunes in San Luis Valley. Campground: camper cabins, full hookup RV park, tenting area. 32 miles NE of Alamosa, at the entrance of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
More Activities & Information
Alamosa, Colorado includes: Blanca, Capulin, Center, Fort Garland, Hooper, Mosca, San Luis, Sanford
San Luis Valley - Northern, Colorado includes: Crestone, Mineral Hot Springs, Moffat, Saguache, Villa Grove