Great Sand Dunes Wilderness National Park

The Great Sand National Park appears with the same intensity as the granite of Yosemite, suddenly materializing as unsuspecting tourists gawk.

Park visitors are instantly touched by a sense of wonder leaving a permanent impression as a gentle reminder that wondrous sights might be around the corner and perhaps we should take the time to look. It is my goal to at least check and see if anything is around the corner because the trip can be as groovy as the destination. The Great Sand Dunes is an often overlooked sight, but the trip is well worth the price of admission.

On several drives through Colorado the sign to The Great Sand Dunes Wilderness beckoned, but uneventfully its call was never headed. There was never time and the road to the park was passed on repeated trips. This time the road less traveled beckoned more forcefully to take the left turn and shortly, just 16 miles off google map’s route, the dunes arrive. This impromptu turn onto a two lane paved road could lead to the best bargain your eye holes have ever beheld.

I had one moment of frenzy, decided that I could not spare the time to visit the park and turned around at the gate. Yes, I drove the 16 miles to the park gate, made a u-turn at the guard shack, and drove 5 miles away from the park before I turned around. Seriously, what have we become that pressures occurring a week later destroy the beauty of today? I paid my $3.00 to the bewildered Ranger and entered the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

The dunes contrast the Sangre de Cristo Range’s blueish hue with winter snow patches tucked snugly into high alpine crevices with the dunes’ warm yellowish resonance splashed across the base. This makes a statement different than the largeness of Yosemite’s’ rocks, but in my opinion none less dramatic. A few seconds gazing at the geological formation and the biodiversity is immediately apparent. In one view there is sand, mountains, water, trees, grass and sky.

Hiking and Backpacking in Great Sand Dunes National Park

Hiking, backpacking and overnight camping are permitted in the park. The dunes, and most of the forests, in the national park are designated wilderness that can be used by guests for hiking or overnight backpacking trips. Hikers can roam any of the dunes’ 30 square miles, but should not expect any trails to be present in the sand. During summer months, be prepared to hike in the morning to avoid the 150 degree sand temperature.

In addition to hiking the dunes wooded trails available. Montville Nature Trail, Mosca Pass Trail, and Sand Ramp Trail are good options for summer hikes or a cool place to wait out a hot afternoon. There are alpine trails that can be hiked or backpacked that share access with 4WD vehicles. The Great Sand Dunes Visitor’s Center will be able to answer any questions about hiking, trail safety, and accessibility.

Hiking and Backpacking in the Grasslands and Scrubland Provides Best Views

Another option is hiking or camping in the grasslands or scrublands of Great Sand Dune National Park. These are the least visited areas of the park, but provide some marvelous views of the dune, approaching storms, surrounding mountains, and abundant wildlife in this park ecosystem.

Other Activities at Great Sand Dunes Wilderness

The area in front of the dune was alive with activity, and the diverse crowd singular in their appreciation of this unique environment. What appeared to be an art troupe used the dune as a background for a series of photographs. As the troupe posed, a family of traditional dressed Amish walked slowly by, but neither seemed to be out of place to the other.

A mother and daughter walked quickly across the sand carrying two boards and excitedly discussing sandboarding while making plans to return and tackle the larger dunes. One thing is certain, not enough time had been spent exploring the Great Sand Dunes and plans to return were considered for another day.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Weather Conditions

It is easy to be absorbed in the beauty of your surroundings, but Rangers at the Grand Sand Dune National Park urge visitors to be vigilant. The park is a beautiful place, but changing weather conditions make this beauty dangerous. Located at an elevation of between 7515 ft. (2308m) and 13604 ft. (4464m), depending on location in the park, Rocky Mountain Range storms appear quickly and weather conditions rapidly deteriorate. Want to know what the weather is like in dunes right now? The park website offers the Great Sand Dunes National Park Webcam and a park weather link to current conditions.

More Information for Great Sand Dunes Park

If you would like more information to plan a hiking or backpacking trip the park has a great website. It is loaded with trip planning information and should be the first stop in planning a day hike, overnight backpacking excursion, or family vacation.

The links below will take you to the Great Sand Dunes National Park website. Enjoy, leave no trace, and Go Hike Go!

Great Sand Dunes Wilderness National Park

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