Travel Guide To Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes

April 9, 2015 8:00 AM

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes are the tallest dunes in the country. Because of the diverse landscape of wetlands, alpine lakes, tundra, grasslands and forests, this natural landmark has become a centerpiece of our nation’s park system. It has also been a popular area for independent research scientists, agencies and students to visit for scientific research opportunities.
hiking pic Travel Guide To Colorados Great Sand Dunes

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Things To Do

While exploring the Great Sand Dunes Park you will also want to take a scenic drive along the 22-mile Medano Pass Primitive Road. This road connects the park with the Wet Mountain Valley and Highway 69 along the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Dune Field is more than 30 square miles and is located in the heart of the park. This is one of the most popular attractions at the park. Though High Dune is not technically the highest dune in the park, it is high enough making it possible to see all of the dunes from the top of it.

Other things to do in the Great Sand Dunes Park include:

  • Bison Tour
  • Hiking
  • Sledding
  • Sandboarding and sand sledding
  • Swimming in Medano Creek
  • Wildlife watching
  • Horseback riding
  • Watch the stars at night
  • Ranger programs
  • Breathtaking photographic opportunities

Related: Top Unusual Things to Do in Denver

Weather Conditions

Those visiting Colorado’s Sand Dunes Park will be able to experience everything the park has to offer, including the changes in seasons. This national park can experience everything from sunny weather to blizzards. Depending upon the time of year you visit, be prepared for the weather conditions expected for that season.

  • Summer: Temperatures can reach the 80s during the day and the 40s overnight. However, temperatures on the sand surface have been recorded at 150 F in the afternoons just before thunderstorms develop.
  • Fall: Conditions are usually calm in the fall months with temperatures between the 60s and 70s, but the nights do get a bit chilly.
  • Winter: It is usually sunny in the winter, but it does get cold with high temperatures in the teens during the day and subzero overnight. Be prepared for blizzards to come through the area this time of year.
  • Spring: The weather in the spring is not so mild. This area can experience everything from “let’s go swimming” to “better bundle up a blizzard is coming” weather conditions. It is also very windy in this area during the spring months.
campground Travel Guide To Colorados Great Sand Dunes

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Accommodations

A variety of camping and lodging options in Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes Park, plus many more options are available in the surrounding areas. You can camp at the Pinyon Flats Campground or go backpacking through the park.

If you do not want to go camping, you can stay at the Great Sand Dunes Lodge. This is the closest motel to the national park, which is located just south of the main entrance to the park. This hotel is only open from mid-March through October.

Other lodging options close to the park include:

  • Oasis Camping Cabins – located just south of the park’s entrance and is open from April through October.
  • Oasis Duplex Motel – located in the grasslands just south of the park with breathtaking views of the mountains and dunes.
  • Zapata Ranch – located a few miles south of the park’s main entrance and offers a rustic, yet elegant lodging options.

If you want to stay in accommodations that are not so rustic, there are lodging options in nearby communities. Here are some of the hotels available in communities surrounding the Great Sand Dunes Park:

Related: Top Spots for Camping Near Denver

Dining

You can grab a bite to eat at the Oasis Restaurant and Store, which is located at the main entrance of the park. This is the only restaurant within a 25 mile radius of the park. There are plenty of restaurants available in neighboring towns, including in Alamosa, Hooper, Blanca and Fort Garland.

There are several picnicking sites throughout the Great Sand Dunes National Park, including many along Medano Creek. Most of the picnic sites offer shade from cottonwood and/or conifer trees, picnic tables and charcoal grills.

airport terminal Travel Guide To Colorados Great Sand Dunes

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Transportation

The main park area can be easily accessed by car from local highways. To get to the park, take Highway 150 from the south, or you can take County Road 6 from the west. Both of these will take you to the Visitor Center, Pinon Flats Campground and the Dunes Parking Lot.

If you plan to fly in for your visit of the Colorado Sand Dunes Park, there is a small airport in Alamosa, which is 38 miles from the park. Larger airports are also available in Colorado Springs, Denver and Albuquerque. Rental cars are available at all of the area airports.

Nearby Attractions

Thought there are plenty of things to see and do within Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes, there are so many more things to experience nearby. You will want to take a short drive south of the park you will find Zapata Falls, which offers amazing views of the entire dunes area and the San Luis Valley. If time allows, a visit to the Rio Grande National Forest and the San Isabel National Forest will be worth the short drive.

Other neighboring attractions include:

No vacation to Colorado is complete without a stop at Colorado’s Great Dunes Park. At the park you will be able to explore Mother Nature by climbing sand dunes, mountainsides and strolling along beautiful waterways. Plus, nearby there are plenty of things to see and do that will keep you active during your next vacation.

Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions – writing and travel – to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at Examiner.com.