WUDN

March-2024

Exploring the Great Outdoors: 5 Must-Visit Features of Every National Park in the United States

WUDN Outdoor Adventure (National Park Series)

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Part 30 of Our National Park Series

Great Sand Dunes National Park: Surrender to the Sands

National Park Series > Rocky Mountains > Great Sand Dunes National Park

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Nestled at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado, Great Sand Dunes National Park is a mesmerizing landscape of towering sand dunes, rolling grasslands, and pristine wilderness. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in the ever-shifting sands of the dunes, explore diverse ecosystems, and marvel at the majestic beauty of the surrounding mountains. Here are the top five activities to experience during your visit:

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Great Sand Dunes National Park - Photo by Josh Gordon on Unsplash

Top 5 Outdoor Adventures in: Great Sand Dunes National Park

Sandboarding and Sledding:

Experience the thrill of sandboarding or sledding down the park's towering dunes, some of which rise over 750 feet high. Rent sandboards or sleds from local outfitters or bring your own and slide down the steep slopes of the dunes for an exhilarating adventure. Whether you're a novice or experienced sandboarder, the dunes offer endless opportunities for adrenaline-fueled fun.

Hiking the Dunes:

Lace up your hiking boots and embark on a trek across the sandy expanse of the dunes. The High Dune Trail offers a moderate hike to the summit of one of the park's tallest dunes, providing panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. For a longer trek, consider hiking to the top of Star Dune, the tallest dune in North America, or exploring the remote reaches of the park's backcountry.

Exploring Medano Creek:

During the spring and early summer months, Medano Creek comes to life with flowing water, creating a unique oasis amidst the desert sands. Wade into the cool waters of the creek, build sandcastles along its sandy banks, or simply relax and enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature. Medano Creek is a popular spot for picnicking, sunbathing, and cooling off after a day of hiking in the dunes.

Stargazing:

Escape the glow of city lights and marvel at the brilliance of the night sky above Great Sand Dunes National Park. Set up a telescope or simply spread out a blanket and gaze in awe at the countless stars overhead. On clear nights, you can see the Milky Way stretching across the sky, as well as planets, constellations, and even the occasional meteor shower.

Backcountry Camping:

Spend a night under the stars in the remote wilderness of Great Sand Dunes National Park with a backcountry camping trip. Backpack into the park's designated wilderness area and set up camp amidst the dunes, where you can enjoy unparalleled views of the surrounding mountains and desert landscape. Fall asleep to the sound of rustling sands and wake up to the sight of the sun rising over the dunes as you reconnect with nature in this magical desert oasis.

Whether you're sandboarding down towering dunes, hiking through sandy landscapes, or simply stargazing under the vast desert sky, Great Sand Dunes National Park offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventure and exploration.

In Great Sand Dunes National Park, some of the top attractions that draw visitors from around the world include:

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve offers a stunning array of natural wonders and unique landscapes to explore. Here are the top four must-see attractions within the park:

1. The Sand Dunes:

The towering sand dunes are the highlight of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. These massive dunes, some reaching heights of over 750 feet, are a sight to behold and offer endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. Visitors can hike to the tops of the dunes for panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, or they can try their hand at sandboarding or sledding down the slopes.

2. Medano Creek:

During the spring and early summer months, Medano Creek flows at the base of the dunes, creating a unique and ephemeral oasis in the desert. The creek's shallow waters and sandy bottom make it an ideal spot for wading, splashing, and cooling off on hot days. Visitors can also enjoy picnicking along the creek's sandy shores or simply relaxing and taking in the tranquil beauty of the surrounding landscape.

3. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains:

Great Sand Dunes National Park is bordered on the east by the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which provide a dramatic backdrop to the sand dunes and offer numerous hiking opportunities for visitors. Trails such as the Mosca Pass Trail and the Sand Ramp Trail lead into the mountains, where hikers can explore alpine forests, subalpine meadows, and rugged peaks while enjoying breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

4. Zapata Falls:

Located just south of the park, Zapata Falls is a hidden gem worth exploring. To reach the falls, visitors must hike a short but steep trail through a narrow canyon, then wade through the icy waters of the creek to reach the base of the falls. The reward is well worth the effort, as visitors are treated to a spectacular view of the cascading waterfall framed by towering cliffs and lush vegetation.

These are just a few of the must-see attractions that await visitors to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Whether you're seeking adventure on the sand dunes, relaxation along the creek, or solitude in the mountains, the park offers something for everyone to enjoy and explore.

Some Real Wooden Style for Your Trip

We are working on more branded merch to accompany your trip. In the meantime, here is a pair of real wooden shades for some excellent style while you hike the back-country of Great Sand Dunes National Park.

6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)
6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)

6 oz. Wooden Hip Flask (US National Park Collection in Mahogany)

$35.00
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How to Get To Great Sand Dunes National Park

Getting to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in southern Colorado is relatively straightforward, although it involves traveling through rural and sometimes remote areas. Here are the main ways to reach the park:

1. By Car: Driving is the most common way to reach Great Sand Dunes National Park. The park is located approximately 35 miles northeast of Alamosa, Colorado, and can be accessed via U.S. Highway 160 and State Highway 150. From Alamosa, take Highway 160 east to State Highway 150 north, which leads directly to the park's entrance.

2. By Air: The nearest commercial airports to Great Sand Dunes National Park are located in Alamosa and Pueblo, Colorado. Alamosa San Luis Valley Regional Airport (ALS) is the closest airport, located approximately 40 miles southwest of the park. Pueblo Memorial Airport (PUB) is located approximately 140 miles northeast of the park. From either airport, you can rent a car and drive to the park.

3. By Bus: There is no direct bus service to Great Sand Dunes National Park, but Greyhound and other bus companies provide service to nearby towns such as Alamosa. From there, you can rent a car or arrange for transportation to the park.

4. By Train: While there is no direct train service to Great Sand Dunes National Park, Amtrak's Southwest Chief route stops in nearby towns such as Trinidad and La Junta, Colorado. From there, you can rent a car or arrange for transportation to the park.

Once you arrive at Great Sand Dunes National Park, you'll find a visitor center near the entrance where you can obtain park maps, information, and permits. From there, you can explore the park by car, on foot, or by participating in ranger-led programs and activities. Be sure to check the park's website for current road conditions, weather forecasts, and other important information before you go.

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History and Creation of Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, located in southern Colorado, is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America and boasts a unique geological and ecological landscape shaped by wind and water over millions of years. The history and creation of the park are deeply intertwined with the natural forces that have shaped the region and the efforts of conservationists to protect its unique features.

The formation of the sand dunes began over 440,000 years ago, as sediments from the surrounding mountains were carried by the wind and deposited in the San Luis Valley. Over time, these deposits accumulated to form the massive dune field that exists today, with some dunes reaching heights of over 750 feet.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the area attracted the attention of settlers and homesteaders who sought to farm the fertile land surrounding the dunes. However, the harsh climate and lack of water made agriculture unsustainable, and many of these early settlers eventually abandoned their homesteads.

In the 1920s and 1930s, efforts began to protect the unique natural features of the area, culminating in the establishment of Great Sand Dunes National Monument in 1932. Over the years, the monument continued to attract visitors drawn to the otherworldly beauty of the dunes and the recreational opportunities they offered.

In 2004, Great Sand Dunes National Monument was redesignated as Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, expanding its boundaries to include additional land and ecosystems surrounding the dune field. Today, the park encompasses over 149,000 acres and protects not only the iconic sand dunes but also alpine forests, wetlands, and grasslands that support a diverse array of plant and animal life.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve continues to be a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering opportunities for hiking, sandboarding, stargazing, and wildlife viewing amidst one of the most unique landscapes in the United States. Its rich geological history and ecological significance make it a cherished natural treasure and a testament to the power and beauty of the natural world.

/Fin. Great Sand Dunes National Park

As the sun dips below the horizon, casting a golden glow over the rolling dunes of Great Sand Dunes National Park, we bid farewell to this extraordinary landscape with a sense of awe and gratitude. Whether you've soared down the sandy slopes on a sandboard, hiked to the summit of High Dune for panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, or simply marveled at the ever-shifting patterns of sand beneath your feet, the memories forged amidst the vastness of the dunes will linger in your heart long after you've departed. As you journey onward, may the spirit of Great Sand Dunes National Park inspire you to seek out new adventures, explore the wonders of the natural world, and cherish the beauty of our planet's diverse landscapes.

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Great Sand Dunes National Park - Photo by Matt Noble on Unsplash

Outdoor Adventure Giveaway 

Get Some Real Wooden Style for Your Next Outdoor Adventure

The April Edition of the Outdoor Adventure Giveaway is Closed.

Winner Selected on 5/1/2024

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Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

About the Author

Jaimeleigh Christian

Jaimeleigh Christian

Jaime is passionate about the outdoors and traveling throughout these gorgeous United States. Especially National Parks in the Pacific Northwest. 

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Travel

Outdoor Adventure Series

National Parks

Tour Guide

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