Visiting the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, USA

Despite all of the other quirky and interesting things in the San Luis Valley, we were coming for the Great Sand Dunes. Even though it was my second time visiting, it was just as incredible an experience. The first time I called it “the best National Park you’ve never heard of”.

The San Luis Valley is a peculiar place. There is the spiritual center at Crestone. There’s the hot springs/nudist resort nearby at Valley View. There’re the past UFO sightings. The Valley has also been a spiritual center for American Indians for hundreds of years. The striking beauty of the Sangre de Christo Mountains only add to this scene.

Then there are the highest sand dunes in North America, stretching upwards to 750 feet (228 meters).

We spent both the evening hours and morning climbing over the Great Sand Dunes. It’s not easy. Your feet sink about half a step into the sand as you try to work your way to the top. When you get to the top of one dune, you’ll have to go down the other side, only to walk up a higher one next.

At the top the rewards are views out north over the miles of dunes and the Sangre de Cristo to the east. Mostly, it’s just the novelty of climbing and sliding/running/tumbling down enormously high sand dunes.

More Info

Camping at the base of the dunes in the National Park is $20. There’s no shower, so you’ll be brushing the sand off your body before entering your tent. For views of the San Luis Valley we were told to hike up the Zapata Falls trail just outside the National Park.

Great Sand Dunes National Park is located in southern Colorado, about 4 ½ hours from Denver. For more information, visit the National Park Service’s page: http://www.nps.gov/grsa/index.htm

For more photos see my Flickr set or Runaway Juno’s recent photos of Great Sand Dunes.

Text and Photos by Stephen Bugno

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