Home | Getting Started | Gift Center | Gear Store | Topo Maps | My Wildernet | Newsletter Signup
STATE:
ACTIVITY:
SEARCH:
Colorado > Great Sand Dunes National Park
Activity Locator: (50 recreation options)

Great Sand Dunes National Park


Area Map


Activities within Great Sand Dunes National Park:

All Great Sand Dunes National Park Outdoor Recreation Activities

Great Sand Dunes National Park Customized Topo Maps and Aerial Photos
Outdoor Gear and Clothing

Search by Name within Colorado:



Satellite Map



Trip Planner

Hotels Airline Tickets Car Rentals
B&Bs Yellow Pages City Guide


General Information

Old sign on the southern boundary of the Dunes
Copyright: Unknown
Old sign on the southern boundary of the Dunes
Description - Set against a backdrop of 14,000 foot peaks, the tallest sand dunes in North America rise nearly 750 feet above the San Luis Valley.In a corner of the remote San Luis Valley in the Colorado Rockies rise the Great Sand Dunes. These dunes are the tallest in North America, rising 750 feet from the valley floor. They cover approximately 39 square miles of the San Luis Valley.

The dunes are home to some unique and spectacular species of flora and fauna. In late summer you can see the bright yellow prairie sunflower in its peak of color. The giant sand treader camel cricket and two species of beetle are unique residents of the dunes. Besides a large variety of birds, there are quite a few species of mammals that visit or reside within the dunes. Few reptiles are found here due to the high altitude. A rattlesnake sighting would be extremely rare; rumor has it here have been two rattlesnake sightings since the Monument opened in 1932.

Attractions - In a corner of the remote San Luis Valley in the Colorado Rockies rise the Great Sand Dunes. These dunes are the tallest in North America, rising 750 feet from the valley floor. They cover approximately 39 square miles of the San Luis Valley.

The dunes are home to some unique and spectacular species of flora and fauna. In late summer you can see the bright yellow prairie sunflower in its peak of color. The giant sand treader camel cricket and two species of beetle are unique residents of the dunes. Besides a large variety of birds, there are quite a few species of mammals that visit or reside within the dunes. Few reptiles are found here due to the high altitude. A rattlesnake sighting would be extremely rare; rumor has it here have been two rattlesnake sightings since the Monument opened in 1932.

Medano Creek is called the "vanishing creek" as its waters disappear into the sand along the eastern edge of the dunes. The length and time Medano Creek flows to the picnic area greatly depends on the amount of winter snow melt. In heavy snow years, or summers in which there is a lot of rainfall, the creek may flow through July. Usually the creek starts to flow in late March or April, but for maximum visitor enjoyment, May and June are generally the months with the highest creek flow.

Recreation - The Great Sand Dunes are a place to take a hike, to discover animals and plants, to seek silence and solitude, to take photographs, to ride a horse, to wilderness camp and, if you like, to run, jump, roll and slide. Your exploration can begin at the foot of the dunes and go as high as almost 750 feet to the top of the highest dune. A four-wheel drive road leads past the eastern portion of the monument, and into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Interpretive walks, talks and evening programs on topics like dune geology, area history and plant and animal life are offered Memorial Day through Labor Day.

A ranger may be available to do a program for your group, but please call at least three weeks in advance to make arrangements. Two Group Picnic areas area are also available. South Ramada requires reservations.

The Great Sand Dunes is open all year, 24 hours a day. Visitor Center hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the summer months, with varying hours in the winter months.

Climate - Walking in the dunes is strenuous and you should pace yourself, resting as needed. You may want to consider beginning your exploration in the cooler hours of morning or evening, especially in the summer. Be sure to take shoes with you - the surface temperature of the dunes can reach 140 degrees - more than hot enough to burn your feet.

The extreme heat of the dunes can also blister paws, and cause heat exhaustion or stroke, which can be fatal for animals as well as people. Pets left in vehicles without adequate ventilation can succumb to suffocation all too quickly. On an 85 degree day, the temperature inside a car, even with the windows slightly open, will reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes and 130 degrees in 30 minutes.

Watch the skies; thunderstorms are dramatic, but please, safely observe them away from the dunes. Lightning commonly strikes the dunes and if you are on them, you may be the high point and be in danger of drawing lightning to yourself. Thunderstorms are common in July and August. Quickly vacate the dunes if the skies become threatening; you do not want lightening to strike you! When lightening hits the sand, it fuses or melts particles of sand together, resulting in a "fulgurite;" don't become a human fulgurite. If you are fortunate enough to come across a fulgurite, please leave it there for other people to view.

Temperatures in the summer average 70-80 degrees in during the day, while nighttime lows drop to the 40s. Summer days are seldom uncomfortable hot, and nights are generally cool. Thundershowers can be expected during 70 percent of July and August. South and southwest winds occur during March, April, May and June, averaging 45 miles per hour. Occasionally, east winds will gust up to 60 miles per hour.

In the fall, winter and spring, expect moderate daytime temperatures and freezing to subzero nights in this "Land of Cool Sunshine." Average temperatures are below freezing in December, January and February. Frost penetration has been measured at four feet beneath the sand. An average of 36 inches of snow falls annually; the snow is very dry, averaging only 10 percent moisture content.

Location - The Great Sand Dunes National Park is located 38 miles northeast of Alamosa, Colorado. Highway 150 leads to the entrance and visitor center of the monument. The monument lies at the southeastern end of the San Luis Valley, nestled against the western slope of Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The peaks immediately to the east of the dunes are (from north to south) Cleveland Peak, 13,414; Mount Herard, 12,200; Mount Zwischen, 12,006 and Carbonate Mountain, 12,308.


Current Conditions & Trip Reports

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: Charles E. (Los Angeles, CA)
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: I went to the Great Sand Dunes while on a trip to Durango, Co in late September of 2005. Easily one of the hilights of my entire trip. Trekking up the dunes was an amazing challenge, though during the early fall it gets EXTREMELY windy so its best to wear protective clothing so you don't get pelted by the sand and the 60 mph winds! But the Great Sand Dunes were still an amazing sight to behold and I'd recommend it to anyone visiting the Southwest corner of Colorado.

Filed By: Shane Zdankiewicz (Marion, IL)
Number of People Encountered: 25-50 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: I am 16, Me my dad, my brother, and my cousin went in July of 2005. We took our Jeep Rubicon to many 4-wheel drive roads in Colorado, and then went to Arizona and hiked to the Bottom of the Grand Canyon camped overnight and hiked back out. But the Sand-dunes were definantly the best part of the trip to me. We were only there two days, and I hiked to the top 3 times i liked it so much (once i went off in the middle of the night. Everyone else went once, I definantly plan on returning, multiple times. Im a fast runner, and while running down the dunes i measured over an 11-foot stride. I had never even heard of the dunes before, but im glad i went. I would choose another trip to the dunes over another trip to the Grand Canyon, Disney World or anywhere else. The place is huge, and every square inch is open for you to explore. If you go for a hike in the evening the sand is cool, and you can go barefoot, while bare foot you can walk on top of the sand like it is a solid surface if you are careful. But head the warnings of hot sand during the day, it true. I went for one last hike to the top before we left barefoot, about 10:30 a.m, the sand was so hot my feet blistered when I got back. I did not want to leave. Dont plan on a short 2 day trip if yopu go if you like to hike and/or are adventurous you could spend several days there. And if you have a 4-wheel Drive vehicle then go take a trip up medeono pass, and breathe the fresh cool air at 14'000 feet. Would definantly recomend. A++++++ ~Shane Zdankiewicz Marion Illiois.

Filed By: Eddie (Piedmont, SC)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: No way to explain how awesome this park is, especially in the wintertime! had a great time, and saw very few people - Temps get pretty low at night. Both nights we were there, it got down to below 10 degrees F.

Filed By: Carol S.
Number of People Encountered: 25-50 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: My husband and I went to the Great Sand Dunes a few years ago. It was the highlight of our trip to Colorado. The mountains- with the dunes in the foreground are an awesome sight. I took the most beautiful photos. We were surprised to see the Medano Creek flowing freely and so many people out on the sand and water as if they were at the seashore. It was the last thing we were expecting to see in the middle of Colorado! It was just wonderful. The only drawback is that it is such a long ride to get there. It is in the middle of nowhere --but the landscape is so fantastic along the way that you don't mind the hours it takes to get there (we were staying in Colorado Springs and I think it was at least a 3 hour drive from there).

Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report:

Filed By: Sandy (Ft. Smith, AR)
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: We visited at the end of July 2002. What a great place. We stayed at the lodge and was thrilled to see all the hummingbirds. The weather was cool. The tour to the back of the dunes was great fun. Don't miss Zapata falls. Spectacular! And if your a birdwatcher, there are some dandies there.

View more Trip Reports.


More Information

Additional Information:
Alamosa Area - Alamosa is the center from which almost any outdoor activity imaginable is possible, including summer skiing on the dunes in The Great Sand Dunes National Monument.
Colorado National Forests & Parks - Colorado is well known for its National Forests and Parks which include 14,000-foot mountains, world-class ski resorts, semiarid deserts, ancient Indian ruins and wide open plains.
San Luis Valley Area - Southern Colorado's beautiful San Luis Valley is one of the highest and largest valleys in the world. A million plus acres of public lands invite the outdoorsman to enjoy the true Rocky Mountain experience.
South Central Region - This region lies just east of the Continental Divide, from the middle of the state to the southern border of Colorado. It includes the upper Arkansas River Valley, the San Luis Valley and the Colorado Springs area.

Links:
Above Timberline - THE SANGRES: A FIELD GUIDE
Great Sand Dunes National Monument - Official agency website

Advertisement





About Wildernet |  Email to a Friend  |  Disclaimer |  Privacy |  Contact Us  | Comments & Suggestions
Advertisers & Sponsors |  Owners & Operators |  Tourism Promotors
©1995-2017 Interactive Outdoors Inc. All rights reserved.