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Mountain Biking: Colorado > Alamosa Area

Quick Facts

Medano Pass Primitive Road

Beginning Elevation: 8,200 Feet (2556.1 Meters) Great Sand Dunes
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Ending Elevation: 11,500 Feet (3584.8 Meters) Medano Lake
Length, One-way: 4.0 Miles (6.67 Kilometers)
Recommended Season: Late Summer to Early Fall
Road Number: 235
Usage: Moderate to Heavy
USGS Maps: Zapata Ranch, Liberty, Medano Pass

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

The beginning of Medano Pass Primitive Road - 10.98
Copyright: Jamiebea Hall - Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
The beginning of Medano Pass Primitive Road - 10.98
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. Soft sand may require reduced tire pressure. Air is available at the amphitheater parking lot. This drive offers spectacular views of the dunes. Primitive picnic areas (no water, restrooms or trash containers) are located along the road.

A turnaround area and small parking area, aptly named Point of No Return, is provided for two-wheel drive vehicles and wide vehicles. It is important to heed the implied warning of Point of No Return. Losing a vehicle is no fun.

From the top of Medano Pass, high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicles can continue northeast into the San Isabel National Forest. Eventually the road joins Highway 69.

A park concessioner operates tours on the Medano Pass road from May through September; stop by the Visitor Center for more information.

Horseback riding is permitted in the Monument, but riding is not permitted in the main public use area (off the dunes parking lot). Medano Pass Primitive Road is a pleasant place to ride. Vehicles and trailers must be parked at the amphitheater parking lot. Please clean up after your horses in the parking lot. If camping in the adjacent National Forest and leaving a vehicle in the Monument, a free backcountry permit is required which is available in the Visitor Center.

Directions from Visitor Center: Travel north from the Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center. At the entrance to Pinyon Flats Campground the four-wheel drive road continues north.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Accessible: Memorial Day Weekend through Mid-October .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: darren (san antonio, tx)
Time of Day: morning
Length of Time: 2 hrs
Difficulty: Easy
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: my wife & me did this drive a few yrs back, but, I remember we enjoyed it! the fall colors were peaking, so it made it a more pretty trail. the hardest part was getting through the sand at the beginning. the campground was nice, too!

Filed By: Steve Green (Littleton, CO)
Time of Day: noon
Length of Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: One of the coolest passes in Colorado! The dirt portion is easy, the sand portion is taxing on a mtc. Bring your bathing suit in the summer cause the river is awesome. Not to mention the sand dunes where you end up. I love this pass.

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

Related Activities
Amphitheater and Parking Area - The amphitheater is on the right, just before Piñon Flats Campground. Nightly campfire programs are offered from Memorial Day to Labor Day. A wheelchair platform is located in the center of the seating area.

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.

Dunes Overlook - The Dunes Overlook is a short side trail off Little Medano Creek Trail. It is about 1/2 mile in length and gives visitors a magnificent view of the Main Dune Mass.

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.

Little Medano Creek Trail - Meander through a variety of terrain when you head north from the campground. Travel through escape dunes until the trail crosses Medano Creek. The trail ends at an overlook just beyond Little Medano Creek.

Medano Lake Trail - Medano Lake Trail begins just below Medano Pass. Starting in stand of spruce-fir, the trail rises moderately as it follows Medano Creek to Medano Lake. Medano Creek and Medano Lake offer the visitor good fishing possibilities.

Medano Pass Road Four-Wheel Drive Road - Medano Pass Road makes a wonderful day trip for licensed, high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicles. It can include a stop in the Great Sand Dunes National Monument.

Pinyon Flats Campground - Piñon 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.

Pinyon Flats Group Site - Some group sites are available in Piñon Flats Campground. It is extremely popular and reservations are required. Since these sites are in such high demand, call the Visitor Center any time after January 2nd.

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.

Sawmill Canyon Campground - For a unique backcountry experience, Sawmill Canyon Campsite offers excellent scenery and solitude. Less then 1 mile north on Medano Pass Road, the two car parking area can accommodate up to four wheelchairs.

More Information

Visitor Information:

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


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