Do you want to Explore The Tallest Sand Dunes In North America? If so, be sure to visit the Great Sand Dunes of Southern Colorado! These dunes will take your breath away with the combination of the towering sand, blue and purple mountain backdrop, and the peaceful Medano Creek. You definitely don't want to miss out on seeing this Colorado wonder! The Great Sand Dunes have something to offer everyone!
Sand Dunes Bucket List
- Rent Sand Boards, or bring a sled to cowabunga your way down the dunes!
- Hike to the top peak for breathtaking views!
- Splash around in the Medano Creek (in the summer the water will be the highest)
- Check out the Free Ranger Programs or Junior Ranger Program for families and kids!
- Visit the Visitor Center to learn all about how the park protects and preserves these stunning Dunes!
- Experience the stars from the dunes! Best time to stargaze the Milky Way is in the mid summer to early fall!
- Go for a horseback ride along the trail overlooking the dunes! Either bring your own horses or sign up for a trail ride!
- Fishing in the Medano Creek for Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout!
- Just for a small permit price, backpack to the top and then camp at the base of the dunes!
- Hike the Zapata Falls trail to see the rushing waterfall!
For more ideas and details check out the National Parks Service website! Truly you can not go wrong with planning a visit to this national park for either a day trip or long term stay, there is plenty to do and lots to see!
Tips for Your Trip
- Be sure to check the weather before you go! The dunes sit at high elevation with no trees making it a hotspot for lightning! Also strong winds will make for an unpleasant time as the sand blows!
- Pack a bandana or a face covering for your neck and face along with sunglasses in case of any gust of wind to protect yourself from the sand!
- PRO TIP: Climb the dunes barefooted (as long as temperature permits you) this makes the journey much easier, learned from experience
- Bring lots of water! Walking in sand can be difficult and tiring not to mention with the elevation it's important to stay hydrated!
- When backpacking overnight or going to the Great Sand Dunes to stargaze, bring layers because the sand doesn't hold any heat making the ground chiller than normal!
- There is an entrance fee so be prepared on arrival! Check going rates on the parks website before going!
Read About my Personal Experience at the Dunes
Over the years I have had the opportunity to Explore The Tallest Sand Dunes In North America by going on day trips to enjoy sandboarding, cooling off in the creek, and exploring the beauty with my friends and family!
However, on my most recent visit I had the opportunity for the first time to backpack the dunes and stay overnight! The experience was nothing short of exciting, I will tell you that!
We reserved and purchased our permit passes for backpacking the dunes about a month in advance and got some of the last few spots for our dates (note to self if backpacking plan in advance availability fills up fast).
Upon arrival we paid our additional entrance fee and selected a spot in the designated overnight parking lots! With high hopes we hit the dunes with our backs beyond stoked for the adventure ahead.
We soon realized that tour hiking boots were of no use to us as we were fighting the sand up, so we went barefoot and it was a world of difference. It took us nearly an hour to get to the top naturally as these are the tallest dunes in North America. The views were absolutely unbeatable making it a perfect photo op spot!
After the long haul we finally made it to the assigned overnight area; however, out of nowhere massive dark daunting clouds filled the sky above us. We hoped and prayed that the storm would roll over but before we knew it it started dumping rain and lightning started going crazy. So we quickly grabbed our stuff and started sprinting down the dunes to lower ground, seriously y'all check the weather before you go!
The next day we drove the short 15 minute drive to the Zapata Falls trailhead to see this legendary waterfall! The hike is a very nice walk not too challenging; however you do have to walk in the chilly river upstream off of the trail to get to the corner where the rushing waterfall is! The hike and the chilly quick walk up the river is extremely worth witnessing the power of the waterfall, don't visit the Dunes without visiting Zapata Falls.
Whether you live in Colorado or are planning your next trip make sure to prioritize visiting the Great Sand Dunes! The scenery is truly unmatched! If you're looking for any other travel guides, tips, or ideas be sure to check out our travel page on Colorado!