Great Sand Dunes

Alamosa, Colorado 81101

Great Sand Dunes

Great Sand Dunes Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"Great Sand Dunes National Park encompasses a 39-square-mile area of sandy dunes on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley. Towering nearly 750 feet above the valley floor, these swells of sand are considered the tallest dunes in North America.

For hikers of all ages, the Great Sand Dunes offer an enormous sandbox in which to explore. Because these sands are constantly shifting, no actual trails exist within the dunes. There is, however, a 1.5-mile route that climbs to one of the high points in the dunes."

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Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Hiking through History Colorado (Falcon Guides)
Robert Hurst
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"Climb a sand dune. Then another. Then three more. Keep climbing. Then tumble back down to where you started. Retrace the steps of floundering explorers in one of the most unique and fascinating places on the planet. This is a weird hike! There is no trail, just a vast area of dunes. The hike doesn’t start from the visitor center, but from the parking area by Medano Creek. After passing the visitor center, turn left onto a paved access road that leads to the parking area."

Great Sand Dunes Trip Reports

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5/28/2009
I had an awesome time here! Best known for the dunes there are a variety of trails that take you up into the hills/mountains, too.
If you go out on the dunes try to get out there in the morning. Also Great Dune can get crowded since it is popular with people and their little kids. Yet there are plenty of other dunes to explore. The forested/mountain trails are a lot less busy. Be prepared to either wade across the creek barefoot or with sandels. The water isn't very deep though.
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6/10/2006
This in such an amazing place that it's hard to believe it's so unknown / few people there. Words don't do it justice. Definitely hike the dunes...high dune gives an amazing view of the entire field. Dune hiking is strenous though, so work up to it. Suggest boots (w/o vents/holes) & socks vs. sandles, as sand gets everywhere. Take lots of water. Amazing trails on the mountain side too. If there multiple nights, get a backcountry pass and either camp off one of the trails or into the dunes themselves...amazing! Also, consider visiting the hot springs in the area. Great way to ease sore hiking muscles & very reasonable. Truly a wonder of the world in our own back yard!
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7/22/2003
We wimped out because it was very humid and we didn't care to ford the water, so we only walked a short way, but found it a fascinating place.
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8/3/2002
What a stunning place! (Rumor has it that Great Sand Dunes is soon to be named a National Park.) Although the description says 3 mi. total out and back, you can spend as much time as you want exploring the dunes. I went in March when there were still patches of snow--made for some great photos. The hiking is tough. It takes a lot of effort to walk up some of the steeper dunes, even when using hands and feet. (Of course, being from out of state, our group was still getting used to the elevation. You natives may fare better.) Bring plenty of water, too. Also be sure to visit the ranger station for a fascinating presentation on the formation of this unique landmark. We saw one man sandboarding on the dunes, and another couple setting out for a weekend trip, so there are plenty of things to do as well. (Try doing flips off steep dunes--also lots of fun, and more great pictures!)
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Great Sand Dunes Photos

Trail Information

Alamosa
Nearby City
Dog-friendly
Accessibility
3
Distance
Out-and-back
Trail Type
Difficult
Skill Level
2 hours
Duration
Year-round
Season
8,050 feet
Trailhead Elevation
8,690 feet
Top Elevation
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve; Great Sand Dunes Wilderness Area
Local Contacts
USGS Zapata Ranch
Local Maps