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Hiking & Walking: Colorado > Alamosa Area

Quick Facts

Escape Dunes/Ghost Forest Trail

Beginning Elevation: 8,000 Feet (2493.8 Meters) Dunes Parking Area
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate Sandy conditions
Ending Elevation: 8,000 Feet (2493.8 Meters)
Length, One-way: 1.0 Mile (1.6 Kilometers) From Dunes Parking Area
USGS Maps: Zapata Ranch, Liberty




Satellite and Topo Map




General Description

Trees succumbing to the sand
Copyright: Unknown
Trees succumbing to the sand
When driving on the Medano Pass Primitive Road (four-wheel drive), the Escape Dunes and Ghost Forest can be viewed approximately 1/2 mile up the road. Here, shifting sands have crossed Medano Creek to form new dunes. The "escape" dunes create "ghost forests" where trees die through suffocation and starvation. In this area, tall ponderosa pines reach toward the heavens.

The Ghost Forest is of special significance. Here, in years past, the Escape Dunes buried this coniferous forest. Now uncovered again, the skeletal trunks stand as physical testimony to the temporary nature of climate and landscape.

Directions from Visitor Center: The Escape Dunes are approximately 1/2 mile up Medano Pass Primitive Road. Visitors may park in the Main Dune or Amphitheater Parking Area, or if camping, start from the Pinyon Flats Campground and go north on the four-wheel drive road.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Accessible: Year-round (NOTE: Visitor Center open 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in Summer months; varying hours in the Winter.) .



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Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Family Camping Pinyon Flats Campground
No
ICON Fishing Medano Creek; Rio Grande National Forest
No
ICON Four-Wheel Driving Medano Pass Primitive Road
No
ICON Group Picnicking South Ramada (reservations required) and North Ramada
No
ICON Hiking & Walking Numerous other trails in the area as well
Yes
ICON Horseback Riding Park at Amphitheater, Montville or Point of No Return; stay out of main public use areas
Yes
ICON Animal Identification Look for tracks in the sand, especially in early morning.
Yes
ICON Firewood Gathering Not permitted in the Monument; purchase from concessionaire in summer and from Visitor Center in winter.
No
ICON Lodging Alamosa, Monte Vista and Ft. Garland
No
ICON Mountain Biking Only on Medano Pass Primitive Road; some difficult sandy stretches
No
ICON Mountain Climbing Blanca Peak, Little Bear and the Crestones
No
ICON ATV Riding Only on Medano Pass Primitive Road, if vehicle and driver are licensed.
No
ICON Motorcycle Riding Only on Medano Pass Primitive Road, if vehicle and driver are licensed.
No
ICON General Information Visitor Center
No
ICON Picnicking Next to Dunes Parking Area, Sand Pit and Castle Creek sites
No
ICON Downhill Skiing Trying skiing the dunes, even in summer.
No
ICON Backpacking Eight backcountry sites in the Monument; free permit from Visitor Center required.
No
ICON Attending Talks & Programs Summer programs at amphitheater; programs in Visitor Center year-round
No
ICON Viewing Scenery Escape Dunes and Ghost Forest
Yes
ICON Viewing Interpretive Signs Picture Point Trail, Montville Nature Trail
No
ICON Guided Touring Concessionaire conducts tours on Medano Pass Primitive Road in the summer.
No



Related Activities
Castle Creek Picnic Ground - This picnic site is located on Medano Pass Primitive Road where Castle Creek joins Medano Creek. Either drive a high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle or park at The Point of No Return and walk.

Castle Creek Trail - At Castle Creek, the dunes rise abruptly from the creekbed. Dune slipfaces avalanche as they near angles greater than 34 degrees. Steep slipfaces are challenging to climb; stay on the ridges and slide down the faces.

Great Sand Dunes National Monument Visitor Center - Before venturing out to the dunes, stop by the Visitor Center. Here you can pick up information on the dunes and other park features. The center is opened daily, except on federal holidays in the winter.

Medano Pass Primitive Road - The Medano Pass Primitive Road is a four-wheel drive road that begins in the park and goes north to Medano Pass and the Rio Grande National Forest.

Pinyon Flats Campground - PiƱon Flats Campground is open all year on a first-come, first serve basis. Each site has a picnic table and fire grate. Facilities include water fountains and spigots as well as restrooms with sinks and toilets.

Point of No Return Parking Area - This is a turnaround area and small parking area, aptly named Point of No Return. It is provided for two-wheel drive, wide and/or long vehicles.

Sand Pit Picnic Ground - This is a nice place to come for a picnic, whether you drive your car to The Point of No Return and walk a half mile or walk from the campground.



More Information

Visitor Information:

Alamosa Visitor Information Center, Cole Park , Alamosa, CO, 81101, Phone: 719-589-4840, bluskys@alamosa.org

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