Active Travel, Hiking, Road Trip, USA

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

We love visiting US National Parks.  So our trip to Colorado would not be complete without visits to its National Parks.

Rocky Mountain National Park is the most popular choice and we will visit this Park towards the end of our Colorado and New Mexico road trip. But upon reading about the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve located in southern Colorado, we knew we had to incorporate it into our itinerary.In addition to having North America’s highest dunes at 230 meters, the Park has attractive high country in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of the Rocky Mountain Range.

As we drove on the access road towards the National Park gate, we were immediately mesmerized by the stunning view of the 30 square miles of wind-shaped dunes against the backdrop of the rugged mountains.After paying the vehicle park entrance fee of $25, we proceeded to the park’s visitor center. The visitor center has many interpretive displays on the origin of the Dunes, a park ranger information desk, restrooms, water fountains, a small film viewing room, and  a souvenirs shop. But the most interesting part of the visitor center is the glass window looking directly out to the Dunes.

Since the Dunes appear to be just a short distance from the visitor center and there was an  obvious path leading to them, we initially decided to hike towards the Dunes. Then we met some people on the trail who told us that a better method to see the best Dunes would be to drive to the Dune’s day parking lot further past the visitor center.

We returned to our car and drove the short distance to the Dunes Parking. We were quite surprised that the parking lot, the overflow parking lot, as well as the surrounding  roadways were completely filled with cars and buses.

After the short walk towards the Dunes, w e understood why this Park, especially this section of the Park is so popular with families. The short film we saw at the visitor center explained that the run off from the high mountain range into the creeks below is a natural cycle that helps to preserve the Dune’s eco system. But what we saw was an amazing beach-like atmosphere at the fast running creek dividing the Dunes and the parking lot. Families were out with tarps and picnics, with small children wading and building sand castles around the creeks. Toddlers were in colorful beach floats. At certain parts of the creeks, the current was actually strong enough to render us unbalanced and we almost fell.After enjoying the festive scene at the creek, we proceeded towards the high Dunes. We spent some time walking along the ridges of the various Dunes, taking in different vantage points, some with views of iced capped mountains as backdrop, and some with sand Dunes that stretched beyond what ours eyes could see.We also enjoyed watching all the teens and adults sand surfing on the Dunes.After a while, the hot sun and wind wore us down. We returned to the creek area to cool off, then walked back to our car.We enjoyed our day spent at this unique National Park.  Sure, it did not have all the amenities, like lodging, food services, or miles of trails like some National Parks.  However, it more than made for it with its unique eco-system of mountains, dunes and creek, the easy access to the Dunes, and happy families enjoying the activities at the creek and at the Dunes.

1 Comment

  1. Francisco Gomez

    another good source of NP information and photos! And I like your album photo where Sue appears on opposite ends.

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