Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is a unique place located in the southern part of Colorado San Luis Valley. On a site where once stood huge lake through thousands of years, the wind brought sediments from Sangre de Cristo mountain range and sand dunes field formed due to specific terrain and location conditions.
The Park and Preserve take 434.4 square kilometres, and the dunes cover around 78 square kilometres. The park hosts the highest sand dunes in North America, and although it is one of the smallest, this national park has an entertaining thing to do.
Foreign visitors that want to explore the incredible nature of the Rockies need travel authorization. For visitors from 39 countries in Visa Waiver Program, the application is simplified, and you’ll need to fill out an online questionnaire. Esta application is simple, and you have to wait around three days for the administration to process your application. With an ESTA permit, you can visit the US for up to 90 days.
Best time to go to Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is at a high altitude above 7500 feet, and the weather is highly volatile. Winters are cold and snowy, with cold weather and snowfall possible even in May. Before going to the Great Sand Dunes park, check the weather forecast because you can experience thunderstorms throughout the year. These storms can be dangerous on dunes.
Springtime is the best if you want to walk on Medano Creek that flows between Visitor Center and the Dunes. Summer brings scorching heat on the sand in the afternoon and the possibility of thunderstorms.
You can have the best weather and least thunderstorms in early fall. Late September is when the weather is still great, with more bearable heat on the sand, and it is not as crowded as in peak season.
It would help if you carried sunscreen regardless of the season, check the weather forecast, and take water when hiking on the dunes. It would help if you also went early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the highest temperatures.
Sand Dunes Colorado winter
The Winter season is not as crowded, and you should come prepared for possible extreme weather conditions. You can enjoy long hikes on chilly air and warm sand. Days are mostly sunny, and the sky is clear at night. Simultaneously, you can run into snow blizzards and frigid temperatures.
The visitor centre is open until 4.30 PM, and so is the Pinon Flats Campground. You can’t camp with RV in winter, and you should take necessary precautions for winter visits. You can ski or snowboard on snow-covered dunes, and if the snow melts, you can still sled on the sand.
Great Sand Dunes things to do
Visit the two tallest dunes in the north US. The Star Dune is the tallest one with 750 feet. It’s not easy to access, and you will need a couple of hours of hiking on the dunes, so you should plan to visit overnight camping on the dunes. The High Dune is the second tallest at 699 feet, but it looks taller because its base is higher. You will need around one hour from the parking lot to get on the High Dune.
Sand sledding is the number one activity in the park. You can bring your sled or board or buy one in the nearby shop. Wax the board, walk patiently to the dune of your liking, and sled down. Be careful to avoid dunes with sharp transitions on the bottom because sand can be challenging if you crash down at the sled end.
One of the premier things to do in Great Sand Dunes National Park is stargazing. A clear sky in this pristine natural environment means you will have a carpet of stars in front of you.
Sand Dunes sunset
Photography is another reason crowds of visitors flock to the park. You can take pictures of unique landscapes or beautiful night sky, but sunset and sunrise photography are among the best thing you can capture.
One of the best places to take sunset pictures is behind High Dune, where you can have dunes and sunset in the same frame. You can go on the top of the High Dune with rolling mountains beyond.
Another great place for photographers is Medano Pass Primitive Road. You can drive away from visitors and have a perfect picture opportunity for a sunset photo.
Hotels near Great Sand Dunes National Park
The closest town to Great Sand Dunes National Park in Alamosa can find suitable accommodation options 28 miles from the park. Best Western Rambler is among the nearest hotels. It’s situated in Walsenburg, 40 miles from the visitor center.
Best Western Alamosa Inn, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Comfort Inn & Suites, and Mountain View Motor Inn are among the top accommodation options in Alamosa.
Check status of esta before you make a reservation for a hotel or motel near Sand Dunes. ESTA is usually approved, but sometimes there is an issue with the application. Once granted, the permit lasts for two years, so you will have enough time to make all necessary preparation for the US road trip.
Great Sand Dunes National Park is maybe tiny, but it’s unique, wonderful, and lots of fun stuff to do. You can sled on the dunes, hike on the sand or surrounding mountains, camp under the clear star-filled sky, or take incredible sunset photos.
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