A sandbox of epic proportions, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve spans over 30 square miles and reaches heights of 750 feet. Its beauty is even further magnified thanks to a breathtaking backdrop known as the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. If you’re ever in Southern Colorado, visiting this rural gem is not only recommended, it’s mandatory!
I’ve been to Colorado almost every year since I was born. I lived in Denver for a while during college, got engaged in Boulder, and married in Breckenridge. After all of this time, I never knew the Great Sand Dunes National Park existed in this state! As embarrassing as that is, it’s a true testament to how many incredible places are in this world that we have no idea about. Some are quite literally in our backyard! That’s why I feel it’s so important to stay curious, explore, and not let life pass you by.
The breathtaking form of the dunes are the result of San Luis Valley’s unique wind patterns. Many say the San Luis Valley is a bit supernatural and mysterious, and boy do I believe it. Where else in the world can you find 14,000-foot jagged peaks, towering sand dunes, hot springs, waterfalls, and the headwaters to the Rio Grande River all in a 100-mile stretch of land? Its mother nature at its finest.
The Great Sand Dunes National Park is open year-round and has an elevation of 8,200 feet. With that altitude, weather is important to keep in mind when visiting:
- Summer: Days may see an average of 75º F, but the sand surface can climb to 150º F in the afternoon. Be sure to visit earlier in the day, if possible, and bring closed-toe shoes. We visited in late August and arrived around 10:00 am. The sand was pretty warm when we got there, but thanks to cloud coverage, they cooled off pretty quickly and we all galavanted around without shoes.
- Late Spring and Early Autumn: Temperatures during these times are generally mild, and probably the most ideal. However, temperatures always vary from season to season and year to year, so be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast and plan ahead.
- Winter: Temperatures can reach -5º F throughout the season, with snow and blizzards always a possibility in the park. If visiting during this time, keep an eye on the weather and pack a lot of layers!
Sandboarding and sand sledding at the dunes is a must! The park does not rent these, so be sure to stop by a local shop before making your way to the dunes.
Because we had a long day of driving ahead of us, we only stayed for about an hour. Honestly, we didn’t really know what to expect and literally added this stop to our trip the night before driving here. Our plan upon arrival was to walk as high as we could up the mountain, but we didn’t quite make it that far. It’s important to note that the walk from the parking lot (where you enter the sand) to the base of the sand dunes is about half a mile walk. It’s pretty far! We made it about a third of the way until the littles ones started getting tired. So, we decided to park it in the sand, play, take silly photos, and enjoy the surroundings for about an hour before heading to Utah.
If that walk or those activities don’t sound appealing, there’s still plenty more to do while enjoying the epic scenery. You can have a picnic at one of several different spots around the park, hike, camp, go horseback riding, attend a ranger-led nature walk, or participate in an insane summit climb. Whatever you decide to do when you’re there, it will be absolutely worth EVERY SINGLE SECOND to experience this landmark. You’ll never forget it.
The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
11500 Hwy. 150
Mosca, CO 81146
Questions about The Great Sand Dunes National Park? Comment below, send me an email or find me on Instagram @jenkubes.
xo – Jen